QBs take center stage for Spring practice

The battles will be many this Spring and Fall when the rest of this record-setting recruiting class arrives. There's no battle, however, that is going to get more attention even now than that at the most visible spot on the field. In his first year at the helm, Joe Dailey had his struggles and with the addition of Zac Taylor and Jordan Adams apparently healthy, the early battle and even the battle after Harrison Beck arrives, is going to be the one to watch.

There was a standard head coach Bill Callahan had in mind for his future starting quarterback. It ranged around 60 percent of the passes thrown being completed and that was just the foundation of the passing-attack the former Raider coach was trying to build.

If you include the 19 interceptions Joe Dailey threw his first year at the helm for the Huskers, his completion percentage would have been above 55 percent. With those, though, the Sophomore didn't even hit 50.

That has to change.

And, one of the biggest changes you'll see will be from the second they start snapping the ball in Spring practices, the mind-set much different this year than last.

Last year, the coaches literally conceded from the outset that Joe Dailey was their only option, giving him easily 80 percent of the reps, Callahan even stating that at one point, it was close to 90. That didn't change either, even as Ryan Goodman seemed to be grasping the verbiage and Beau Davis showed glimpses of his excellent ability to deliver the ball and with a much more live arm than probably anyone expected.

As they say, however, the honeymoon is over and you can guarantee that the coaches will not concede as much to one QB this time around as they did last year, because it would appear that they have a bevy of choices for the future.

First, Jordan Adams and if you think that Adams is trying to escape the past and get right into the future, you couldn't be more correct. Even as Adams was gaining weight throughout last year and trying to get back to where he was prior to his surgery to have his spleen removed, he was reluctant in trying to gauge where he was at that time as opposed to before the surgery took place. As he put it himself, "I'm just trying to put all that behind me. I am just ready to move on."

He'll do that and people might actually get to see what made the Husker coaches go after a kid with only one full game as a junior college freshman, even though in that game, Adams busted the Grossmont single-game record for most yards, Adams throwing the ball for a jaw-dropping 531 yards.

A definite savvy under center and confidence that belied his experience, Adams was hoped to be the first QB under center for Nebraska that came from an attack similar to that of the much-hyped "West Coast" offense.

Decent arm-strength, reasonable mobility in the pocket and excellent touch on the ball, Adams not only has the basics for what Callahan and company want to do, he's not got a full year under his belt, learning a system that is complex to say the least.

Second, Zac Taylor, the Butler County transfer that came just a few interceptions shy of leading his team all the way to a national title, Taylor throwing five interceptions in the championship contest.

That actually isn't consistent, though, with the rest of Taylor's season, as he threw for approx. 3,000 yards, while completing over 60 percent of his passes.

Taylor brings the usual assets of a quarterback that prolific in intelligence, proficiency and the ability to throw the short or deep ball. But, according to fellow Butler players and future Huskers, Justin Tomerlin and Frantz Hardy, that's just s small part of what's in Taylor's resume'.

He leads.

Either by example or in the huddle, the constant comments about Taylor from both of his continuing teammates along with former ones is that if you were going to go into a football game and had to look to the QB to get it done, Taylor was the one they wanted taking the reins.

That's something Nebraska sorely missed last year, on both sides of the ball as leaders can and often do bring teams together, especially when the times aren't the best.

Third, Joe Dailey and there's nobody that wants to make a season go away more than his New Jersey native. You wouldn't even have to ask him, as if you know anything about his ultra-competitive nature, nobody wants on the field more than he does, if only to prove that last year was an aberration and not indicative of what he's truly capable.

There is no getting around a few of Dailey's assets, positive traits that will and did serve him well at times during last year's disappointing campaign. A cannon for an arm, good mobility and at times, a playmaker with his arm.

It's too bad that it was contrasted more often than not with probably not the best judgement in the world, getting admittedly fooled by defenses and deceptive coverages and when Dailey did actually get to run outside of the pocket, he was tentative to say the least.

Nobody will forget the fourth down where Dailey appeared to have the first down if he only put his shoulder down and dove for it. But, instead, Dailey ran out of bounds a couple of yards short of the marker.

You probably have to give the coaches credit for that one more than Dailey himself, because there's no doubt in anyone's mind that they viewed Dailey as their only viable option at the position.

Dailey will more than likely have a luxury as far as that goes this season, the coaches probably not opting to play it quite as safe as they did a year prior. That will free Dailey up to do more of what he does best and if that's the case, we could see a completely different QB.

To add to this list of Spring-competitors you have sophomore - Beau Davis, who according to strength and conditioning coach Dave Kennedy has gained close to 30 pounds. That still puts Davis probably twenty-plus pounds short of where the staff would like him to be, but that's a noticeable increase.

The questions nobody had about Davis as they watched him practice were if he had the throws or the arm to make them. Davis answered those questions almost from the outset of practices last fall. Exhibitiung a very strong arm, great vision in seeing the field and the ability to make just about every throw there was.

He was a frehsman, though, and back to the weight, far too slight in his build to be considered a realistic week-to-week starter. And, you didn't need any better illustration of what kind of reps all those other than Dailey got when you saw Davis go in against Texas Tech in the most humiliating defeat in Husker history and watched Beau basically implode.

In that kind of situation, it's really hard to expect a miracle, but Davis won't have that burden this year. Actually, that might be considered a luxury, as Davis will have his hands full in trying to climb up the charts. But, if you simply base his worthiness on his ability, Beau is your darkhorse, because strictly as to his ability to make the throws and the arm to deliver, he's still probably one of NU's best.

The questions surrounding Sophomore, Ryan Goodman are if he'll be playing football at all, Goodman originally a scholarship wrestler, ranked as THE best wrestler at his weight in the country coming out of high school in New Jersey.

As Spring football went along last year, Bill Callahan seemed to marvel at Goodman's ability to grasp the complicated verbiage of this offense so quickly. Alas, his inexperience as a quarterback counted that apparently enough that Goodman got only one series the entire year in that series, threw one pass.

It's hard to gauge what, if any shot Goodman has this year as he's been steady in many things he's done, but not stellar at any one thing. One might call him a serviceable candidate, but for an offense that needs as many sure-things as it can find at the helm this year, serviceable simply won't get you on the field.

The remaining candidates are sophomore – Joe Ganz and senior - Mike Stuntz . Ganz made good strides, serving as a scout team QB this last season, but that virtual anonymity from that particular job doesn't give a lot of hope to him being a serious consideration for the position this year.

Like Goodman, Ganz does many things well, but it's unclear if he can do any one thing or few things well enough to scratch the three-deep this season.

As to the elder QB on the team, it's been an interesting road for Mike Stuntz, stemming from his still most famous toss, the pass to Eric Crouch that broke the back of the Oklahoma Sooners in 2001.

Unfortunately, you can call that the most meaningful time he's had, the only other time he came in for "serious" duty was to spell a Penn State team that had already all but sealed up a fairly embarrassing loss for the Huskers.

Since then, it's been the clipboard during games, taking almost complimentary reps in practice and even some time on special teams this last year. If there was any candidate where the writing would be said to be on the wall in regards to him possibly not making the cut when the staff at NU widdles down the number of scholarship quarterbacks, well, the writing doesn't appear to be on the wall, rather, it would seem to be etched in stone.

With the principals taken into account, there doesn't seem to be a lot of drama as to where most eyes will be concentrated on this Spring. Two junior college quarterbacks and the incumbent, Joe Dailey.

There also won't be any drama behind the opportunities available to each of those vying for the position as you can be certain that this staff will delve out the repetitions at the position as liberally as possible, to try and get a better idea of the entirety of their QB situation along with making sure that unlike last year, nobody in the top three positions of the depth chart is simply not ready to play.

Some of the questions that will be asked and possibly answered this Spring go as follows:

Can Joe Dailey bounce back?

Last year wasn't about time, because Dailey almost got it all. Last year wasn't about attention in practice, because for an entire Spring, Fall and even season, Dailey was unquestionably the man. The coaches tried to acclimate him to what they were doing, groom him into the mind-set it took to execute this philosophy and the end result was that while Dailey got better in some areas, it wasn't measurably or at least, enough where it benefited Nebraska against opponents capable of stopping them.

Is Jordan Adams healthy?

It might seem like a silly question to ask at this point, especially considering that not three months ago, strength and conditioning coach said Adams was almost back to an even 200 pounds, well on his way to being all the way back physically. Until he's seen as a person that is taking the amount of reps all the other top candidates are, however, that question will continue to loom.

One can't understand the ordeal Adams went through and the agonizing pain he was in even before he committed to the Huskers. Fans will just have to hope that his ordeal in making it all the way back wasn't or won't be as arduous.

Is the job Zac Taylor's to lose?

Coming straight from a team that played for a junior college national title, Taylor was no doubt still probably rust-free the second he stepped on campus in Lincoln. The entire season of starting, having had a tremendous amount of success from those starts and being at least on paper, the kind of quarterback that fits what Bill Callahan wants to do.

If this were a mom and pop offense, where plays were being drawn up in the dirt and the basic idea was for someone to go long and get open, I might agree with that, but this particular offense is the antithesis of that.

It's been stated and overstated, but that's because it's so true, this offense is a tough one to grasp. First, it's the terminology and it's even scaled back considerably from what Callahan utilized in the pros. Second, it's the sheer volume as I don't care how detailed you get in showing every little nuance in a play, a four-inch playbook is a four-inch playbook. That's huge.

Somewhat of an equalizer, but not a complete one is the fact that as a mid-term transfer from the junior college ranks, Taylor was able to actually be in Lincoln already so that we are even talking about the possibility of him being the man by August.

What about Harrison Beck?

I'm not even going to talk about Beck's age here as that probably shouldn't be a solid reason to count or discount his legitimacy. But, the bottom line for Beck will be time. Time he's going to have to learn this system hands-on, months and in some cases, years behind those he will be competing against.

Possibly at the most, two months to get that playbook , get into the film room and attempt to soak in as much as he can before all the QBs hit the field for the first practices in Fall.

And, probably most significantly is that his competition has not only the advantage of having more time to learn the system or re-learn it, if such is the case, but within the top three candidates as we see it, you have one QB, who just started a full year at the division 1-A level, one QB that started an entire season at the junior college level, leading his team all the way to the national title game and another that while he had only limited junior college experience, it was with one of the top junior colleges in the country.

There's plenty of mountains Beck is going to have to climb, but there's little doubt about one thing, he's going to be fun to watch along the way and if anyone has a shot to come out of the blue, it's the crazy countryside kid.

The bottom line:

Opportunity. That's the key word here and while it was almost a myth last year, it's firmly planted in reality this time around. Within the heavy dose of scholarship quarterbacks, you are going to see the coaches mixing, matching, looking and re-checking every little thing with probably most of the players at the position.

There has been a lot made of the fact that practices under Callahan resemble the professional ranks, most of it stemming from the rather hurried pace.

Last year is going to end up looking like slow motion compared to this year, though, especially at the quarterback position, because there's going to be an almost frantic pace surrounding NU's key offensive slot.

Outside of picking a top three in Dailey, Taylor and Adams as to their contention for this year's starting spot, it's going to be near impossible to really know just who has the upper-hand, perhaps even until Fall practice begins. There's going to be a lot going on this Spring, though, so that when the final three practices before the start of this staff's second season, they will have a good idea of where they stand.

It's going to be the hottest battle of the off-season and yes, the most important one as well. The Nebraska staff is looking for the person that can be both efficient and deadly at the same time. Make the easy throws look easy and the hard throws much of the time and you have secured yourself a spot at the top of the charts.

The coffee shops are already permeated with the speculation as to just who can do that the best this year, but in a few weeks, that's what everyone will be talking about. Because, the winner and how they do will ultimately dictate much of this team's success this year.

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