Nebraska Has Its QB: Tanner Lee Named Starter
Unless you follow Nebraska football coach Mike Riley on Twitter randomly on a Wednesday evening, you would have missed the news the Cornhuskers have a starting quarterback.
Yep. Twitter. At about 6:00 PM Wednesday, four days after the spring game, Riley shared the news with Husker Nation about his QB situation in a series of three tweets.
Our QB competition this spring was outstanding. That talented group will continue to push each other and provide a bright future.— Mike Riley (@Coach_Riley) April 19, 2017
We met with the QBs and explained the importance of defining a starter at this time. Tanner Lee is our top QB heading into the summer.— Mike Riley (@Coach_Riley) April 19, 2017
All of our QBs understand that competition and opportunity is ongoing.#GBR— Mike Riley (@Coach_Riley) April 19, 2017
And just like that, Tanner Lee is the new starting quarterback at the University of Nebraska. Lee is a redshirt junior who transferred from Tulane; sitting out last year because of the transfer. Lee beat out redshirt freshman Patrick O’Brien and true freshman Tristan Gebbia… for now.
Riley is sending some mixed messages here, as he did most of the offseason. He says it’s important to name a starter, but then says the quarterback competition is still open. So, coach, is Lee your guy or not? What are fans supposed to think?
Riley cleared that up a short time later during a quick radio interview with the Husker Sports Network. During the interview he said “I didn't really want to start fall camp making that the story. We can prepare and basically enter fall camp without any drama at that position."
It’s been a very long time since Nebraska has had a quarterback competition. You have to go back to 2009 to find a time a guy not named Taylor Martinez or Tommy Armstrong taking snaps as the primary starter; and it’s been a decade since the Huskers had a true quarterback competition.
In 2007 another vaunted transfer, Sam Keller from Arizona State, won the job under then-coach Bill Callahan (sorry Husker fans for mentioning that name). That didn’t go well, and Keller was eventually replaced by cult-hero Joe Ganz. Whether Husker fans like it or not, and some really didn’t like Martinez or Armstrong, Nebraska has had the stability at quarterback the last ten years most programs dream about.
Now that changes. You could make the argument, with apologies to Sheryl Crow, that a change will do them good. With Lee, O’Brien, Gebbia, and recruits to be named later, Mike Riley and his staff finally have their type of quarterback in Lincoln – instead of just playing the hand they were dealt with Armstrong and Ryker Fyfe.
Lee has drawn excitement from the moment he announced his transfer from Tulane. In New Orleans Lee got off to a great start, and Green Wave fans thought they had a sure thing… an NFL talent. Lee cooled quickly, but Tulane insiders have been quick to point out Lee wasn’t the problem – it was his surrounding cast, especially a patchwork offensive line.
Lee is six-foot-four, weighs over 200 pounds, has an arm like a cannon but can also make short and medium-range throws. He’s your prototypical “pro-style” quarterback. Or, more specifically, your prototypical Mike Riley-style quarterback.
While running the scout team last season for the Huskers, offensive coordinator Danny Langsdorf said Lee gave the Nebraska defense more fits than most of the quarterbacks in the Big 10. That is high praise from a guy who used to coach Eli Manning.
This is the type of quarterback Nebraska fans have been waiting for, dreaming about, salivating over, since Mike Riley was named the coach in Lincoln. No offense to Tommy Armstrong, but he was an athlete playing quarterback. Riley and his staff had to game plan around Armstrong’s abilities instead of implementing their system. That ends now. And Husker fans were quick to take to Twitter upon learning the news Lee is at the top of the depth chart:
What a thrill of a time to be a #Huskers football fan right now.— Bic (@BicOnAir) April 20, 2017
Not surprised Tanner Lee named #1 QB for #Huskers. Looked great all spring. Patrick O'Brien was also impressive. NU in good shape at QB— TJ Eck (@TJEck_TV) April 19, 2017
And that last tweet should be the most important for everyone involved in the Nebraska football program. As noted above, it’s been a very long time since the Huskers have had good depth behind center. While some skeptics are worried this could mean Patrick O’Brien transfers, Nebraska fans should be very excited about the possibility of three quarterbacks who could all lead this offense for the next two or more seasons. And, unlike in previous administrations, Riley and his staff aren’t taking a breather from the QB recruiting game after amassing a stockpile of strong arms.
As long as Riley doesn’t institute a two-quarterback system, because that never goes well, this should be an exciting season now that Riley and Langsdorf get to take off the handcuffs they’ve been wearing their first two years in Lincoln.
Who knows if Tanner Lee (or the other two guys for that matter) are the real deal and the answer to the quarterback struggles the Huskers have faced the last seven seasons. But at least Husker fans have the answer to the quarterback question and can spend the summer doing what they love - escalating a player to superhero status before he ever takes a snap.