It wasn’t stunning, but it was significant.
The news that Patrick O’Brien decided to transfer from Nebraska seemed somewhat inevitable given his skill set as a pocket passer. As we know, Scott Frost is not looking for a pocket passer to run his spread, zone-read offense.
O’Brien wouldn’t be leaving if he thought he could fit into that mold. Ultimately, he didn’t and the 4-star recruit will try and get his college career off the ground somewhere else.
A quote like this was pretty telling.
Patrick O’Brien was not at practice today, per QBs coach Mario Verduzco. How many reps did POB get Tuesday?
“Not very many,” Verduzco said. Top group was Gebbia, Bunch and Martinez. Verduzco cited speed and athleticism. #huskers
— Sam McKewon (@swmckewonOWH) April 12, 2018
That means Nebraska is down to two scholarship quarterbacks for 2018 (walk-on Andrew Bunch is also part of that aforementioned group). By the way, neither of them have played a down of college ball.
As we know, Tristan Gebbia is the highly-touted Mike Riley recruit who will be a redshirt freshman. The fact that he stuck around for the Frost era shows that he’s willing to make the running element a bigger part of his game.
And as we also know, that other scholarship quarterback is the highly-touted Frost recruit Adrian Martinez, who will be a true freshman in 2018. The fact that he flipped his commitment from Tennessee to Nebraska in December shows that he’s all in on being the Huskers’ quarterback of the future.
The fact that Frost let Martinez speak to the media on Wednesday — that’s extremely rare for an early enrollee quarterback in college football — suggests that Frost has big things planned for him.
I mean, the kid already sounds like a starting quarterback (via HuskerOnline.com):
But having a good media presence won’t guarantee Martinez the starting job as a true freshman.
This is still going to come down to the same thing that’s always been about. Who is the guy who Frost feels can best execute his system?
The spring game is going to be telling for both Gebbia and Martinez. In front of 90,000 people, they’re going to get their first live audition running Frost’s offense.
Of course it wasn’t long ago that we saw Gebbia light up the Husker defense with both his arm and his legs in last year’s spring game. We’ll see how he looks against the first-team defense with some more pressure.
This is just an outside observation, but Gebbia comes across as one of those people who has never failed in anything. To me, that suggests that he won’t have any problem running Frost’s offense, even if it’s not what he originally signed up for.
For Martinez, this is all unfolding the way he probably hoped it would. Not that he necessarily rooted for anyone to transfer, but just that he’d have a legitimate chance to compete for the starting job as a true freshman.
If starting a true freshman quarterback worries anyone, perhaps they missed when Frost gave the job to 3-star recruit McKenzie Milton as a true freshman at UCF in 2016. What about a true freshman playing quarterback against better competition, you ask? Well, apparently you missed true freshmen Jake Fromm and Tua Tagovailoa go back and forth in the College Football Playoff National Championship.
Martinez clearly has a legitimate shot at this thing as a true freshman, and so does Gebbia as a redshirt freshman. They both have the exact same amount of experience running Frost’s offense, so in my opinion, it’s a fair fight heading into the home stretch of spring ball.
I said coming into the spring that Nebraska had the most intriguing quarterback battle in the B1G. That was with O’Brien in the fold. With O’Brien out, I still think that’s the case. There probably aren’t many places in all of college football that have a quarterback battle highlighted by a pair of former 4-star recruits with four years of eligibility remaining. This is going to be unlike anything we’ve seen in recent memory in Lincoln, and maybe ever.
The loss of O’Brien hurts from a depth standpoint, but if he wasn’t ever going to be the guy, it doesn’t change the short- or long-term outlook of Frost’s offense. That’s still intact with Gebbia and Martinez.
Something tells me that sellout crowd a week from Saturday will have plenty of interest in watching the young signal-callers battle it out.