2011 Nebraska Quarterbacks: Where Do We Stand?


With the impending transfer of Cody Green and, to a lesser extent, the announcement that Kody Spano's injuries have finally ended his college career, the klaxons are sounding and the position is no longer flush with talent, but inexperienced and decimated. Either that or there's not a thing to worry about, take your pick.

We're around two months from fall camp and the only thing we seem to know for sure is that our most experienced QB only has a year under his belt. We'll be breaking in a new offense with a new offensive coordinator and the QB depth chart has a total of 12 starts all of them belonging to Martinez..

On second thought, make that 12 games played total, same guy.

So, let's try and take a look at just how deeply the transfer/retirement affects things, who's left at QB, and what we can reasonably expect.

Kody Spano's Retirement

Figured I'd chicken out and take the easy one first. With his injury problems, the upside here was the hope that he'd see the field at least once and get a Memorial Stadium standing ovation to remember. An Elite 11 camper in high school (the kiss of death around here, more on that later), nothing ever seemed to go his way. From having his Okie St. offer yanked at the last minute by Mr. Imaman!I'm40! to a neverending spate of injuries, he had to be feeling like Kenny in South Park.

However, in the end, this was news that I think we all considered inevitable. It was nice to see his name on the depth chart, but he wasn't part of the plan, only a bonus if his body ever cooperated.

Cody Green's Transfer

First of all, Cody is a great kid and has done everything right from fighting the good fight to sticking up for his teammates. If nothing else, hopefully that part of his personality rubs off on Martinez. And while everyone would love for him to stick things out and receive a monstrous ovation on his Senior Day as the loyal backup, he has every right to find himself some playing time maybe closer to home and I wish him well in pursuit of that.

But let's look at the facts:

In his two starts last year, he was mostly forgettable going 17-25 for 159 yards 2 TD's and 16 carries for 23 yards against Iowa St and Colorado. That would be a so-so line for one game, let alone two. And coming off the bench is something you expect QB2 to do effectively. In his two relief appearances against the aTm and Washington in the Holiday Bowl, he was inefective going 9-23 for 102 yards, a pick and 6 carries -1 yards. When up against it, the game always looked too fast for him to react to (see: Oklahoma, 2009)

In the end, I think Nebraska will miss having a quality kid and an off-field and bench leader, but there's no reason to believe that anyone else on the roster, including the true freshmen, can't match THAT productivity, or lack thereof, on the field. From a production standpoint, we're probably ok

So - Who's Left? Who We Got on the Roster, Holmes??

Taylor Martinez - RSo - 116-196 1631yds 59.2% 10tds-7int 162-965 rushing 12 tds
Brion Carnes - RFr - Rivals **** - 4 year starter at Bradenton Manatee, FL, Class 5A
Ron Kellogg - RSo - walkon from Westside

Yep, that's it. Anybody believe Bo now when he says he wants to sign at least one QB in every class?

Martinez goes from scout team WR turned QB1 a year ago to the only QB on the roster with any experience. If healthy, his feet make him a dangerous weapon, but if he is slowed at all, he has not shown the arm to be effective as a dropback passer. Beck's offense, based on what he's said and the type of QB they've been recruiting, seems predicated on a mobile QB. If that ankle hasn't healed, does he drop down the depth chart like a stone or does Beck have a backup package?

Carnes ran a spread offense in one of the nation's toughest high school classes and looked experienced beyond his years doing it. After quarterbacking the scout team in his redshirt year, he was the only effective QB in the spring game (except for maybe Kellogg?) and appeared to be running the same basic package as everyone else. He appears as ready as any redshirt freshman to step in and perform if necessary.

And let's face it, we could very well be a couple turned ankles from a walkon starting at QB.

Who's Coming In?

Jamal Turner - Fr - Rivals **** - #7 Dual Threat QB from Arlington, TX - has been moved to WR
Bubba Starling - Fr - Rivals **** - #6 Athlete from Gardner-Edgerton, KS (started as top 10 dual threat QB) - also Baseball America's #1 HS prospect

First off, Starling's going top 10 in the MLB draft, he'll show up Lincoln and practice for a few weeks and then sign a mega-contract. Call me a cynic, but when I hear him and the family talk ever so earnestly about how their mind isn't made up, he's leaning toward football, etc.? I know his agent is Scott Boras and it just sounds too much like the script he wants out there to convince MLB owners that they have options. Color him gone. (And yes, that is a glimmer of hope you're hearing from me. Dammit.)

But to the nitty gritty - his coach basically abandoned any attempt to give him some passing experience last year actually cutting his attempts way back. He threw for only 790 yards with 8 TD's and 6 INT's. He would not be able to scramble at will against Division 1 competition like did against Kansas high schools. And he failed to earn significant playing time at the Army All-American game. While he did grouse about his lack of playing time, he did admit that it was a whole new level of size and speed and that he got nailed a couple of times in situations where he was used to springing free.

It's only going to get bigger and faster at Nebraska. And going from a run and scramble at will offense to Nebraska's would require development if he shows up. Which he won't.

Starling: 98% he plays baseball, 2% he's 2 years away from significant contribution.

Depth issues may force Turner back to QB, but if they do, he also will require time to learn and develop both mentally and physically. He did complete 60% of passes last year, but threw as many picks as TD's. Also, he may get away with his build at WR, but 6'1" 180 will not fly as a running QB in the Big 10. And remember he's already behind in his development as a QB if needed there this year.

Turner: Not ready to be a QB factor in 2011

Conclusions

Mine and mine alone and no matter how sure I sound, they definitely fall into the best guess category.

  • Um...getting a QB in this year's recruiting class just became a must, didn't it?
  • Talent-wise, Cody was probably dropping to #3. (which he may have been informed of?)
  • #1 is Martinez' to lose and he'll probably have to screw up badly and consistently to do so.
  • Carnes is #2 and an excellent option off the bench or in case of injury.
  • I know we don't trust him, but it still would have been nice to have him back there at #3. Why?
  • We could be screwed hard if both Martinez and Carnes go down. If that happens, the options become a redshirt freshman and a former high school QB with rough edges and size issues who's been practicing at WR
  • Because Starling's gone, right?
  • If Martinez isn't full speed, we could be starting a redshirt freshman for the 2nd straight year, but this time in a new offense.
  • If either one goes down, our dual threat offense loses an option because we have to cut waaaay back on QB carries to keep the #2 guy healthy. Right?
  • So depth-wise, we're basically two deep, aren't we? Unless Kellogg's our new Joe Ganz.
  • Is there good news? No Elite 11 campers in our midst. Freeman, Gabbert, Hildebrand, Spano. The Elite 11 camp has not been good to us.

So then.

Playmaking ability is there is spades, but experience is sorely lacking. Add to that the fact that we're installing a new offense and it definitely appears that the potential is there for things to be very dicey this year. But they shouldn't be boring, I'm guessing.

Note: How do we prevent this in the future?

We can always say these things happen. However, highly sought after recruits will always want to play. Guys who spent a couple years of high school being told how great they are will not easily admit that they simply aren't starter material, not when they had delusions of Heisman in their head, so it will be rare that anyone is able to keep more than 2 or 3 of these guys on the roster simultaneously. Well USC could in the Carroll days, but I don't think we have the booster capital to keep 5 deep on the depth chart salaried.

Should we look at adding a lower tier QB recruit with potential (thing 2 to 3 star guy like Ganz) every other year or so, who might be less likely to dart when he's nnot a starter by Year 3? Just an idea. That way there's at least some QB's consistently on the roster for their 4-5 years.

That's my 1600 words - what do you think? 

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