LINCOLN, Neb. — Nebraska football coach Mike Riley is on the road with athletic director Shawn Eichorst this week. The two are hitting up cities all around the state, giving fans an inside look at the team and Nebraska’s current recruiting momentum.
One player Riley is sure to bring up is his starting quarterback — redshirt junior Tanner Lee. Riley named Lee the “leader” after spring football. Lee and redshirt freshman Patrick O’Brien competed for the starting spot leading up to the spring game.
Lee is a transfer from Tulane, where he started for two seasons. In his final season, Lee threw for 1,639 yards, 11 touchdowns and 7 interceptions in nine games.
We set out to see what we could learn from Lee’s Tulane highlights. So here are Lee’s 11 touchdown passes from his 2015 season at Tulane, ranked and dissected.
11. First touchdown pass against UCF
Lee threw for a career-high 4 touchdowns in a win over UCF in 2015. This was Lee’s least impressive touchdown pass, a simple dump over the defense on play action at the 4-yard line.
Lee sells the run well and lofts the ball over the defense for the easy score.
10. Fourth touchdown against UCF
Lee’s final touchdown against UCF came on play action, where he thrives. You’ll see quite a few play-action throws in this list.
Lee had a tight window for this throw. With three linemen in Lee’s face, a lineman in the flat ready for a poor throw, and a linebacker in pretty good position on the tight end, Lee throws a decent ball high in a place only his tight end could snag it.
9. Touchdown against Temple
Tulane had Lee throw quite a few times in the red zone. On this touchdown, Lee rolls out of the pocket and hits his receiver the moment he gets separation. It’s a well-placed bullet right at the pylon.
So the first main takeaway: Lee seems comfortable with tight spots in the red zone. If Nebraska throws too much close to the end zone fans will likely lose their minds. But Lee’s not a bad option to keep a defense on its toes.
8. Third touchdown against UCF
Lee has a handful of broken-play touchdown throws. On this red-zone toss, Lee shows his mobility. When the defense doesn’t bite on play action and his pocket collapses, he finds some space and time to hit a receiver in the end zone.
7. Second touchdown against Army
Another red-zone touchdown, this is a play that offensive coordinator Danny Langsdorf could potentially steal. Lee uses play action on the zone read for a quick toss to the receiver in the slot for 15 yards. Langsdorf needed quarterback Tommy Armstrong to hit these quick throws the last two years, and Armstrong couldn’t.
Second takeaway: Lee shows he can complete the throws Nebraska already has in the playbook.
6. First touchdown against SMU
And now here are a few of Lee’s best balls, which are long tosses down the sideline.
Against SMU, Lee settles in and puts a little more mustard on the pass to guide it over the corner and away from the safety where his receiver was. We saw this throw a few times in spring practice with receiver Stanley Morgan Jr.
5. Second touchdown against UCF
Play-action bombs are where Lee looks the most comfortable. That might be part of why Riley and Langsdorf really want a run game to get corners and safeties to bite on Lee’s play action.
Here, Lee drops back, steps into the throw and finds his receiver in a pocket between the corner and deep safety for the score.
4. Touchdown against Duke
On this touchdown, there’s a mix of a few things we’ve already seen from Lee, including improvising during a broken play, going through all his progressions, and stepping up in the pocket despite pressure.
This play would be higher on the list, but it was also a great play by the receiver.
Third takeaway: Lee is comfortable within chaos, which is a good sign, since it could happen often next season. He might not have all the time in the world with Nebraska’s offensive line next year.
3. Touchdown against Maine
This score features play action, great reads and a perfectly thrown ball. The receiver burns the corner and Lee read the coverage perfectly, but this ball is put exactly on the money. He hits the receiver in stride, right inside the pylon, and doesn’t make the catch harder than it needs to be.
If De’Mornay Pierson-El or Morgan Jr. gets this open, Lee should hit them.
2. First touchdown against Army
Lee’s longest career touchdown pass of 90 yards came against Army. Lee hits his receiver in stride, right over the top of the corner. This is not an easy throw, nor is it an easy play call. Lee’s ball travels in the air from the 5-yard line to just past the 50-yard line. It’s just a beautiful throw.
1. Touchdown pass against Georgia Tech
This play is just silly.
Lee drops back, loses the ball mid-throw, regains control, then finds his man 50 yards downfield in the end zone.
This ball isn’t exactly on the money, but for the pandemonium going on around him on the Georgia Tech logo, this is as good a throw as you’ll see from Lee.