Nebraska Football: The Importance of Quarterback Depth

Big Red NetworkSenior Writer IJuly 16, 2008

The recent verbal commitment of quarterback recruit Cody Green got me considering the Husker roster at that position.  While it is nice to see this sort of talented and high-profile recruit come into the picture, Green is still a long way from taking the field dressed in scarlet and cream.

More importantly, NU’s depth at quarterback—arguably the game’s most important position—gives me a certain amount of hope for the first time in five years.


Depth Can Save a Season

As my new BRN colleague Tom correctly points out, one major problem can ruin a season.  More often than not, that one horrible thing is an injury at a key position, especially quarterback.  When the number one signal caller goes down, a promising season can crumble in the hands of an ill-equipped backup.

If the number two man gets hurt, you had better have a pretty special team around the third-stringer (i.e. NU 1994) to even win a ball game.  Having a game-ready backup quarterback can be the biggest difference between success and total disaster.


History’s Recent Lessons

Now, consider NU’s recent roster history at quarterback—and try not to get sick.

In 2003, they had Jammal Lord taking almost every snap, backed up by a very green Joe Dailey.

In 2004, the erratic-passing Dailey was backed up by true frosh Beau Davis.  Davis was put into the lion’s den against Texas Tech, and it turned into an interception-filled nightmare.

In 2005, Zac Taylor had to be a virtual iron man, taking every snap and vicious hit, as there was little behind him.  When Taylor finally went down to injury, Harrison Beck completed one pass against KSU in November to help NU get to a bowl.

In 2006, it was the Zac Taylor show again, backed up by a maturing Joe Ganz.  But still, that's hardly the depth teams need.

In 2007, NU had two talented quarterbacks, but only because they added a big-armed one-year player (Sam Keller) in an atypical way.  Fans finally saw the value of a game-ready backup when Joe Ganz took over toward the end of the season.


2008 Roster Looks Solid

Heading into 2008, Nebraska has significant depth at the quarterback position.  Senior Joe Ganz is entrenched as the starter.   He brings both knowledge of the offense and some starting experience with him.

The job to back up Ganz is a hotly contested one.

Both Zac Lee and Patrick Witt are well regarded players.  Both have had a year to learn the offense, and both have taken a lot of repetitions in the offense.  Lee brings more athleticism for the quarterback run game, while Witt is said to have a better grasp of the offense and the more accurate arm.

Frankly, I think NU could ride with either one and find a way to move the ball in many games.  Starting one of these two would not be a season-ender, and having the other one at the third-string spot amounts to a luxury.

After that, the depth chart has a player who is experienced in the offense, Beau Davis.  Beyond that you have freshman recruit Kody Spano, who appears talented but not nearly ready.  You also have Jim Ebke, a transfer student and walk-on player who showed promise as a high school prospect and has seen the field at a lower level of competition.

All told, that is six players.  One has starting experience.  Three others have at least a year of learning the offense.  All of them took live repetitions in the spring.

That is quality depth.  How that depth translates into competition in practice and production on the field is an entirely separate post for another day.

I’d prefer it if the Huskers keep Joe Ganz upright and healthy for all of 2008, with the backups only getting time in big wins.  Who wouldn't?  But knowing how football games and seasons go, fans should be very encouraged by the NU roster depth at quarterback.