High School: Apopka high school (FL)
Year: Redshirt freshman
With concerns surrounding his health, Darlington enrolled early, participating in 2014 spring football. He did wear the green jersey - meaning he was not to be hit. While cleared by doctors, the staff was extra careful with the Florida product knowing he would be redshirting.
In the fall the jersey came off and Darlington was hit a few times during live practices, but said he felt no effects from the tackles.
He spent the fall on the scout team.
Heading into the spring, redshirt freshman quarterback Zack Darlington was considered an afterthought by the Nebraska media and fans. A few weeks later, after a strong spring game performance, Darlington is considered a dark horse for the starting quarterback job in 2015.
“I’m not saying that I did everything I needed to do, but my goal going into the spring was to work my way up. I think I worked my way up,” said Darlington. “I think that going into fall camp, I’m going to be put my name into consideration.”
Darlington completed 7-of-11 passes for 70 yards and a touchdown in the spring game – posting the best quarterback rating of the four quarterbacks who threw 10+ passes.
BRR projection: The redshirt freshman was given a chance to be just a regular quarterback on the roster this spring, something he might not have gotten with the previous staff. Bo Pelini and crew were involved in his recovery process coming out of high school and sometimes it’s hard to forget.
Darlington’s spring was excellent and it’s clear he’s a coach’s son. He’s got a high football IQ and picked up Danny Langsdorf scheme quickly. But, it’s likely experience will keep him out the starting spot this fall, with Tommy Armstrong returning.
Look for A.J. Bush and Zack Darlington have a spirited battle in the fall for the top backup spot. It’s too close to call.
How he ended up in Lincoln:
Darlington’s relationship with the Huskers goes back quite a ways. The Florida prep showed up to Nebraska practices during the Huskers’ trip to the Capital One Bowl in December of 2012. Fresh off a state championship win, his recruitment was starting to take off and he appreciated Nebraska’s offensive scheme.
Fast forward two months and Darlington had an offer in hand, instantly pushing the Huskers to the front for his services; the only problem was that he had not yet visited Lincoln.
June rolled around and Darlington scheduled two unofficial visits – to Nebraska and Ohio State, his final two choices. He never made it to Columbus.
Despite not talking to reporters for nearly two weeks after his visit to Lincoln, the quarterback broke the news in mid-June that his recruitment was over and that he would be wearing the N on his chest.
Literally thousands of Nebraska fans tuned into Darlington’s opening game of the year on ESPNU in early August of 2013 – and they all saw something they might not ever forget.
Late in the fourth quarter, Darlington took a hit on the sidelines that knocked him unconscious, according to multiple reports. He was quickly airlifted to a regional hospital in South Carolina. The diagnosis was a concussion, his second in three months. At that point, Darlington’s father Rick (also Apopka’s head coach) and doctors decided it would be best for Darlington to sit out the remaining portion of the year.
Despite missing the season, Darlington was named a Semper Fi All-American, after throwing for 1,724 yards and 19 touchdowns in 2012, rushing for another 708 yards and a 10 touchdowns.