Nebraska Football: The Huskers' QB Battle Intensifies with the Heat

Brandon CavanaughCorrespondent IAugust 11, 2010

SAN DIEGO - DECEMBER 30:  Quarterback Zac Lee #5 of the University of Nebraska Cornhuskers runs with the ball for yardage against the University of Arizona Wildcats during the Pacific Life Holiday Bowl on December 30, 2009 at Qualcomm Stadium in San Diego, California. The Cornhuskers defeated the Wildcats 33-0. (Photo By Donald Miralle/Getty Images)
Donald Miralle/Getty Images

Head Coach Bo Pelini knows defense.

There isn’t a Nebraska Cornhuskers fan alive who will debate that. It’s when the offense is brought up that things get a bit trickier.

In 2010, many college football analysts have Nebraska pegged as dark horses to play for the national title. Some have even penciled the Cornhuskers in against teams such as Alabama or Ohio State.

Before Nebraska even takes snap one against Western Kentucky on Sept. 4th, there is a vital question that needs to be answered:

Just who is going to take that snap in the first place?

At quarterback, the trio of Zac Lee, Cody Green and Taylor Martinez look to be the clear-cut favorites to win the starting job. Out of the three, Lee possesses the most attributes that a team looks for in a starting quarterback, let alone one that you want directing the offense on the way to a potential national title.

Lee played in every game last year and, while the now infamous offense sputtered and was littered with injury, Lee knows the playbook. The Holiday Bowl finale allowed Lee, along with several other Cornhuskers, to end the season and some careers on a high note while being relatively healthy.

Second-year transitions are often huge for a quarterback.

Nebraska’s own Joe Ganz proved this from the 2007 and 2008 seasons. Both of those years were under the watchful eye of Lee’s own offensive coordinator, Shawn Watson. Lee’s arm strength and ability to read routes aren’t being called into question either. When he gets time to throw, he’s accurate.

Looking at the other quarterback candidates, Cody Green was a commitment that Nebraska fans were thrilled to get. When actual game opportunities presented themselves last season, Green looked much like any true freshman right off of the bus would.

His passes were far too high, his decision-making a split second too slow; in short, he was an average true freshman.

A year later, Green’s accuracy has reportedly improved and his confidence has skyrocketed.

“It’s gotten to the point now where it’s time for me to shut up and play,” Green said to sportswriters. “I have to go out there and basically show what I can do. All gloves off. No holds barred. Simple as that.”

Cody’s year in the system should help, but he doesn’t have much time to show that he’s made enough strides to overtake Zac Lee, and there’s one more candidate in the race that may be too fast for either to catch.

Taylor Martinez earned multiple Player of the Year honors in California in 2008 and he definitely deserved every one. Throwing for 3,000 yards and 28 touchdowns while rushing for 750 rushing yards and 12 touchdowns will get you a plaque or two.

The thing that immediately catches a person’s attention about Martinez is his speed.

He’s almost a player without a position. A coach could play him at quarterback, but with Taylor’s quickness, toughness, and agility, said coach might tear his hair out trying to figure out a way to get Martinez to throw to himself.

While talented and the fastest of the quarterbacks, Martinez is the least polished.

He can throw beautiful passes, but consistency is the main factor. Should he fall short in the QB competition, Taylor’s abilities are an asset that Nebraska’s coaching staff knows that they would be foolish not to take advantage of. He will find the field one way or another.

Which will win?

The steady, experienced Lee?

The mobile, improving Green?

Will the speedster Martinez be under center for Nebraska this fall?

We may not find out the answer to that question until the announcement is made over the sound system in Memorial Stadium on Sept. 4th.

For more Cornhuskers analysis, visit Husker Hype!