This is the start of the 2010 Nebraska Spring football walk-throughs we'll be doing here at CN. We'll be doing a unit-by-unit preview before the start of spring practice.
First up - quarterbacks - easily the most controversial position heading into 2010 football. With Zac Lee out, who's going to compete for the starting role, and will they keep their job heading into the first game against Western Kentucky?
Also: Latravis Washington
Fair or not, Zac Lee took a lot of the blame for last year's offensive problems. All that despite the fact that the offensive line didn't display the mean, nasty slobber-knocking type of football that Husker fans were looking for.
Lee is a non-factor this spring as he will be rehabbing from surgery as spring practices rolls around. That's bad news, even if you're one of those people who blames him for everything. Every one of our quarterbacks needs more work, more experience, and more confidence, including Lee.
Lee struggled throughout the 2009 season. He looked great against inferior opponents (Sun Belt teams), but struggled in his first road start at Virginia Tech where he completed just 11 of 30 attempts for 136 yards. He looked uncomfortable in running the ball, and the offense was largely ineffective throughout the season. On the positive side, Lee's Holiday Bowl performance against Arizona State showed his potential as he went 13-for-23 for 173 yards with a 74-yard touchdown pass to Niles Paul. For the first time, he looked comfortable running the ball and ended with 65 yards on 18 carries, including scoring the first touchdown of the game. After the bowl game, it was learned that Lee played most of the season with an arm injury that most likely affected his 2009 performance.
Cody Green was part of the 2009 recruiting class and enrolled at Nebraska early, taking part in last year's spring practice and Red-White spring game. He saw quite a bit of action last season, including ripping off a nice 49-yard run in his first game against Florida Atlantic. Green started two games in the hopes that he could replace an ineffective Lee, but unfortunately showed that he was raw, particularly in his passing. That's not surprising given his inexperience. Green has great potential, and it's that potential Husker fans are counting on.
Latravis Washington converted to quarterback after playing linebacker the previous two seasons. He played well in the 2009 spring game, throwing for 190 yards and two TDs. He saw limited time at quarterback in 2009, playing in four games and rushing for 17 yards. It's doubtful that Washington will contend for the starting position, but could be used in certain situations. After seeing the Wildcat against Arizona State, Washington could find a home as a power running quarterback.
I don't think I'd be walking on too thin a limb to say that Husker fans would love to see a lot of improvement out of Green, enough that he could replace Lee as the 2010 starter. That's a lot to ask out of a sophomore, especially one as young and raw as Green, but that's the hope that spring football brings.
2009 Quarterback Statistics:
Ah, to be a backup quarterback. You're the guy everyone loves, at least as long as you stay on the sideline. The moment you step on the field you can measured - although from some fans' reaction it might be more appropriate were fans to give a "thumbs up" or "thumbs down" as if they were calling for the life of a quarterback in that situation.
Maybe the term "rookie" is a little unfair to these guys, but they have yet to see live action. Therefore we know nothing more about them than rumors and innuendo. In that regard, we're not much different than the coaching staff. Until we see how backups play in game conditions, there's not much to go on.
Spano came to Nebraska as part of Bo Pelini's first recruiting class. Fate has not been kind to Spano since becoming a Husker. He was expected to contend for playing time in 2009, but suffered an ACL injury last spring. He entered fall camp apparently healthy but suffered another knee injury that forced him out of the 2009 season.
Spano has spent enough time in the Husker program to learn the offense, but hasn't had much of a chance to practice. Entering 2010 spring, not much is yet known about Spano. There's little buzz about him and he remains the "forgotten man". Still, he stands as much of a chance at the starting job as any other quarterback.
One of top dual-threat quarterback in California when he was recruited, Martinez came in with the 2009 class. He spent the 2009 season on the scout team, and enters 2010 as a redshirt freshman. Martinez has a decent amount of buzz heading into 2010 spring, and he's obviously athletic enough to run Shawn Watson's ground offense. Then there's that line from Carl Pelini calling Martinez the "best all-around recruit in 10 years", so you have to think that Martinez represents a lot of potential. You don't get to be the California player of the year without talent.
Ron Kellogg III
Kellogg is a walk-on from Omaha Westside. He spent time on the scout team in 2009, providing much-needed depth. Will he be a starting candidate? Unlikely. Will he get to play? Maybe, but he's probably not going to contribute in anything more than a backup role in 2010.
Carnes is part of the 2010 recruiting class, a dual-threat quarterback from Brandenton, Florida, who committed to Nebraska after rumors placed him at Western Kentucky. Carnes is the cousin of Husker legend Tommie Frazier, not that this means anything, unless some of Frazier's talent for winning is genetic.
Given the depth at the position, Carnes is sure to redshirt for the 2010 season.
2010 vs 2009
Nebraska entered 2009 looking for a new quarterback to replace Joe Ganz. Husker fans expected plenty of drama as Patrick Witt and Zac Lee were expected to battle for the starting position before Witt transferred to Yale, leaving Lee the defacto starter. Spano was the only real possible challenger, a challenge that disappeared after Spano's unfortunate injuries.
Entering spring 2010, the Huskers find themselves in the same position - trying to find a consistent leader at the most critical position on offense.
Still, Lee has a year of starts behind him. I fail to see how that's anything but a good thing. I'd be surprised to see 2010 start without Lee as the starter. On the other hand, if someone beats him out that can't be seen as anything but positive because someone will have to vastly improve by fall to take the position from him.
There is one big difference of note between this spring and last, however. This spring, there will be no green jerseys for the quarterbacks. No doubt the coaches feel more comfortable with the amount of depth at the position, but more importantly, it shows the need to evaluate the quarterbacks under real game conditions.