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Nebraska Football: Huskers Search For New Quarterback
- Updated: March 2, 2017
The Nebraska Cornhuskers enter spring practice with a lot on their minds. For the first time since Mike Riley took over the program, the Huskers will have a quarterback he recruited under center. The days of Taylor Martinez and Tommy Armstrong are long gone. Yet, one question still remains. Which quarterback will earn the starting job for Nebraska football?
Currently, the quarterback competition is a two-horse race. Redshirt junior Tanner Lee arrived from the Tulane Green Wave last season. Meanwhile, redshirt freshman Patrick O’Brien was the big time recruit in the 2016 class. The arrival of these two players signifies the shift in offensive philosophy. However, only one of the quarterbacks will win the starting job. That means the other will have a decision to make.
So far, the competition is so close Riley and offensive coordinator Danny Langsdorf won’t even make a decision on them. The coaches will flip a coin to see who gets the first team reps opening spring practice. Therefore, we can’t even speculate on which quarterback is in the lead.
“We’re going to try to give Tanner and Patrick even turns,” Riley said. “On all the positions, at this time of year, who goes first, at any position, it really doesn’t matter to me. And I try to pass that on to the players. Somebody’s got to take the first snap. But what’s going to be determined as to who is playing in the game will happen over a long period of time. Our job is to create opportunity.”
During his two seasons with the Green Wave, Lee played in 19 games. He only completed 53.6 percent of his passes. Lee also threw for 3,601 yards, 23 touchdowns, and 21 interceptions during his stint in the American Conference. More importantly, Lee only won five games with the Green Wave. He participated in 14 losses during the 2014-15 seasons. Lee also threw the ball over 30 times in 12 games yet only has one 300-yard passing game in his career. The numbers don’t impress anybody. He has a lot to prove on the practice field and in-game situations. However, Lee is 6-foot-4, 205 pounds and seems to have the gifts to flourish in the Nebraska football offensive system.
O’Brien is also 6-foot-4. However, the first-year quarterback weighs 230 pounds. He had the experience of traveling with the team last season, but Riley was never going to burn a redshirt year. Due to his availability, O’Brien should have a grasp on the offense.
Clearly, the offense will take on a new look next season. Lee lost 287 yards rushing during his tenure with the Green Wave. Meanwhile, O’Brien rushed for 626 yards on 110 carries in his senior season at San Juan Hills High School. He should be able to provide the offense with some escapability. Still, neither quarterback is projected to become a factor in the ground attack.
The Huskers will also have a battle for third string quarterback. Sophomore Andrew Bunch and true freshman Tristan Gebbia enter the Huskers program with a lot to learn. Bunch comes to Lincoln after spending a season at Scottsdale Community College. He threw for 1,331 yards and 13 touchdowns in nine games last year. Bunch is also adept at using his feet. He’s the only legitimate dual-threat quarterback on the roster.
Gebbia is the highly touted recruit from Calabasas High. He threw for 13,109 yards and 141 touchdown passes during his high school career. The prolific numbers earned him the No. 2 spot in California prep history. He may be the future of the program. But will that future come earlier than expected?
At this moment, the coaching staff will focus on Lee and O’Brien. Therefore, the other quarterbacks would have to do something special to even be considered for the starting job. Don’t expect the decision anytime soon.
Harrison has covered NFL, NBA, and CBB in the past. Earlier in his career, he was a national college football writer and Team writer for Husker Corner. Harrison also created the college football "Treat 16 Power Poll" some years back when college coaches relied on the running game.