Cover Five: Evaluating transfer QBs, Nebraska's 2025 QB target; lack of roster movement

Last December, Nebraska’s full-on roster flip began immediately. There was a flurry of transfer portal activity, both in terms of additions and losses, while new recruiting commitments came daily.
With most of the roster now solidified, Nebraska football’s offseason activity has been significantly quieter this time around. Its upcoming recruiting class has been built for months, while limited roster spots for incoming transfers means the Huskers will be selective with any additions. Let’s drop into coverage:
1. Transfer portal quarterbacks
Nebraska offensive coordinator Marcus Satterfield has been busy pursuing a transfer portal quarterback. Satterfield met with five quarterbacks this past week: Ohio State’s Kyle McCord, Kansas State’s Will Howard, Washington State’s Cam Ward, Michigan State’s Sam Leavitt and Baylor’s Blake Shapen.
Shapen can be scratched from the list of possible solutions, as he announced his commitment to Mississippi State where he’ll play for offensive guru Jeff Lebby.
So, Nebraska’s list of potential quarterbacks is seemingly down to four. Ward, Howard and McCord are high-profile veterans who can be counted upon to enter the program and immediately play at a high level in 2024, while Leavitt is a redshirt freshman who appeared in four games last season.
This choice will ultimately be affected by Nebraska’s priorities. A major factor in the decision of who to add should be their fit in Nebraska’s offensive system, which utilizes the quarterback run game heavily. Ward and Howard offer plenty with their legs, as does Leavitt, while McCord is more of a pocket passer. Nebraska will adapt to whoever it adds, but rushing ability will matter.
So will turnovers. The major interception and fumble issues experienced by Nebraska quarterbacks in 2023 cannot happen again, even with a change in personnel.
Ward was the most turnover-prone of the bunch in 2023, having lost eight fumbles and thrown seven interceptions. Howard did throw 10 interceptions last season but is extremely steady as a ball-carrier — he’s lost just five fumbles in the last four seasons. McCord’s accuracy as a passer allowed him to throw just six interceptions; he also lost three fumbles.
NIL will be a factor, too, but at this stage, all three veterans will expect to command a similarly heavy fee.
Nebraska’s list could narrow even further in the coming days as players schedule visits and narrow in on their eventual destination. With McCord reportedly set to visit Lincoln this week, the former Ohio State quarterback looks like a top priority for the Huskers.
Last year, Nebraska didn’t land its transfer quarterback until Dec. 18 — so be prepared for this to situation to follow a similar timeline.
Purdue vs. Nebraska, 10.28
2. Locking in on 2025 QB
On the topic of quarterbacks, Nebraska has clearly identified its 2025 target at that position — Algona (Iowa) quarterback Alex Manske. Satterfield was one of several coaches to visit Manske this week, a three-star prospect who also received plenty of recruiting interest from NU in previous months. Manske visited Lincoln multiple times over the summer and also attended games against Northern Illinois and Northwestern during the season.
The 6-foot-3, 205-pound recruit is also a target for Iowa, Iowa State, Kansas State and Minnesota. Teams tend to focus their attention on just one quarterback recruit per cycle, and that player is Manske right now as Nebraska looks to build its 2025 class.
There’s plenty of value in identifying then landing a quarterback commit sooner rather than later. In 2023, former offensive coordinator Mark Whipple’s steadfast belief in William “Pop” Watson meant Nebraska shied away from Gretna’s Zane Flores (Oklahoma State) and South Dakotan prospect Lincoln Kienholz (Ohio State), then failed to add a high school quarterback at all after a coaching change.
Then in the 2024 cycle, Nebraska was solely focused on Dylan Raiola for months, hence why Daniel Kaelin spent two months as a Missouri commit before he became NU’s quarterback selection for the class.
In Manske, Nebraska hopes it has the player who it can follow all the way to a commitment.
3. Lack of outgoing transfers
Across the college football world, transfer portal entries began to flood in even before the portal officially opened on Dec. 4. But even as Nebraska looks to resolve a numbers crunch in terms of its roster size, only three scholarship players have entered the portal thus far. Defensive back Javier Morton announced his intentions in October, while tight end Jake Appleget and defensive back Tamon Lynum followed suit this week.
The lack of outgoing transfers might seem surprising, but consider one of head coach Matt Rhule’s favorite sayings — “One of Us,” or “OOU.” Nebraska coaches believe in the importance of a tight-knit group where everybody is bought into the same goals, and that’s something they’ve steadily built over the last year.
Another major factor is the timing of transfer portal entries. Last season, many of Nebraska’s most surprising departures came in April following the end of spring practice. Several players left the program after seeing their path to playing time would be complicated; quarterback Casey Thompson, running back Ajay Allen, defensive lineman Stephon Wynn and wide receiver Alante Brown were all potential impact players who opted to transfer in the spring.
Further transfer entries in coming weeks or this spring are likely, meaning Nebraska’s need to reach the 85-man scholarship limit should again be resolved far in advance of the season.
Purdue vs. Nebraska, 10.28
4. Specialist room in 2024
Punter Brian Buschini quietly announced he will be returning for the 2024 season in a social media post this week where he wrote “senior year up next; can’t wait.” Nebraska’s starting punter each of the last two seasons, Buschini will be a sixth-year senior for the Huskers next year having previously spent three years at Montana. Nebraska will be adding another punter via its 2024 recruiting class, with Kamdyn Koch, son of former Husker Sam Koch, set to join the team next season.
At kicker, Timmy Bleekrode’s graduation leaves the need for a backup behind Tristan Alvano. Walk-on addition Nico Ottomanelli, a 2024 commit, should provide that depth.
There will be a change at long snapper, where Marco Ortiz occupied the starting role all season long. Ortiz is out of eligibility, while backup Camden Witucki, who traveled to all of Nebraska’s road games, walked on Senior Day after four seasons with the program. To fill that need, Nebraska could explore adding a transfer long snapper in the coming weeks much like it did with Ortiz in the previous cycle.
5. Huskers clean up penalties
A slightly under-the-radar improvement from Nebraska’s 2023 season came in the number of penalties the Huskers committed. The season-long numbers were similar to how the Huskers performed in 2022, but Nebraska significantly cleaned things up in the second half of its season to eventually finish as the No. 22-least penalized team nationally.
At the halfway point of the season, the Huskers had committed 38 total penalties for an average of 53.3 penalty yards per game. Over their final six games, though, the Huskers committed just 23 penalties and dropped their season average to 42.8 penalty yards per game.

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