July 26, 2010

No end in sight in NU's quarterback competition

IRVING, Texas - As Nebraska made the rounds through the Big 12 Conference Media Days at the Westin Hotel on Monday, it was supposed to serve as the unofficial kickoff to the 2010-11 season.

However, with the start of fall camp now only two weeks away, the Huskers still don't even know who their starting quarterback is going to be.

Head coach Bo Pelini didn't give much insight into the answer to the hottest question of NU's offseason, saying the competition would likely continue through all of fall camp up until the season opener against Western Kentucky on Sept. 4.

If no one has emerged from the pack by then, it could take even longer.

"We're in no hurry to make that decision," Pelini said. "That's going to go at least up until the first game and maybe beyond. I don't know how it's going to play out. I wish I had a crystal ball to say this is how it's going to be."

Pelini did say that senior Zac Lee was back to 100 percent after undergoing offseason surgery on a tendon in his throwing arm that forced him to sit out all of spring practice.

Senior wide receiver Niles Paul said Lee has not only regained all of the same zip he had on his throws from a year ago, he just might be throwing the ball even harder.

"He's back," Paul said. "He's throwing real well. I threw with him on Saturday, and his arm was very strong. It was actually stronger than I expected. It kind of caught me off guard, because it comes fast. I was like, 'Wow.'"

While Lee has definitely made progress, Pelini said missing spring ball tightened the race between Lee and sophomore Cody Green and redshirt freshman Taylor Martinez. Both Green and Martinez had excellent springs, and Pelini said the competition would be neck and neck heading into fall practice.

"(Lee) does have some experience, but I think the spring really closed that gap," Pelini said. "Unfortunately for him he missed the spring and those other guys had tremendous springs. They both did some great things. I'm excited about the position myself and it gives you guys something to talk about as well."

So how long will the competition actually go before Pelini finally decides on one guy to be the No. 1 quarterback?

One would assume the Huskers would want the position settled by the time they travel to take on an up-and-coming Washington for their toughest non-conference showdown in Week 3. Pelini isn't ready to make that assumption, though.

"I would hope it would be fairly clear by then, but if it's not, it's not," Pelini said. "There's so many ifs or things that could happen. I can't really look into a crystal ball and figure it out. It's a deal that you figure out as you go along and I'm pretty good at that."

Pelini insisted that not having a starter decided on going into the season would only be a distraction for fans and media, and that his team would be fine as the position works itself out.

As Lee, Green and Martinez share equal practice reps this fall, though, Paul said at some point he'd like to know who the starter was in order to develop timing and a solid connection with him come game day.

"I think it would be nice to know who your starting quarterback is two weeks before the season starts," Paul said. "You've got to get prepared with somebody. Everybody has to time out their routes with the quarterback. I guess it's just something that mentally you've got to get prepared for."

From the way Pelini was talking on Monday, it doesn't look like Paul will get his wish.

Until Lee, Green or Martinez finally steps up and emerges as Nebraska's clear cut choice, Nebraska's starting quarterback job will continue to be a daily competition, just as it is and always will be at every other position on the team under Pelini.

"We aren't going to handle the quarterback position different than we handle tight end or defensive back," he said. "You compete on a daily basis and what we do in practice is what we believe is going to happen in the game. The guys who show up in practice are the guys who will get the reps in the game.

"That's who's going to be on the field. It's as simple as that. I don't try to make any rash decisions. I go off of what I see. What you put on tape is what I believe is going to happen in the game. If you earn it, you'll be out there. If you don't, it's going to be somebody else."

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