It’s no secret Nebraska has had a tough time with the center snap this season.
It’s no secret why that’s been a problem either. Redshirt freshman Cam Jurgens is in his first season as a center after never having played the position before.
The coaching staff loves Jurgens’ potential as a center, but he’s still learning how to play the position, and it’s not easy.
The center has to make the offensive line calls, he has to snap the ball and then he has to get to the defender he’s supposed to block. There’s a lot to think about for a player who is new to the position.
Starting right tackle Matt Farniok laid it out at the weekly press conference on Monday.
“Right now, we have to figure out a way to get it right,” Farniok said. “There are too many snaps that are going wild or going long and messing up the reads. We have to find a way to fix it.”
Farniok also didn’t point the finger at Jurgens.
“It is on all of us,” he said. “We have to find some type of way to get those snaps right to his chest. There is no excuse for it now. In week seven we need perfect snaps and it is just the number one rule of our center and that is what we expect from our center. He knows he needs to fix it, and he has been working on it.”
There were a few snaps off the mark in Saturday’s 13-10 victory over Northwestern. Starting quarterback Adrian Martinez snared one of them that was high and to the right, and got it into the hands of Wan’Dale Robinson who took it 42 yards for a touchdown.
Another in the fourth quarter went over the head of quarterback Noah Vedral, who managed to scoop it up on the bounce and throw an incomplete pass along the sidelines to avoid a loss of yardage.
“We tell them all the time, if there is some situation like that and we have any kind of bubble or RPO (run-pass option) on to get outside the pocket and try to get rid of the ball unless you can get yards,” Nebraska coach Scott Frost said. “He did a good job. He tried to gain yards on it and couldn’t and threw the ball away. It wasn’t a negative play. He made some good decisions on Saturday and that’s what we expect out of him.”
Vedral was thankful to be able to make that play.
“I was watching it kind of closely and was just thinking ‘bounce straight, bounce straight,’ and it did and luckily Kanawai (Noa) was out there,” Vedral said. “We could just throw it over his head and live to see another day.”
Vedral said he was lucky the snap was over his head because that gave him more space to work with.
“That gives me a little bit of time to field that ball and get my eyes around,” Vedral said. “Again, Coach (Mario) Verduzco says that’s our job. If something like that were to happen, that’s our job. We have to get outside the pocket and get that ball out of bounds.”
Verduzco said quarterbacks just have to keep playing when a snap is bad.
“I just tell them from week to week, from game to game, from practice to practice, don’t worry about it,” Verduzco told reporters after practice on Wednesday. “Let’s just play. Let’s do the best we can given the situation. And whatever happens, let’s play.”
Frost is encouraged by the progress Jurgens had made with snapping the football. He said it’s gotten progressively better during the season.
“We’ve come a long way,” he said. “It’s hard for quarterbacks or anyone else to have good timing and good rhythm and have their eyes where they’re supposed to be when we’re worried about too many unknowns. We are putting a lot on our quarterbacks from the decision standpoint.
“They have to be able to get their eyes on the right place and see the right thing to make the right read. We’re playing young linemen. We’re playing a young center. It’s gotten better, but it still needs to improve.”
Farniok says it’s a matter of saying focused.
“A lot of it is that we believe he has done it before and he has done it multiple times and it is not every single snap that goes haywire, it is the occasional snap,” he said. “I think it just might be a little bit of focus or it might be a little bit of mechanics, but whatever it is we need to make sure we help him lock-in and get it back to the quarterback.”