INDIANAPOLIS — When the conversation switched to quarterbacks — specifically, who lines up under center for the Nebraska Cornhuskers in 2017 — Cethan Carter elected to … well, pass.
“I’m not going to lean toward Tanner (Lee) or Patrick O’Brien,” Carter, the former Huskers tight end, said Friday at the 2017 NFL Combine.
“I mean, they both have an opportunity to win that starting job. And whomever does it will win.”
Back in Lincoln, the Huskers open spring practice Saturday with the program’s first truly open quarterback derby in more than half a decade. Lee, a 6-foot-4 junior transfer from Tulane, is the presumed favorite, having thrown for 23 touchdowns and 21 interceptions over his first two seasons (2014 and 2015) with the Green Wave.
O’Brien, a 6-4 Californian, is the X factor, the unknown, the freshman whose redshirt coach Mike Riley refused to burn, even when injuries to Tommy Armstrong Jr. and Ryker Fyfe last fall forced the Huskers to practice with position players such as wideout Zack Darlington — a former high school signal-caller — as emergency quarterbacks. Just in case.
“We’re going to see when the time comes,” said the 6-4 Carter, who caught 19 passes in 2016, all from Armstrong Jr. and Fyfe.
“Time will tell all. Tanner has a lot of experience. Patrick, he’s young but he’s good. I think both of them are good, both of them are going to compete for that job, and the best man will win it.”
We know Lee can take a shot …
— Why Not Tulane (@NextLevelWave) September 10, 2014
And almost get a spiral on a po’ boy …
— Tim Yandel (@TimYandel5) October 7, 2015
… but O’Brien continues to command more intrigue, especially when it comes to his ceiling, after throwing for 32 touchdowns and running for 8 more as a senior at San Juan Hills (Calif.) High School in the fall of 2015. Both 247Sports and Rivals.com ranked the Huskers freshman as one of the top 10 quarterbacks nationally in the class of 2016.
“I mean, if he was that good, he would’ve played,” said Carter, who’s scheduled to run at Lucas Oil Stadium on Saturday. “If he wasn’t, he wouldn’t have played.
“If he was good, he would’ve played. That’s all I can say on that.”
Advantage: Lee. Maybe.
“Like you said, Tanner has more experience, so he’s more mature, I think, than Patrick,” Carter said, referring to Lee’s 19 FBS starts with the Green Wave. “But at the end of the day, it’s who’s going to compete for it and who wins it.”