Gardner, KS quarterback Bubba Starling gave a verbal commitment to join Nebraska's 2011 class. Starling joins fellow quarterback recruit Jamal Turner of Arlington, TX in the 2011 class. Both players are listed in ESPNU's Top 150; Turner at #55, while Starling is #105. Starling has impressive measurables: 6'5", 190 lbs. Runs a 4.5 in the 40 yard dash, and his coach claims he once clocked him at 4.36 seconds. He's a multi-sport athlete who's projected as a top Major League Baseball prospect as well with fastball that hits the mid-90's. Part of the reason he committed to Nebraska was a willingness to allow him to try both sports, much like Khiry Cooper.
Truth be told, his numbers sound great,but I'm not a much of a follower of recruiting. I don't really trust the recruiting services (does the name "Harrison Beck" mean anything to you?), and frankly, commitments don't mean a heck of a lot in the middle of the summer (does the name "Gabbert" mean anything to you?).
What does intrigue me is what seems to be happening at the quarterback position in Lincoln.Assuming that both Turner and Starling sign next February, and that Starling passes up on professional baseball, here's what Nebraska's quarterback roster could look like in September, 2011:
- Kody Spano, Junior, 6'2", 210 lbs.
- Cody Green, Junior, 6'4", 225 lbs.
- Taylor Martinez, Sophomore, 6'1", 195 lbs.
- Ron Kellogg III, Sophomore (walk-on), 6'1", 210 lbs.
- Brion Carnes, possibly redshirt Freshman, 6'1", 180 lbs.
- Jamal Turner, incoming Freshman, 6'1", 173 lbs.
- Bubba Starling, incoming Freshman, 6'5", 190 lbs.
That's a longer list of quarterbacks than we've seen in quite some time at Nebraska, especially when you consider the 85 scholarship limit. All of these quarterbacks were recruited to Nebraska as dual-threat quarterbacks - and all of the scholarship quarterbacks other than Spano were rated four stars by Rivals. Obviously, you never turn down a talented player who wants to put on the uniform, but it's interesting to note that Nebraska continues to pursue quarterbacks despite already having an impressive talent pool.
Granted, these speedy dual-threat quarterbacks are versatile enough to contribute elsewhere on the field. Many other schools looked at Taylor Martinez as an athlete, much like Jamal Turner is being viewed now. But these guys are coming to Nebraska as quarterbacks initially. What does this mean? The obvious points are that if you still think that Nebraska is still running a pro-style "West Coast" offense, it's time to bury that notion once and for all. There still will be elements of the "West Coast" in the passing game, but Nebraska is clearly committing to an offense where the quarterback is a running threat.
But this has additional meaning when you look deeper. Bo Pelini and Shawn Watson are clearly making quarterback a point of emphasis in recruiting, and are allocating more scholarship resources to the position than ever before. With scholarship limits, that simply means fewer resources at other positions - including defense which is Pelini's bread and butter.
I also think that means that this coaching staff isn't convinced that any one of these quarterbacks is "the" man. Cody Green wasn't able to unseat Zac Lee last season, even considering Lee's injury and lack of instincts in the quarterback run-game. Taylor Martinez put on a nifty show in the spring game to grab the attention of everyone who watched.
I'm not one to sit down and try to watch highlights of these players and try to read anything. I don't have the perspective to judge the competition they are playing against. So I don't try to handicap which of these players is going to be the starting quarterback three years down the line. But when I look at this list of quarterbacks, I see candidates who were offered scholarships by some of the biggest names in college football: Oklahoma, Miami, Notre Dame. They all are capable candidates, and we're seeing an environment develop where players aren't afraid of competition. These guys don't need to be promised that they're the "only" quarterback that Nebraska is pursuing, or that the job is theirs for the asking.
What this coaching staff is saying is that the quarterback job is theirs for the taking. And that's a positive development for Nebraska football long-term.