As Nebraska hits the practice field for spring football, there will be plenty of competition at quite a few positions. One of those positions is quarterback, where sophomore Patrick O’Brien, redshirt freshman Tristan Gebbia, and freshman Adrian Martinez are all expected to make a case for the starting spot.
Steve Calhoun, the man behind the Armed & Dangerous Football Camp, has a pretty good idea of what coach Scott Frost and Nebraska are up against this spring. After all, Calhoun knows quarterbacks. That’s especially true for California quarterbacks, where his camp is based out of. That knowledge and familiarity is what led him to O’Brien and Gebbia.
Calhoun has worked with O’Brien since 9th grade and Gebbia since 7th. During a recent visit to Lincoln, Neb., to work with ex-Nebraska quarterback Tanner Lee, Calhoun caught back up with O’Brien and Gebbia. He also worked with O’Brien over spring break.
“I think the Nebraska fan base should be really excited [about what] you have with Tristan and Patrick, and then with Adrian Martinez coming into the mix,” Calhoun told Land of 10. “They’re all super competitive. They’ve all played at a high level in high school. They’ve had success. Now, this is their first bite of the apple of being the guy at the University of Nebraska. I mean, I can’t wait to see the spring game.”
What can fans expect from O’Brien and Gebbia specifically? Calhoun shared a little of his insight on both quarterbacks, and what will make both a candidate for the starting job come fall.
Not long after Frost was hired, O’Brien quickly realized he had work to do. Frost’s offense is fast, which would require O’Brien to become faster and more athletic. While Frost made it clear he would play to the strengths of his quarterbacks and not the weaknesses, O’Brien still wanted to improve specific areas of his own game.
One of those areas of improvement was getting in better shape and eating right. Those two have already opened the door to more success, which Calhoun noted in his recent evaluation of O’Brien and his size.
“His size is unbelievable, being 6-foot-4, almost 6-foot-5 now, and then his arm strength,” Calhoun said. “Those are the two things right off the top of my head that would grab somebody’s attention. They grabbed my attention, even way back [in high school]. He’s really grown into his body and he’s been doing a great job in the weight room, as well as the nutrition part, and eating right. He told me he has dropped, I think, 8 percent body fat since coach Frost and those guys have been there. He’s been doing a great job in that aspect.”
O’Brien is known for his arm strength, and his high school statistics prove why. In his San Juan Hills (Calif.) career, O’Brien threw for 2,895 yards and 32 touchdowns. He also completed an impressive 74.3 percent of his passing attempts.
Regardless, Calhoun doesn’t advise writing off O’Brien’s running abilities.
“Patrick is a great athlete, first of all. He had over 700 yards rushing as a senior in high school,” Calhoun said. “He ran a very similar offense to what Nebraska is going to be running next year. He showed in high school that he could run the ball. I think he’s a guy who can get to 7-to-12 yards, [but maybe] not 27 to 70.
“As offense coordinator, you just want your quarterback to be bold, to be that threat where they have to account for you in the run game. I think he’s going to be able to do that and he’s going to be able to show that come this spring as well as in the fall.”
Calhoun hadn’t seen Gebbia in a year until his recent trip to Lincoln. Seeing Gebbia, Calhoun was instantly taken aback by the redshirt freshman.
“First of all, he was almost taller than I am,” Calhoun said. “I’m 6-foot-2½, so he’s looking a lot higher or he’s a little bit taller than me, and he’s definitely put on some weight. He looks great. His frame can [easily] hold another 20 pounds. Just with his metabolism, he burns it. He burns it as fast as he puts it on.
“He’s definitely a lot heavier than he was last year. That’s going to be able to help him play at a higher level for Nebraska.”
Gebbia impressed both Calhoun and Lee with his football IQ. Lee has previously praised Gebbia’s attentiveness, and felt he made the most of his spot on the travel roster despite his redshirt.
“[Tristan is] a football junkie,” Calhoun said. “He loves the game, he loves the details of the game and what makes it tick, what makes it work. When his father played [for Mississippi in the 1980s] and having a football background, Tristan being around quite a few NFL athletes out in Calabasas and the L.A. area that he has access to, he really can pick up bits and pieces from those guys.
“I worked with Tanner for the [NFL] draft and Tristan’s name came up a couple of times and he had just talked about how Tristan would always pick his brain and see what he was thinking in certain situations. That’s how you learn if you never had that experience of playing against Minnesota or Penn State. You try to lean on that older guy and try to get as much information from those guys so when you are in their situation, it’ll help you through it and you won’t struggle as bad.”
Whatever happens, Calhoun is eager to see it play out. While O’Brien and Gebbia will also receive competition from Martinez, he has little doubt the two he’s known for so many years won’t give it everything they have and more.
“I know these practices are going to be super competitive,” Calhoun said. “From just working out Tristan and Patrick when I was in Lincoln, they were almost jumping in front of each other. We’re just doing drills and stuff like that but Patrick’s like, ‘No, I got it. I’ll go first,’ and Tristan is like, ‘No, I got it. I’ll go first.’ That’s how competitive they were. Knowing them each for more than 10 years almost, it was exciting to see.
“They have a lot to be excited about in Lincoln. It’s going to be a great battle.”
I’m at the Univ. of Nebraska 4 my guy @tannerlee_13 Proday, but I had the opportunity 2workout my long time Jedi’s @oneandonlyPOB & @tgeb14 who both will Bcompeting 4the starting QB position at Nebraska! 1 of the things I had 2address N this Tune-Up was their footwork! #adidas pic.twitter.com/aezBMgTPF6
— Armed&Dangerous QB (@ArmedDangerQBS) March 12, 2018