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Monday, October 2, 2023

The coordinator report: Get ready for both Jeff Sims and Heinrich Haarberg to play Saturday

Jeff Sims

Nebraska quarterback Jeff Sims is progressing well from an ankle injury that sidelined him for last week’s game, Husker offensive coordinator Marcus Satterfield said Tuesday.

The coach left open the possibility of both Sims and Heinrich Haarberg playing in this week’s game against Louisiana Tech.

“Today was Jeff’s most active day (of practice),” Satterfield told reporters. “He probably got 50 to 55% of the reps. So, he’s out there moving around.

“I made him keep the ball early on. We do a little team compete period, and I called some stuff where he had to keep the ball and run. He did a nice job with that.

“He’s progressing at the rate we thought he would.”

Sims, who injured his ankle with 9:21 left in the fourth quarter of Nebraska’s Sept. 9 loss at Colorado, watched Saturday night as the sophomore Haarberg led the team to a 35-11 win against Northern Illinois at Memorial Stadium.

First-year Nebraska head coach Matt Rhule said Monday that he won’t publicly announce a starting quarterback this week. So, Husker fans may not know the starter until game time Saturday, when NU plays Louisiana Tech (2-2, 1-0 Conference USA) at 2:30 p.m. in Lincoln.

Five things we learned from Nebraska’s Louisiana Tech week press conference

Marcus Satterfield taking QB situation day by day

Satterfield indicated in-practice competition will be a major factor in determining the starter as — of course — will be how well Sims is moving on the ankle.

“I’m sure coach (Rhule) would say the same thing: It’s a day-to-day deal for us,” Satterfield said. “Go out and compete and see who gives us the best chance to win on Saturdays.

“Jeff’s healing up and getting back to stride, but Heinrich’s having a good week coming off the last game. So we’re just taking it day by day and seeing what happens.”

Both Sims and Haarberg are big and fast. With two of Nebraska’s top running backs — Rahmir Johnson and Gabe Ervin Jr. — out for the season with injuries suffered against Northern Illinois, Satterfield made it clear that he might get creative with Sims and Haarberg.

Bottom line, you have to put your best playmakers on the field, the coach said.

“There are going to be certain times when both quarterbacks are playing,” Satterfield said. “There are going to be times in the game when they’re going to be asked to go out there and help us move the ball because they’re both too good of athletes to be standing over there with me.”

Sims has battled turnover issues

Sims, a transfer from Georgia Tech, turned the ball over six times in Nebraska’s first two games, road losses to Minnesota and CU. However, Rhule has said that some of the turnover issues weren’t totally Sims’ fault while also noting that Sims played in challenging environments.

Plus, Rhule said last week that if Sims is healthy, he’ll be the starter.

Haarberg, though, was impressive against Northern Illinois, completing 14 of 24 passes for 158 yards and two touchdowns, with zero interceptions. He was credited with a fumble as protection broke down on a pass play deep in Nebraska territory.

The 6-foot-5, 215-pound Haarberg rushed 21 times for 98 yards and another score.

Against Minnesota, he lined up as a tight end at one point and caught a 10-yard pass.

Satterfield, though, made it clear that thinks of Haarberg as a QB first.

“I thought he had unbelievable energy (Saturday),” Satterfield said. “I thought he had great tempo in and out of the huddle. He had great tempo when we went no-huddle. I think he ran with reckless abandonment. He was highly competitive. He took care of the ball.

“They kind of closed in on him on that one fumble. But he did a nice job, as many times as he carried the ball, with protecting the football, for his first time out there. That’s a big deal. That’s a Nebraska kid getting (his first start) in Memorial Stadium.

“I can’t imagine what that felt like for him. He handled it well.”

To slide or not to slide

The subject came up with Sims after he ran the ball well in the opener, and it came up again after Saturday’s game.

Haarberg doesn’t slide at the end of his rushes, nor does Sims.

They both run the ball like tailbacks. It’s an alluring trait.

Satterfield said Haarberg’s style is to play the game in a physical manner.

“He’s got to take care of his body for sure,” Satterfield said. “But that’s just kind of who Heinrich is, that’s just how he plays. I don’t think many people told Eric Crouch to slide or Scott Frost to slide or Tommie Frazier to slide. It’s just a mentality of how the kid plays.”

Same goes for the 6-4, 220-pound Sims.

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The post The coordinator report: Get ready for both Jeff Sims and Heinrich Haarberg to play Saturday appeared first on On3.

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