Nebraska heads into 2009 spring football with coaches looking to complete the following progression:
Zac Taylor, Sam Keller, Joe Ganz, _____________
The key will be finding the guy who looks more like Taylor and Ganz than Sam Keller. Or rather, the Joe Ganz of 2008, as in 2007 Ganz experienced the growing pains that are part of any college quarterback's first year as a starter.
A little history refresher - Joe Ganz first real action began in 2007 when he replaced Sam Keller after Keller suffered a season-ending injury against Texas. Nebraska was down 28-17 and Sam Keller left the gme with a season-ending injury. Ganz hadn't played much throughout the season but finished a scoring drive to pull the Huskers within a field goal with a minute to go. Unfortunately the onside kick attempt failed, Nebraska losing 28-25.
Ganz started the next three games against Kansas, Kansas State and Colorado. He piled up record setting performances, but he also threw seven interceptions and his three against Colorado were costly as the Buffaloes won the game and kept Nebraska from a bowl game.
Enter 2009 and the Huskers will be breaking in a brand new quarterback. Of the top three prospects - Zac Lee, Kody Spano, and Cody Green - only Lee has taken snaps in a game. Regardless of who's anointed as the next starter (and there will be no starter announced in the spring) remember that there will be growing pains come fall.
Photo by Dennis Hubbard
Zac Lee is the most likely choice for the starting quarterback position. Lee, a 6-2, 210 pound junior, played in two games last season. He was on the field late in the New Mexico State game where he attempted two passes, completing one for an eight yards. Against Kansas State he had two rushes for a total of 17 yards.
Despite little playing time, Lee has been around the program long enough to learn Shawn Watson's complex offense (flashback to Ganz walking on the field against Texas in 2007).
Kody Spano redshirted last season after being the sole quarterback recruit in Bo Pelini's first recruiting class. Spano was set to sign for Oklahoma State until Mike Gundy informed him he wouldn't be able to take an early scholarship. Spano felt slighted while Bill Callahan recruit Blaine Gabbert had jumped ship to Missouri leaving a position open for Spano to come to Nebraska. The rest is history, as they say, and now we'll see how the whole thing works out.
Spano seems to have largely been forgotten as a potential starter. He's stuck between Lee, the inexperienced veteran, and Cody Green, the new kid in town. From his official bio, Spano was the ninth-ranked dual threat quarterback by Rivals.com and ranked by ESPN as among the nation's top 30 quarterbacks.
Cody Green has done everything right early in his Husker career. Like Spano, Green graduated and enrolled early at Nebraska so he could get an early jump on learning the offense. Green has plenty of talent, ranked as the sixth-best dual-threat quarterback by Rivals.com, while Scout.com ranked him as the seventh best national quarterback prospect. During his his senior year, he lead his high school team to a runner-up in their division,
Could Green start for the Huskers? Doubtful. It's unreasonable to ask a kid who has yet to turn 18 to come into a nationally known program, learn a new offense, start his freshman year on campus while at the same time answer the prayers of Husker fans across the world. Hopefully a redshirt season is in store for Green, so the only glimpse of him this year might be found at the spring game in April.
(There are rumors of an injury that might keep Green out of spring practice, but at this point they are only rumors.)
What to Watch:
How much will Shawn Watson's offense change from the previous season, and how much of that will we see in the spring game? All three quarterback prospects are mobile, so they give Watson the ability to run the spread option or zone read. All three have the ability to throw on the run. The key will be their comfort running the offense and their passing accuracy that separates them. Another key may be watching to see who makes key mistakes rather than who makes the big plays.
The good news for Husker fans is that we have three talented quarterbacks heading into spring practice, and in the fall the Huskers open up against two Sun Belt conference teams at home before going on the road to face Virginia Tech. It may be their ability to take care of the ball that determines who starts when the Huskers head to Blacksburg.