Nebraska starting quarterback Tanner Lee announced Thursday that he will enter the 2018 NFL Draft. The decision did not come as a shock to many, especially with the departure of former coach Mike Riley.
Lee’s decision makes sense, too. He isn’t the right fit for the offense of Nebraska’s new coach, Scott Frost, so it could have been a difficult transition for Lee. While Lee could have opted to wait it out through spring and then transfer as a graduate student, declaring for the draft now allows him to stay injury-free and move forward with his career. He’s also a fifth-year junior who’s already transferred once in his career (Tulane to Nebraska in 2016).
With T. Lee to NFL #Huskers have a young, but talented group of scholly QBs:
⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️POB – So
⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️Gebbia – rFr
⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️Martinez – Fr
— Nate Clouse (@NateClouse) December 28, 2017
While Frost went to work immediately to recruit Martinez after he took the Nebraska job in early December, it’s too soon to say that Martinez has locked up the starting quarterback spot. Frost likes Martinez, and understandably so.
“I’m excited about him. He has a lot of potential,” Frost said during the early signing period. “When I was evaluating quarterbacks a year ago around the country, he was my favorite one. His ability to run and throw and his maturity as a kid are going to serve him really well, and for the offense that we run, I didn’t think there was a better fit in the country. Once we took the Nebraska job, we got a hold of him right away, and we’re thrilled to have him on campus.”
However, Gebbia and O’Brien will be very much a part of the race for the starting position, too. While Frost said Martinez will have an advantage since he’s arriving in Lincoln early, every position will be up for evaluation.
Plus, Martinez is also coming off an injury that kept him out for his senior season. As the Lincoln Journal Star noted, Martinez tore his right (throwing shoulder) labrum in February playing basketball and missed his senior season of football. His junior numbers were strong, though, as he put up 2,562 passing yards for 25 touchdowns and 4 interceptions that season. He also ran for 1,462 yards and 17 touchdowns in 12 games as a junior, per MaxPreps.
As for O’Brien and Gebbia, both are more pro-style quarterbacks versus a dual-threat like Martinez. However, they could benefit from the offensive change Frost will bring. O’Brien, for example, proved he isn’t afraid to run when put behind center in the 2017 season. And Gebbia’s high school film shows a quarterback with a lot of potential. While Gebbia would need to transition to a spread-option offense with Frost, he impressed many people during spring and fall ball before the regular season.
In the end, it’s too early to declare what Lee’s departure means for Nebraska. The Huskers have a few solid candidates in their quarterback room, which likely factor into Lee’s decision to depart for the NFL.
One thing is for certain: Nebraska will have a true quarterback competition this offseason.