Nebraska football: Logan Smothers should get nod at QB if Casey Thompson can't go
Logan Smothers has been down this path before. Getting the call to fill in for the injured starter at quarterback.
Smothers might see his number called again Saturday as Nebraska hosts Minnesota at Memorial Stadium. Huskers starting QB Casey Thompson is day-to-day dealing with a nerve injury in his elbow.
Smothers knows the drill well. A year ago on Black Friday, he played in place of Adrian Martinez, nearly leading Nebraska to a win over Iowa.
However, if Thompson is unable to go, it’s anyone’s guess whether it’ll be Smothers or Chubba Purdy getting the QB reps. Smothers played just 1 series against Illinois, rushing for 6 yards and completing his only throw. Purdy got the nod in the 2nd half and struggled, completing just 3 passes for 15 yards. The Illini defense held the Purdy-led offense to 29 yards.
In all honesty, Purdy looked ill-prepared to play. He was uncomfortable in the pocket and had trouble with his progressions. In fairness, it wasn’t entirely his fault. Offensive coordinator Mark Whipple said Purdy was dealing with an injury of his own.
“When it rains, it pours,” Nebraska OC Mark Whipple says of the QB situation in Lincoln. In addition to the injury suffered by Casey Thompson against Illinois, backup Chubba Purdy dealt with an injury that limited his practice time (and presumably his performance) last week. pic.twitter.com/VlCHVMxCnI
— Mitch Sherman (@mitchsherman) November 2, 2022
If head coach Mickey Joseph wants to give his team the best opportunity to spring an upset Saturday, he’ll go with Smothers. Especially if the other 2 QBs are dinged up, which they are.
B1G game experience
It was only 1 start, but Smothers proved he belonged on the big stage. The 6-2 sophomore from Muscle Shoals, Alabama, completed 16-of-22 passes for 198 yards against the Hawkeyes. He rushed for 64 yards and a pair of TDs in the 28-21 loss. The Hawkeyes rallied from a 21-9 4th-quarter deficit to win, but it didn’t diminish Smothers’ performance.
Nebraska needs a dual-threat option at QB. Between Smothers and Purdy, Smothers appears to be the better option, at least right now.
Smothers experience isn’t just relegated to the game vs. Iowa. He saw action in games against Michigan State, Northwestern and Wisconsin as well in 2021. He’s no stranger to the big stage, and gives Joseph an experienced option. No knock on Purdy, who has a nice skill set of his own. But even Joseph himself said both backups didn’t get meaningful reps in practice prior to Illinois.
As of early in the week, both backups are receiving equal practice reps. But the smart move is to go with the guy who has more game experience.
Per Mickey Joseph on Chubba Purdy and Logan Smothers:
"They both took even amount of reps with the ones today." #Huskers
— Steve Marik (@Steve_Marik) November 1, 2022
Run the ball, shorten the game
In order for the Huskers to have a shot Saturday, Whipple must put together a disciplined game plan. Run the ball with Anthony Grant and the others, move the chains and keep the ball away from Tanner Morgan and the Gophers’ offense.
Smothers is quick, and has burst. He’s shown he can be a serviceable run/pass option and get the offense moving. Too many 3-and-outs plagued Nebraska against Illinois. Minnesota brings the same type of team to the table. Physical, tough defensively and with a star running back. The Huskers must find a different recipe to success.
Student of the game
Another advantage Smothers has is his pedigree. His dad Shane was his OC his senior year of high school at Muscle Shoals. Smothers threw for over 2,000 yards and 27 TDs. He added over 800 yards rushing and 13 scores. He understands the game well and is a multiple threat.
Rated the No. 4 dual-threat QB in the nation by Rivals, Smothers came highly regarded. He’s shown glimpses of brilliance in his limited time. If given another opportunity to run the show, his past game experience and multi-faceted skill set would give the Huskers’ offense an opportunity to do damage.
Can Whipple make adjustments and devolve the game plan to the strengths of his healthy QB? One would think so. He must if he wants to make hay against a stout Gophers defense that pitched a shutout a week ago against Rutgers.
The quarterback position is far from Joseph and Whipple’s only worry at the moment. Nebraska has leaks to plug everywhere. The job is not a quick fix. But with time of the essence, and your star transfer QB likely on the shelf, Smothers is your guy.
He’s been there, done that.
There’s still a glimmer of hope Nebraska can reach 6 wins. Faint as it is, the fire still flickers. For it to happen, the Huskers need a spark.
Let’s see what Smothers can do given a 2nd chance to start a league game. The first time was admirable. Who knows? Maybe the sophomore can start the ball rolling to a memorable November.