For the first time in the Big Ten era, Nebraska will head into spring football practices with a true quarterback competition on their hands.
"We’re going to try to give Tanner (Lee) and Patrick (O’Brien) even turns. The other day, Danny (Langsdorf) and I were talking about flipping a coin for the first snap," said head coach Mike Riley on Wednesday. Somebody’s got to take the first snap, but what’s going to be determined as to who is playing in the game will happen over a long period of time. Our job is to create opportunities, and to make sure they get repetitions and get coached and practice. That’s what we have to present to them."
A redshirt freshman, O'Brien is a former four-star quarterback entering his second stint of spring practices after enrolling early last year.
Lee, a former Tulane starter, was last year's Scout Team Offensive MVP.
"Lee is going to be a bonus for us because he has been in games," said Riley. "There’s nothing like being in the game. He’s not going to blink, this guy is poised, he’s smart, I’m excited about him."
According to Riley, Nebraska used Sunday practices last fall to get both Lee and O'Brien extra work - with scrimmages late in the practice.
"Most guys got 20-25 plays each scrimmage every Sunday. They have played with a lot of the guys they’re going to be playing with this week," said Riley. "They have called out plays, they have broken the huddle and gone through the cadence, and made their reads, done some of that stuff that we do. Of course we stay pretty basic on Sunday’s, but they got to play. And I say that theme get better and better almost weekly, so they’re not coming in here with our offense as total novices, it’s not going to be brand new to them."
Could a starter be named in the spring?
“I’m probably going to do it later rather than sooner because I’m not really worried about it at this point," said Riley. "My main concern right now is that they both get a chance to compete and play. There will be a lot of questions you will ask me at the end of the spring game who is the starting QB.
"I don’t think there are any urgencies right now, I’m not going to worry about that part, I just want to make sure they get repetitions and had a chance to get better and get prepared for the season. Then at some point we will announce it.”
Lee threw 23 touchdowns and 21 interceptions in two seasons as a starter at Tulane. His team only went 3-9 in 2015, but the talent across the board wasn’t that of a Nebraska.