On Wednesday, Nebraska head coach Mike Riley took to Twitter to make an announcement about the quarterback battle heading into the summer, specifically regarding Tanner Lee.
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
In a decision that surprises few around the Cornhusker football program, it is a decision that, in a way, needed to be made.
Riley also said that the other quarterbacks, namely Patrick O’Brien, understand that the competition for the starting spot is still up for grabs. However, in naming Lee the team’s QB1 heading into the summer, the Huskers can focus on other aspects of the team and go from there.
In some cases, it’s much easier to judge players when you slot one ahead of the other. Comparing them side-by-side can get cloudy, but when you pit one as the top guy, you get to see how that player responds.
Does he coast knowing he’s the guy? How does he handle the leadership role? Will he work through struggles or try to get by on his talent and nothing else?
That’s the focus around Lee in light of this decision by Riley. Where he goes from here, now that he’s in the spotlight in a nationally relevant program like Nebraska, is what fans will be looking at.
This move is also good for O’Brien. Though he wasn’t tabbed as the leading man, he has a chance to showcase himself a bit more. He doesn’t face the pressure of having somebody breathing down his neck for the job so he can make his improvements as needed over the next few months.
Players have taken to Lee and trust what he brings to the table on offense. He was praised for his work with the scout team last year and gives the Huskers the best, most seasoned option to move forward.
Riley may be projecting that the job is still up for grabs, and O’Brien and Lee should both treat it that way, but teams don’t usually name leading men unless they expect them to stay that way.
With a little less pressure, how does Lee respond to being “the guy” and how does O’Brien, and for that matter the entire offense, come together under Lee?
That’s probably the biggest story for the Huskers moving forward.