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KEARNEY — With the arrival of new offensive coordinator Mark Whipple in Nebraska, two Husker quarterbacks embarked on their own coaching journeys during Matt Masker’s third football camp. Two of Kearney Catholic’s brightest stars, current Nebraska Masker junior and redshirt rookie Heinrich Haarberg, returned to their old turf to help teach youth football over the weekend.
“We love giving back to the community, kids absolutely have fun and that’s why we do it,” Masker said. “It brings the community together and we like to have fun together.”
Camp is important to Masker, who plans to coach high school football after his stint as a Husker. He discovered a passion for coaching during his high school years, noting that Kearney Catholic head coach Rashawn Harvey and the impact of assistant coach Dave Colling helped him fall in love with the sport. soccer. He’s seen them manifest as father figures in players’ lives, which he aspires to be for future players.
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His love of coaching grew in Nebraska, where he described himself as being constantly in the presence of smart coaches who inspired him to take their knowledge and share it with others, which led to camp formation. Most of those coaches are gone now after head coach Scott Frost’s offensive personnel overhaul. Whipple drew praise from Masker, who touted the 65-year-old’s NFL experience and old-school mentality.
“What I learned from him is that he never lets us get comfortable,” Masker said. “In training he throws stuff at you where you think you’re doing everything right but you’re not. He will correct you and that’s not always the most polite way, but that’s what which you need.
Having experienced two other offensive coordinators in his time as the Husker, Masker says Whipple’s coaching style emphasizes the reads in the movie theater and emphasizes the mental aspects. He teaches the fundamentals — where to put his eyes on defense, for example — and wants his quarterbacks to be as familiar with new offensive plays and routes as he is. Whipple thinks his quarterbacks should know defenses and playbooks like the back of their hand and be able to teach the whole offense.
Haarberg also took note of Whipple’s stress on mentality, which he highlighted as an area for personal improvement this offseason under Whipple.
“Last year I felt like I had all the traits but I lacked mental maturity and mental knowledge of the game,” Haarberg said. “(Whipple showed me) knowing the defense, knowing what the defense is going to do before they do it, where to put the ball and understanding that it’s all just one big puzzle.”
Adjusting to a new offensive personnel wasn’t easy for Haarberg, who anticipated former offensive coordinator Matt Lubick and quarterbacks coach Mario Verduzco would be there throughout his Husker career. However, Haarberg recalls that he was committed to Nebraska, not to any particular coach. He appreciates Whipple’s developmental skills, noting 2021 Heisman finalist Kenny Pickett as an achievement from Whipple’s time in Pittsburgh, and Whipple’s emphasis on seeing the whole field under center.
“He’s an NFL guy, he just made Kenny Pickett a first-round pick in Pitt,” Haarberg said. “He has a lot of knowledge, so while his personality and teaching methods may be different from Coach Verduzco’s, you have to adapt and get everything you can out of him.”
The coaching change also comes with a new offensive philosophy, which has drawn praise from Haarberg as less complicated, more speed-oriented and easy on the quarterback.
The new offense will be led by a new quarterback following the transfer of four-year-old starter Adrian Martinez to Kansas State. While former Texas starter Casey Thompson is the presumptive favorite, Haarberg describes the race before fall camp as open to everyone, and he plans to rise to the occasion and fight back this fall.
“[I plan on] showing Whipple and Frost that they can trust that I can go out and read the defense and be able to lead the offense,” Haarberg said.
Masker and Haarberg noted that there’s a lot of hard work ahead of fall camp and are both pleased with the offensive progress so far. With the season opener in Ireland still over a month away, Haarberg and Masker have found time to escape and give back to where it all began.