Steve Calhoun knows quarterbacks, but he especially knows California quarterbacks. That’s where his Armed & Dangerous Football Camp started, and it’s also what makes him a particularly good sounding board for Nebraska’s forthcoming quarterback race, which is loaded with Californians.
Calhoun has been around both of Nebraska’s returning scholarship quarterbacks for a long time. He started working with Patrick O’Brien when O’Brien was in ninth grade. Calhoun’s work with Tristan Gebbia started the summer before his seventh-grade season.
Calhoun dropped by the Hail Varsity Radio studio on Tuesday to chat about two of Nebraska’s top contenders at quarterback with host Chris Schmidt.
You can start with some of the stereotypes. O’Brien and Gebbia both signed on to play in Mike Riley’s pro-style offense, prompting questions as to their ability to handle the rushing component of Scott Frost’s offense.
But Calhoun says that O’Brien is “actually a lot more athletic than people give him credit for, he just never really go the chance to show it in Coach Riley’s offense. In high school he ran an offense very similar to what Coach Frost wants to run here at Nebraska, and he ran for over 700 yards as a senior.”
On more than one occasion this offseason Frost has said that a functional running ability is what this offense requires, and Calhoun described O’Brien as the type of quarterback who can “get you between 6 and 8 yards.” But his biggest edge headed into the spring might not be physical.
“He can process information,” Calhoun said. “Just being with him over the last five or six years I take him through film, I take him on the board when he’s home in California. We definitely get into the mental part of playing quarterback as well. He’s going to be able to make all throws. He has the background in a spread offense. The other thing is he has a couple of games from last year. That game experience is going to help him and push him a little bit in the lead just to kind of start things off.”
Gebbia doesn't have the game experience, but brings some similar traits to the table. Calhoun, who is working with Tanner Lee ahead of the NFL Draft and is in Lincoln for the Huskers’ pro day, said Lee raved about Gebbia’s interest in learning the position last season.
“[Gebbia] makes it a priority to make sure that he knows all the nuances of the offense,” Calhoun said, “because he knows that’s what’s going to allow him to be successful.”
As for Gebbia’s ability to hold up in the run game, Calhoun noted that the redshirt freshman might surprise some people.
“He’s a tough kid, even though he’s a little bit on the lighter side. He can definitely take some hits and get back up just because of his mentality. He’s not going to let somebody get a good shot on him and take him out of the game. He’s going to come back. He’s played hurt before. That’s not going to be a problem with him playing Big Ten football.
“If the pocket broke down he was definitely able to extend plays. He’s sneaky fast. He’d get out there and start running and he’d be running away from linebackers. He can get you 15 yards and get down or get out of bounds.”
To the hear the full interview with Calhoun, including his thoughts on the quarterback’s role in this offense and on Lee, check the Hail Varsity Radio page later today for the podcast of Tuesday’s show.