May 25, 2024

Heinrich Haarberg making strong case to be Huskers’ top gunslinger

Nebraska Cornhuskers Football

Nebraska quarterback Heinrich Haarberg throws a pass downfield during the second quarter of the Red and White Game Saturday April 27, 2024 at Memorial Stadium. (Lynn Harrington/stayaliveinpower5)

LINCOLN, Neb. — After dazzling fans with his arm in Nebraska’s spring game, the former walk-on clearly put his name in the mix to be Matt Rhule’s starter this fall.

Heinrich Haarberg looked vastly improved in front of 60,452 fans, unlike the quarterback that started eight games, relied on his legs and threw seven interceptions last season. He improved his accuracy, went through his progressions and was in complete command of Marcus Satterfield’s offense.

Haarberg completed eight of his 13 passes for 163 yards and two touchdowns. The Kearney native came alive in the second quarter, and connected with wideout Jacory Barney for a 41-yard score. Not to mention he found tight end Thomas Fidone for a 25-yard touchdown in the first half. Haarberg is proud of his performance, and believes all of his hard work over the past three months is starting to pay off.

“I felt really confident, just trying to play quarterback, and not trying to do anything outside of myself,” Haarberg said. “I think mentally I’m feeling a lot better about knowing where guys are, knowing where the checkdowns are, just trying to get completions, that’s what we’re trying to accomplish this spring, and we’ve done a really good job of that.”

Big Red Nation rolled out the red carpet for Dylan Raiola ever since he stepped on campus, and Haarberg had to take a backseat to to all of the hype that surrounded the former five-star quarterback. However, he used it as motivation in practice, and dropped the mic with a stellar outing inside Memorial Stadium last Saturday.

A lot of fans felt Haarberg held his own with Raiola, who also posted two touchdown tosses, and Daniel Kaelin, who’s another highly-touted true freshman. Now all of the talk in the local coffee shops, barbershops, beauty salons and gyms will be about Nebraska’s quarterback room. Fans are wondering what Haarberg is going to do after having a statement game, considering that Rhule has yet to name a starter.

The transfer portal closes on April 30, and it appears Haarberg has no intentions of entering it. So that means competition will be fierce, and Nebraska is going to have depth with three quality quarterbacks on the roster. Haarberg finds it encouraging that they all share the same goals too, which is having a high completion percentage.

“Those are two of the best freshman quarterbacks in College football, I believe that because I’ve seen three classes of freshman quarterbacks come in now, and none of them has come in as prepared as those two have,” he said. “But at the same time, the way I do things, I have different strengths, so I’m working on those strengths, and competing with myself everyday as well.”

One of Haarberg’s main priorities this upcoming season is improving his throwing motion. He side-armed a lot of throws last year, and understands a quicker release will be more effective for this scheme. Haarberg even talked to Rhule about his throwing motion this offseason. He’s confident that it’s getting better, and he’s able to complete passes that he couldn’t in 2023.

“It’s by no means anywhere close to where I want it to be, so I’m going to keep working this summer on that,” the 21-year old said. “Part of that is just footwork, and being even more comfortable in the pocket.”

Rhule has to find some ways to utilize Haarberg’s athletic ability, and keep his best players on the field. Giving Haarberg the ball in the Wildcat formation, or lining him up at tight end could do wonders for the offense. With Raiola and Kaelin hungry for reps, Haarberg knows he has a slim margin for error.

Regardless, he’s riding a big wave of momentum following the Red and White Game. Unlike the other two, Haarberg has experience, leadership and production under his belt. Which is why he’s still looking at the situation like it’s his job to lose.

“I’m approaching it as I’m the incumbent, going to keep working as the starter, and I know those other two will as well, and that’s going to drive this room to be great, all of us everyday competing for that No. 1 spot.”

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