Lincoln, Neb. Bo Pelini won’t name his starting quarterback until the fall, but there was little doubt after Saturday’s Red-White scrimmage that Zac Lee will be the guy.
“He’s clearly ahead,” Pelini said.
The competition for the backup job, however, could be very interesting.
Latravis Washington turned in a strong performance before 77,670 at Memorial Stadium, considering he hadn’t played quarterback since he was a high school senior three years ago and had been a linebacker until two days before spring practice started.
“I think I made a case,” Washington said. “All decisions are with the coaches. All I can do is put my play on film and go from there. It would be a wonderful deal to back up Zac Lee or even compete for a starting job.”
“Everybody wants the starting job. That’s why I’m here,” he said. “I’m a competitor. I want to be the guy, like everybody else. I know I have a role on the team and I don’t want to step on people’s toes and say I’m the guy. You just have to play your role, sit in the back and go from there.”
Lee played six series and completed 15 of 18 passes for 214 yards, throwing TD passes of 21 yards to Marcus Mendoza, 24 yards to Ben Cotton and 40 yards to Wes Cammack before taking off the rest of the afternoon after the Red squad’s first possession of the second half.
The Reds won 31-17. The coaches divvied up the players with the hope of making the teams even. There was nothing fancy about the play-calling, and the defense was basic. The quarterbacks wore green jerseys, signifying that they were off-limits for contact.
“It was great to get guys out there on the football field in front of the crowd so they get their feet wet,” Pelini said. “There were a lot of young guys out there playing for the first time. You want them to get more confidence, and the confidence grew as the game went on. Hopefully it makes us better come the fall.”
Pelini said he was comfortable with the quarterback situation entering the fall.
True freshman Cody Green took snaps along with Lee and Washington on Saturday. Kody Spano was sidelined with a knee injury, but Pelini said the redshirt freshman would be throwing by June and should be ready for preseason practice. Incoming freshman Taylor Martinez of Corona, Calif., will join the competition in August.
Washington hit on 13 of 21 for 190 yards, throwing TD passes of 4 yards to Chris Brooks and 71 yards to Kyler Reed.
Green, who graduated from Dayton (Texas) High in December and enrolled at Nebraska in January, got significant playing time. He split series with Washington in the first half and took over the Red squad after Lee left. Green was a combined 8 for 15 for 81 yards.
Lee, a junior who saw mop-up duty in two games last season as the No. 3 quarterback, clearly was the most polished of the three.
The Reds went three plays and out on their first two series, with the second one ending when Ndamukong Suh brushed Lee in the backfield on third down — a “phantom sack,” Lee called it.
“I was almost expecting Suh to maybe pick me up and pretend to throw me down, just because that’s Suh,” Lee said.
Lee completed 9 of his next 12 passes, with six of them going for more than 10 yards.
“Zac had a great spring,” Pelini said. “He managed things well. He’s a very confident kid. He did a lot of good things.”
Washington played sparingly at linebacker the past two years and accepted the coaching staff’s invitation to play quarterback after Patrick Witt, last year’s backup to Joe Ganz, left the program.