How Patrick Witt's Departure Will Affect Nebraska in 2009

Bleacher ReportAnalyst IFebruary 24, 2009

Nebraska fans have to be left wondering what is going on after the departure of Patrick Witt, one of the possible candidates to replace the graduated Joe Ganz. The sophomore has decided to transfer to another school.

Although Patrick was listed as the No. 2 quarterback through the 2008 season, there was no guarantee (hear that Mr. Gene Witt) that Patrick would emerge as the starter for the 2009 season.

Yes, he was the QB chosen to come in for one play when Joe Ganz was temporarily knocked out of the Gator Bowl win over Clemson.  A play that almost proved to be the climatic play for Clemson. Thank god for instant replay and thank god it's not 1982 in State College, PA. 

Regardless, of who was called upon for that one play, he and Zac Lee had been locked in a near dead heat battle for the backup spot to Ganz.  Call them 2a and 2b.

Coming into 2008 spring practice, Witt had one very clear-cut advantage over Lee and that was his knowledge and understanding of the offense.  In 2007, while Lee sat out nursing a knee injury, Witt was able to absorb much of the offense and coaching that was thrown at him by Shawn Watson.

Along comes 2008 and Lee was able to participate fully in spring practice, fall practice, and all practices throughout the season.  And in doing so he had been able to make up the gap in knowledge and understanding of the offense that had existed prior to 2008.

When knowledge and understanding of the offense became a level playing field for both players, it was becoming apparent that Lee had some physical advantages over Witt that would further benefit him and the Cornhuskers in having Lee running Shawn Watson's spread/West Coast offense.

I won't denigrate or criticize Witt because he has proven to be a good kid, one that has performed well in the classroom, exemplified by his 4.0 in finance. But, the 6'2" 210-pound Lee does possess some serious physical tools that Witt does not.

Most notable is his ability to run and make plays with his feet.  In addition to a rocket of a right arm, Lee does possess 4.5 40 speed and great quickness.

Witt is a big-bodied, 6'4" 225-pound quarterback who is probably more suited to run a standard West Coast/pro-style offense, not one that incorporates the quarterback run as much as Shawn Watson and Nebraska would like.

Considering what has happened in the last few days, Lee has to be the clear-cut favorite to be Nebraska's starting QB in 2009.  He was my favorite to win the job even with Witt in camp.

This series of developments also opens the door a bit for someone like true freshman Cody Green and might light a serious fire under him.  Cody came to Nebraska in January as a four-star recruit and it was a possibility that he would redshirt in 2009. Now, a redshirt looks very unlikely unless Kody Spanos were to be the No. 1 or No 2 quarterback.

It also makes it likely that Taylor Martinez, the Southern California player of the year, will get an extended look at quarterback when he arrives on campus in the fall.

Most unnerving is that Nebraska was already starting 2009 with a new quarterback and now they may be one play from having to rely on a player taking his first college snaps at quarterback.