When the Nebraska football team took the field for the first practice of 2014, something immediately stood out. Back under center was Jamal Turner.
The Huskers originally recruited the senior as a quarterback in 2011. However, he was quickly moved to receiver at the start of his freshman year.
Four years later, Turner is back where he began. But is it really necessary?
The quarterback position at Nebraska is up in the air for the first time since Zac Taylor, Taylor Martinez and Cody Green battled for the starting spot in 2010. When the position was awarded to Martinez, the rest was history. That makes the 2014 season particularly interesting.
Up until now, Tommy Armstrong Jr. and Johnny Stanton were expected to have all eyes on them. After all, they were the two touted as most likely to snag the starting role.
That was until Turner was spotted under center.
Head coach Bo Pelini believes Turner’s involvement will benefit the offense going forward.
“This spring is a time for us to experiment and maybe take it to a different level," Pelini said, as reported by Huskers.com. "He likes it. He thinks he’s (NFL quarterback) Russell Wilson. Jamal isn’t lacking for confidence.”
Pelini also noted that it was a staff decision to have Turner work with the quarterbacks. He also made it clear that this isn’t the first time the receiver has worked with the group during spring practice, as he has in the past.
“It gives us some different options, some ‘wild cat’ type things, Jamal has some quarterback in his background. It is not new for him he has done that at times for us,” Pelini continued, according to Huskers.com. “We are going to give him some significant reps at quarterback this spring, and see where it is.”
But should Turner even be taking the reps at quarterback? That’s the question many have been left asking, including former quarterback Ron Kellogg III.
After Martinez was injured during the 2013 season, Armstrong and Kellogg stepped in. Armstrong got the most experience, awarding him the opportunity to start eight games. While that experience is valuable, there were significant struggles Armstrong faced.
One particular challenge for Armstrong was that he grew comfortable with only a couple of receivers. He often locked in on receivers Kenny Bell and Quincy Enunwa, something Mitch Sherman of ESPN.com noted (subscription required).
By doing so, the tight ends were mostly ignored in 2013. That is something that needs to be addressed during spring practice to help make Nebraska's offense as strong as possible in 2014.
“Nebraska’s quarterbacks get an offseason to work with (Cethan) Carter, who should develop into a big-play threat, and (Sam) Cotton. The overall comfort level should improve, and the addition of redshirt freshman Greg Hart adds another big target,” Sherman noted (subscription required).
With the addition of Turner to the mix, that overall comfort level could take a hit. The receivers and tight ends do need to get as comfortable as possible with whoever will be the starting quarterback, which will likely be Armstrong or Stanton. By adding another potential quarterback to the mix, it could potentially harm the overall dynamic.
It is likely that Turner is only being viewed as a part-time quarterback in a Wildcat formation, but that doesn’t mean he couldn’t compete to win the starting spot.
As of now, it seems that Armstrong is in the lead for the starting spot.
However, Pelini needs to be careful. With a quarterback controversy already brewing, the addition of another potential starter just might complicate the issue more than necessary.