Tanner Lee is Nebraska’s quarterback now. For now. Mike Riley named him the starter last night while taking care to note that:
This wasn’t a surprising decision. Lee was the presumed starter based on experience. He was a little bit better most of the spring. The tales of his ability as quarterback, despite the numbers at Tulane, seemed to grow taller during his season away. All signs were pointing to Lee and his play over the past two months cemented it.
It’s that last part, Lee’s play, that matters most. It’s probably why Riley chose him, but he might bring some ancillary benefits in terms of maturity. Yeah, I know, low-hanging fruit, right? Maybe it is, but in this case I think it matters.
There are a lot of Husker-fan hopes being pinned to Nebraska’s quarterback (no matter who it is). Most Husker fans have been withholding full judgment of the Riley era until he got one of his guys at quarterback. Nebraska’s offense wasn’t great last year and the 2017 unit doesn’t have the two leading rushers, quarterback and three of four leading receivers from 2016. Any sort of favorable projection for this year’s offense is almost a vote of confidence in the “right quarterback” by default. There are plenty of questions about Nebraska football hanging around from the past two years, but you get the sense that quarterback is at least a partial answer to most of them.
Can this offense work here? With the right quarterback it can.
Is the run game rugged enough? Paired with an accurate passer who can consistently complete passes from any formation it can be.
Can Nebraska attract enough high-level talent to succeed as a pro-style offense? Maybe if a pro-style quarterback comes in and puts up a ton of numbers.
A few weeks back we asked fans in our State of Husker Nation poll — results are on newsstands now — to identify the “face of the football program in 2017.” Lee won with 22.13 percent of the vote. Next closest were Stanley Morgan Jr., De’Mornay Pierson-El, Nick Gates, Mick Stoltenberg and Drew Brown, guys that, y’know, have played for Nebraska at this point.
Seventh-leading vote-getter? Patrick O’Brien. He beat out Joshua Kalu and Chris Jones. True freshman Tristan Gebbia finished 14th.
That’s where Nebraska is at with its quarterbacks right now. It’s not quite “Help me Obi Wan Kenobi…” but it’s not quite not that either. There is a lot riding on who lines up behind center in 2017.
Take talent out of it and ask yourself this: If you had to pin all those hopes to one person, would you pick the 22-year-old, the redshirt freshman or the true freshman? Which one is the most ready to deal with it right now?
You probably end up with the same decision Riley made yesterday.
The Grab Bag
- Hall-of-fame hoops coach George Raveling was on a roll yesterday, calling out LaVar Ball and claiming the NCAA will host a 3-on-3 basketball championship within 15 years.
- Really good read on Bill Snyder’s recruiting strategy: “I really thought, ‘We’re going to go compete for every 5-star and 4-star player out there.'” Snyder obviously adopted a different strategy and it’s hard to argue with the results.
- Ed Morrow Jr. told ESPN he will visit Marquette this week.
- Coaches really will reflexively rebel against any presumed advantage they perceive they don’t have.
Today’s Song of Today
Brandon is the Managing Editor for Hail Varsity and has covered Nebraska athletics for the magazine and web since 2012, Hail Varsity’s first season on the scene. His sports writing has also been featured by Fox Sports, The Guardian and CBS Sports.