A War Is Coming

Big Red NetworkSenior Writer IJuly 21, 2008

Granted our country is already at war, you might even say two wars, but in Husker football terms, I’m talking about the battle for the starting quarterback job next spring.

It’s hard to think of the last time Nebraska went into spring football with four viable starting quarterback candidates.

I realize I’ve already fast-forwarded past the entire 2008 season, but let’s be honest. The Pelini era will not be defined by what happens in 2008 or probably even in 2009.

It’ll be what happens in 2010 and beyond that will ultimately define his legacy. And the starting quarterback of the 2009 and 2010 teams might well be determined next spring.

Four scholarship underclassmen, and if you want to throw walk-on/transfer Jim Ebke in the mix, will be competing for a starting quarterback job in the Spring. Whoever emerges on top will have the upper hand to play at least the next two seasons and possibly as many as four.

By now everyone knows that five-star recruit Cody Green gave his commitment to Nebraska. He plans to arrive early to participate in spring football. That makes him a genuine contender to start in 2009.

Potentially he could become the first four-year starter since Eric Crouch and the first true freshman quarterback to start since Tommie Frazier.

Don’t forget Zac Lee, last year’s scout team MVP (he redshirted) and top junior college quarterback recruit nationally in 2007. Many felt Lee would be the likely successor to Joe Ganz, and I’m sure many still do. Lee is a sophomore this year.

While only a redshirt freshman, Patrick Witt might be considered the “dean” of the group as he arrived back in January 2007 (and Lee missed spring due to injury). He’s also a brainiac, as he had considered playing in the Ivy League.

At 6-foot-4 and 225 pounds, he’s the biggest quarterback of the bunch. But he’s also the least mobile. Every other quarterback candidate (including Ebke) is a “dual-threat” quarterback and if this spring was any indication, we can expect to see a lot more designed quarterback runs in the years to come.

Witt was not as heralded a recruit as Green or Lee, though he’s been competitive with Lee so far to be the main backup quarterback this fall.

Kody Spano is flying under the radar a bit as a late addition to the 2008 recruiting class and another early arrival. Spano was rated the ninth best dual-threat quarterback by Rivals.com, but he clearly has a lot of learning to do to catch up to Witt and Lee when it comes to running the offense. Consider him a dark horse.

And while Ebke would seem the longest of longshots, he won the state Gatorade Player of the Year award his senior year of high school, as well as Offensive Player of the Year.

BRN’s own Darren Carlson is a believer in state P.O.Y.’s, as that represents a singular accomplishment (only one per state) that you might expect from an all-time great athlete.

No one’s projecting Ebke to displace Eric Crouch in the record books, but it may mean he has more than a token opportunity to get in the mix at quarterback.

As big a question as who will win that derby (and at this point, it’s anyone’s guess), is how the runners-up will respond. Can the Huskers really retain the fourth or fifth quarterback?

Maybe if one or more can contribute at another position it would work out, but you wonder whether someone will take their ball and go home by transferring to another school. Green gave some indication that he’s open to sitting a year.

As a walk-on, Ebke knew he’d have an uphill battle and as a local kid, you’d think he’d stick it out too. If Lee and Witt finish some combination of 1-2, then perhaps they can both be retained.

Even Spano might be content to wait for Lee and Witt to graduate. But that’s still a lot of waiting for quality prospects.

That’s why you expect the competition next spring to be extremely intense, because the job won’t be won with someone playing less than their “A” game.