Steven M. Sipple: Unsolicited QB advice for Frost; and an intriguing story brewing in Omaha

Nebraska quarterbacks Logan Smothers (8) and Adrian Martinez walk across the field during a football practice Saturday at Memorial Stadium.

Things I know, and things I think I know:  

One certainly can understand the temptation Scott Frost faces virtually every autumn Saturday. 

My heavens, Nebraska junior quarterback Adrian Martinez looks good running with a football. Although I’m not exactly Bill Parcells, Martinez seemingly practiced well in general Saturday. He showed strong command of the position and generally threw the ball well. But he really captures the imagination when he takes off running. Goodness. 

The challenge Frost faces is managing the gap between Martinez and whoever locks down the top backup spot. As Nebraska’s fourth-year head coach searching for his first bowl-game appearance, Frost obviously would feel less pressure if someone closed that gap significantly. Because Martinez has been injury-prone, it’s easy to imagine the Huskers having to win a key game or two in 2021 with one of the backups leading the way. None of them have taken a snap in a college game. The situation is, all things considered, a bit dicey. 

My wife will tell you I’m excellent when it comes to offering unsolicited advice. So, here goes: As Frost guides his young crew of backup quarterbacks, he perhaps should keep in mind a John Wooden axiom: Be quick, but don’t hurry. 

Coaches can’t afford to cut corners when developing players at such an important position, no matter the circumstances. 

Meanwhile, you hope Nebraska fans exhibit patience as freshmen Logan Smothers and Heinrich Haarberg find their footing. Social media can be an awful place. You hope the young Husker quarterbacks, including sophomore walk-on Matt Masker, steer clear of it. 

Keep in mind, the 6-foot-2, 190-pound Smothers has been on campus for just over a year. We also should keep in mind that late in his senior season at Muscle Shoals High School in Alabama, Smothers cracked four ribs, had a partially collapsed lung and also a hip pointer, then attempted to play the next week. He’s obviously a tough kid. He had pretty much moved past those injuries by this time last year, then spring ball got canceled. Bottom line, he’s in the very early stages of his development as a college quarterback. 

It also should be noted that Smothers generally wasn’t regarded as a ready-made collegiate starter. He didn’t have a long list of scholarship offers — Louisville and Ole Miss were his only other Power Five offers. This may sound crazy, but some players actually need time to develop.

Frost says Smothers and quarterbacks coach Mario Verduzco continue to work on Smothers’ delivery to increase the amount of force he can get on the ball. Smothers generally was hot and cold Saturday, but heated up as the day progressed. 

One of Smothers’ deep throws was picked off by a leaping Javin Wright, an up-and-coming redshirt freshman. Smothers threw a few wobbly swing passes. But he also gunned a gorgeous completion on a deep pass to freshman Barron Miles Jr. Frost says Smothers is a quick decision-maker who sees the field well. He has above-average quickness. He just needs time to grow. Be quick, but don’t hurry. It can be a tricky balance to achieve in the pressure-cooker that is Husker football. 

Meanwhile, the 6-5, 205-pound Haarberg also shows promise. First of all, he’s a strikingly impressive physical specimen, clearly taller than the 6-3 Frost. What’s more, you don’t have to be Kyle Shanahan to recognize the Kearney Catholic graduate’s arm strength. He spins the ball awfully well. Makes it look easy. That’s a good sign. He showed poise Saturday. But it’s one thing to show promise in April, and quite another to orchestrate a win against, say, Wisconsin in the November chill of Camp Randall Stadium, perhaps with a bowl bid in the balance.

Frost may need to call on one of his young guns in a critical moment. It feels like 2021 could be another season of many close games, and critical moments.

Or maybe Frost in early May will delve into the transfer portal for an experienced quarterback. 

Let’s not get ahead of ourselves. Remember: Be quick, but don’t hurry. 

* You know intuitively John Cook has fostered a high level of mental toughness in the Nebraska volleyball program.

You wonder how long a player could even last in his program if she weren’t mentally tough. 

The 64-year-old Cook is a rare gem. We know that by now. But it’s important to give proper credit to his players, particularly the team leaders, who on Sunday pushed fourth-ranked Nebraska to a sweep of No. 11 Baylor in the NCAA Sweet 16 even without its All-American middle blocker, Lauren Stivrins.  

Will Stivrins play Monday against Texas? Cook isn’t saying much at all about her injury.

No matter what happens, this has the feel of an intriguing story unfolding. 

* Could this turn into one of Cook’s best coaching jobs? The guy already has four national championship rings as NU’s head coach (2000, 2006, 2015 and 2017). But think about his management of the team during COVID-19, managing issues at the right-side hitter position, and now the Stivrins matter crops up.

* You don’t have to wonder how well Lexi Sun handles pressure. She ripped five ace serves Sunday. That’s largely mental toughness. 

* Speaking of an intriguing story unfolding, could this be the year Nebraska again plays host to an NCAA baseball regional? It hasn’t happened since 2008.

Will Bolt’s crew is on a serious roll, amigos. 

I’ll stop right there, lest we jinx anything.