Game review: Zack Darlington

The game started like you would have thought. An Apopka (Flor.) long drive led by field general Zack Darlington. The game ended like a bad nightmare with Darlington being stretchered off and eventually airlifted to the hospital.

Football is back and while many people rejoice we are reminded today that with the game comes these negative moments. It's moments like these that get glossed over between the high points of a game that acts so much like a roller coaster of emotion.

Zack Darlington and his Apopka (Flor.) team took the field to face Duncan (S.C.) Byrnes. When you had a chance to see the Apopka offense hitting on all cylinders it was a bit of a preview of what Nebraska fans might see Saturday against Wyoming.

Darlington has good size and his toughness is not to be questioned. He finished the state championship game last year with a broken bone in the wrist of his throwing hand. That's something that not many could do let alone a quarterback. thoughts on Darlington:
- Big kid. Don't understand why people say that size might be an issue. Looks very solid at his height.
- The Apopka offense featured a lot of short passes, "dink and dunk", and while you might have wanted to see more down the field there is something to be taken away by what you did see.
- The short passing game is incredibly important in loosening up the defense. You have to be effective short to hit them long. Darlington was excellent at it today.
- Darlington had a way of putting on the right touch, at some times right around defenders' hands.
- Darlington also had an ability to put the ball in the best possible spot to allow for his receivers to have the best chance for yards after the catch.
- When running the football Darlington isn't Taylor Martinez fast, he's never claimed to be, but he's deceptively quick getting through holes quick and to the second level.
- While he's not Taylor Martinez quick he does have a similarity to Martinez when it comes to holding onto the football long through the read option which allows for things to develop in front of him.
- Solid pocket presence. On his first touchdown pass he showed that bounce you look for in a quarterback that is comfortable.
- You also saw on that play the ability to go through the progressions, get off of the primary receiver, and find the open man.
- Another thing that I liked about that play was how wide open the receiver was. It's like missing the wide open lay up. You are too worried about missing it to really make it. Darlington is a natural quarterback.
- The arm strength is very good in the short to intermediate range and while he's not going to be a guy that is known for threading the needle 30+ yards down field he shows good touch and gets it to an area to allow his receiver to make the catch.
- You saw the leadership that Darlington brings to his team being literally an extension of the coaching staff on the football field. His teammates really respond to him on the football field.
- Another blatantly clear observation was how much admiration his team mates and the fans had for Darlington as he lie there unconscious. While everyone would have been concerned for anyone there definitely seemed to be an immense amount of emotion and concern by everyone.

Nebraska has themselves a solid field general in Darlington. Like what Nebraska had to correct early in Martinez's career at Nebraska though, to shy away from contact and get out of bounds, a similar message seems to apply here.

The contact on the play likely wasn't avoidable. But to try to also deliver a hit given where Apopka was at in the game, climbing back into it and just eight points down, is something that Darlington needs to adjust.

Changing the mindset from being a physical quarterback and shying away from contact is something for a dual-threat quarterback is necessary to do as much as correcting a hitch in a throwing motion for a passing quarterback. It's part of their craft.

If there is one thing that everyone heard today, and likely knew before today, is that Zack Darlington is a tough player. You certainly hope that a player with as much potential on and off the field like Darlington has can completely recover from the game today.

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Bryan Munson has worked with Big Red Report for 11 years covering recruiting and football and has covered Nebraska recruiting for 13 years.
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