Big 12: LaTravis Washington

Here's a breakdown of three issues facing each program heading into the spring:

Baylor Bears
Spring practice starts: March 16
Spring game: April 10

1. Quarterback Robert Griffin III's surgically repaired right knee. Griffin hasn't played since tearing the ACL in his right knee in the third game of the '09 season. He recently said he's ahead of schedule in rehabilitation, but probably won’t do much during spring practice. He'll wear a heavy knee brace and won’t participate in contact drills.

2. New linebackers. The Bears lost strongside linebacker Antonio Jones and middle linebacker Joe Pawelek, who combined to make 190 tackles last season. Senior Earl Patin, who also has played some defensive end during his career, is poised to replace Pawelek in the middle. But Patin will have to hold off highly regarded youngsters Chris McAllister and LeQuince McCall, who redshirted in ’09. Senior Chris Francis is probably the top candidate to replace Jones on the strong side.

3. Safety. The Bears must replace both of their starting safeties, including All-Big 12 performer Jordan Lake, who started 36 games in a row. Junior college transfer Byron Landor and sophomore Mike Hicks will get the first looks in the spring. But they'll have to hold off incoming freshman Ahmad Dixon, one of the top prospects to ever sign with Baylor, after he arrives for fall camp.

Colorado Buffaloes
Spring practice starts: March 6
Spring game: April 10

1. Michigan transfer Toney Clemons. Buffaloes coach Dan Hawkins called Clemons his team's most exciting receiver while he sat out the '09 season under NCAA transfer rules. The cousin of Arizona Cardinals receiver Steve Breaston, Clemons could bring an interesting dynamic to the CU offense. His arrival couldn't come at a better time, either, after Markques Simas was suspended indefinitely for violating team rules.

2. Linebacker. The Buffaloes must replace their two most productive linebackers after losing Marcus Burton and Jeff Smart. The departed seniors combined to make 105 solo tackles and 6.5 sacks last season. Senior Michael Sipili is the top candidate to replace Burton in the middle, and sophomore Jon Major might get the first crack at replacing Smart on the weak side.

3. Offensive line. The unit's inconsistency has dogged Hawkins' offense in each of his first four seasons. Eight offensive linemen had significant playing time in '09, so the Buffs are looking for more stability up front. The return of sophomore guard Maxwell Tuioti-Mariner from a pair of knee injuries, and early arrival of junior college transfer Eric Richter might shore up the interior line.

Iowa State Cyclones
Spring practice starts: March 23
Spring game: April 17

1. Linebackers. The Cyclones lost each of their starting three linebackers: Josh Raven, Jesse Smith and Fred Garrin. Junior Jacob Lattimer is in line to replace Raven on the strong side, and two highly regarded sophomores are in line to fill the other spots. A.J. Klein, who had 17 tackles in 13 games as a freshman, might get the unenviable task of replacing Smith, who led the Big 12 in tackles in '09. Jake Knott, who had 23 tackles as a freshman, is the top candidate to start on the weak side.

2. Wide receiver. Iowa State lost leading receiver Marquis Hamilton, who had 50 catches for 606 yards with four touchdowns in '09. Tight end Derrick Catlett, another top receiving threat, also is gone. The good news: Junior Darius Reynolds returns from a broken leg that caused him to miss all but four games last season. Reynolds, who earned the moniker "Money" for his big-play potential, had 13 catches for 72 yards before he was hurt in practice in late September. Junior college tight end Ricky Howard enrolled in classes in January and will participate in spring practice.

3. Defensive line. Two starters will have to be replaced after ISU lost right end Christopher Lyle and tackle Nate Frere. Lyle led the team with five sacks in '09; Frere was a pretty good run-stopper. Sophomores Cleyon Laing and Roosevelt Maggitt will get strong looks at end, and senior Austin Alburtis and sophomore Jake McDonough will move into the tackle rotation.

Kansas Jayhawks
Spring practice starts: March 27
Spring game: April 24

1. Quarterback. New Kansas coach Turner Gill might have one heck of a competition on his hands. Sophomore Kale Pick is a mobile option, after averaging 11.9 yards per rushing attempt in 2009. Junior college transfer Quinn Mecham, who enrolled in classes at Kansas in January, threw for 3,091 yards with 40 touchdowns and 11 interceptions at Snow College in Utah last season.

2. Wide receiver. The Jayhawks have to replace departed stars Kerry Meier and Dezmon Briscoe, which will be no easy task. The duo combined to catch 186 passes for 2,322 yards with 17 touchdowns last season. Bradley McDougald and Johnathan Wilson were proven targets last season, but younger players such as Chris Omigie and incoming freshman Keeston Terry will have to help this fall.

3. Secondary. The Kansas defense gave up too many big passing plays and didn't create enough turnovers last season. The Jayhawks will have to replace strong safety Darrell Stuckey, who led them with 93 tackles in '09. Senior Phillip Strozier will get the first crack at replacing the heart and soul of the Kansas defense.

Kansas State Wildcats
Spring practice starts: March 21
Spring game: April 24

1. Oregon transfer Chris Harper. In 2008, Harper played wide receiver and quarterback for the Ducks as a freshman. He became the first Oregon player in eight years to run, pass and catch a touchdown in the same season. Harper, a native of Wichita, Kan., might figure into Kansas State's quarterback or wide receiver plans after sitting out the '09 season under NCAA transfer rules.

2. Quarterback battle. Harper and two other players will probably battle to replace departed senior Grant Gregory. Senior Carson Coffman, who started the '09 season at quarterback, figures to be back in the mix, along with junior college transfer Sammuel Lamur.

3. Defensive line. The Wildcats have a couple of gaping holes to fill up front defensively. End Jeff Fitzgerald, who had 40 tackles and 10 tackles for loss in '09, has to be replaced, along with tackles Daniel Calvin and Chidubamu Abana. Junior college transfer Javonta Boyd, who has already enrolled in classes, could help in the interior line.

Missouri Tigers
Spring practice starts: March 9
Spring game: April 17

1. Wide receiver. The Tigers have to replace Danario Alexander, who led the country with 1,781 receiving yards in 2009. Juniors Jerrell Jackson and Wes Kemp both caught more than 20 passes last season, but younger players like T.J. Moe and Rolandis Woodland are going to have to contribute more. Incoming freshman Marcus Lucas could help in the fall.

2. Linebacker. The Tigers bring back two of their starting three linebackers, but three-time All-Big 12 selection Sean Weatherspoon is the one who left. Sophomore Donovan Bonner heads into spring camp as the top candidate to replace Weatherspoon on the weak side, and Will Ebner and Andrew Gachkar are back at the other linebacker spots.

3. Defensive line. Two starters are gone on the defensive front: end Brian Coulter and nose tackle Jaron Baston. At least the Tigers know they’re set at one side, with end Aldon Smith coming back after totaling 19 tackles for loss and 11.5 sacks in '09. Marcus Malbrough and Jacquies Smith will battle for starting end, and Terrell Resonno could move into the vacant tackle spot.

Nebraska Cornhuskers
Spring practice starts: March 24
Spring game: April 17
What to watch:

1. Will quarterback Zac Lee keep his starting job? After Lee was plagued by inconsistency throughout the '09 season, offensive coordinator Shawn Watson is expected to open the competition during spring practice. Sophomore Cody Green, senior Latravis Washington and freshman Taylor Martinez will all be given a fair chance to win the job.

2. Defensive tackle. Nebraska fans won't see All-American Ndamukong Suh commanding double-team blocks along the line of scrimmage. Even after losing one of the most decorated players in school history, the Cornhuskers figure to be pretty good up front. Jared Crick and Baker Steinkuhler will man the middle, with Pierre Allen and Cameron Meredith entering spring camp as the favorites at ends.

3. Rex Burkhead. The sophomore burst onto the scene after Roy Helu Jr. was hurt early in the Huskers' 33-0 rout of Arizona in the Pacific Life Holiday Bowl, rushing for 89 yards with one touchdown. Burkhead was very explosive running out of the Wildcat package, so look for Watson to try and utilize him even more to make the Nebraska attack less predictable.

Oklahoma Sooners
Spring practice starts: March 8
Spring game: April 17

1. Offensive line. The Sooners have a lot of questions up front on offense, after left tackle Trent Williams and right guard Brian Simmons departed. Will junior Donald Stephenson finally be ready to contribute at left tackle after being suspended for all of the ’09 season? Will center Ben Habern be ready after breaking his leg late in the ’09 season? When will Jarvis Jones return from a broken heel?

2. Linebacker Ronnell Lewis. The sophomore had a break-out game in the Sooners’ 31-27 victory over Stanford in the Sun Bowl, finishing with six tackles and a forced fumble. With starting linebackers Keenan Clayton and Ryan Reynolds departing, Lewis will assume a starting role on the strong side. Redshirt freshman Tom Wort is projected to start in the middle, with junior Travis Lewis starting on the weak side.

3. Secondary. The Sooners have shuffled their defensive backs after losing cornerbacks Dominique Franks and Brian Jackson. Sophomore Demontre Hurst is in line to replace Franks at field cornerback, and senior Jonathan Nelson has moved from strong safety to boundary cornerback. Junior Sam Proctor is expected to replace Nelson at strong safety, and senior Quinton Carter is back at free safety.

Oklahoma State Cowboys
Spring practice starts: March 8
Spring game: April 17

1. Quarterback Brandon Weeden. The 26-year-old junior is the top candidate to replace Zac Robinson, who broke nearly every OSU passing record. Weeden was a second-round choice of the New York Yankees in the 2002 amateur baseball draft. If he can grasp new offensive coordinator Dana Holgorson's spread offense quickly, the Pokes' passing game should again be potent in 2010.

2. Defense. Defensive coordinator Bill Young will have his hands full this spring trying to replace nine starters. The only returning starters are defensive end Ugo Chinasa and strong safety Markelle Martin. The Pokes have to replace three starters on the defensive line, three linebackers and three defensive backs. Three newcomers -- linebacker Caleb Lavey and defensive backs Devin Hedgepeth and Malcolm Murray -- will get early looks in spring camp.

3. Offensive line. The Cowboys will have to replace star left tackle Russell Okung, left guard Noah Franklin, center Andrew Lewis and right tackle Brady Bond. Juniors Nick Martinez, Casey LaBrue and Grant Garner will be the top candidates to fill open starting spots.

Texas Longhorns
Spring practice starts: Feb. 26
Spring game: April 4

1. Quarterback Garrett Gilbert. The sophomore was thrust into action after Colt McCoy injured his shoulder against Alabama in the Citi BCS National Championship Game and played admirably well in tough circumstances. The Longhorns might change their identity on offense with a young quarterback under center, so developing a running game to take pressure off Gilbert might be a top priority.

2. Defense. The unit is in good hands with coordinator Will Muschamp, but he'll have to replace many of the star players from 2009. End Sergio Kindle, tackle Lamarr Houston, linebacker Roddrick Muckelroy and safety Earl Thomas are all gone. Younger players such as end Alex Okafor and tackle Tyrell Higgins will have to turn it up a notch during spring practice.

3. Wide receiver. Jordan Shipley, who was McCoy's favorite target, also departed. Seniors James Kirkendoll and John Chiles, junior Malcolm Williams and sophomore Marquise Goodwin will have to be more consistent in their route running and pass catching. Other receivers such as D.J. Monroe and DeSean Hales will be trying to crack the receiver rotation during the spring, before talented freshmen like Darius White, Mike Davis and Demarco Cobbs arrive on campus.

Texas A&M Aggies
Spring practice starts: March 23
Spring game: April 17

1. New defensive coordinator Tim DeRuyter, who built one of the country’s best units at Air Force last season. He inherits an A&M defense that was woefully porous last season and will switch to a 3-4 scheme. Nine starters are coming back on defense, including pass-rushing specialist Von Miller. DeRuyter will spend the spring trying to install his system and getting his players comfortable with it.

2. Offensive line. The Aggies must replace three starting offensive linemen: left tackle Michael Shumard, center Kevin Matthews and right tackle Lee Grimes. Juniors Joe Villavisencio and Danny Baker and sophomore Stephen Barrera have to be ready to step up this spring.

3. Special teams. The Aggies’ special teams weren’t so special last season, as they ranked 104th in net punting, 91st in kickoff return defense and 49th in kickoff returns among FBS teams. Aggies coach Mike Sherman is putting a new emphasis on special teams, which cost his team dearly in its 44-20 loss to Georgia in the Independence Bowl.

Texas Tech Red Raiders
Spring practice starts: March 7
Spring game: April 17

1. Quarterbacks. With former Auburn coach Tommy Tuberville replacing Mike Leach at Texas Tech, senior quarterbacks Taylor Potts and Steven Sheffield figure to start spring camp on a level playing field. Potts started 10 games last season, throwing for 3,440 yards with 22 touchdowns and 13 interceptions. Sheffield started two games and threw for 1,219 yards with 14 touchdowns and four picks. New offensive coordinator Neal Brown, who was hired from Troy, runs a version of the spread offense, but Tuberville will probably incorporate more of a traditional running game into the offense.

2. Defensive line. New defensive coordinator James Willis has to replace three starters on his defensive front: ends Brandon Sharpe and Daniel Howard and tackle Richard Jones. Making matters worse, the top two reserve ends in 2009 were seniors, along with the backup nose tackle.

3. Offensive line. O-line coach Matt Moore, who was retained from Leach's staff, has to replace three starters: center Shawn Byrnes, right guard Brandon Carter and right tackle Marlon Winn. Juniors Justin Keown and Mickey Okafor and sophomore LaAdrian Waddle will probably be given first crack at replacing them. Incoming junior college transfer Scott Smith could play stand-up end in Tech's 3-4 scheme, and junior college defensive tackle Donald Langley might also have an impact in spring practice.

Baylor Bears, Colorado Buffaloes, Iowa State Cyclones, Kansas Jayhawks, Kansas State Wildcats, Missouri Tigers, Nebraska Cornhuskers, Oklahoma Sooners, Oklahoma State Cowboys, Texas Longhorns, Texas A&M Aggies, Texas Tech Red Raiders, Jerrell Jackson, Ahmad Dixon, Cameron Meredith, Danny Baker, Darius Reynolds, Chris Omigie, Demontre Hurst, James Kirkendoll, Ben Habern, Steven Sheffield, Toney Clemons, Maxwell Tuioti-Mariner, Earl Patin, Jeff Fitzgerald, Jacob Lattimer, Malcolm Williams, Jared Crick, DeSean Hales, Marquise Goodwin, Phillip Strozier, Taylor Martinez, Donald Stephenson, Byron Landor, Travis Lewis, Chris Harper, Sam Proctor, Cody Green, Rex Burkhead, Ronnell Lewis, Bradley McDougald, LaTravis Washington, Marcus Malbrough, Rolandis Woodland, Taylor Potts, Alex Okafor, Johnathan Wilson., Garrett Gilbert, D.J. Monroe, Keeston Terry, John Chiles, Cleyon Laing, Will Ebner, Markques Simas, Jake Knott, Nick Martinez, Jacquies Smith, Jarvis Jones, Pierre Allen, Ugo Chinasa, Baker Steinkuhler, Terrell Resonno, Carson Coffman, Michael Sipili, Aldon Smith, Brandon Weeden, Quinton Carter, A.J. Klein, Austin Alburtis, Mickey Okafor, Markelle Martin, Stephen Barrera, Andrew Gachkar, Jonathan Nelson, Sammuel Lamur, Quinn Mecham, Eric Richter, Scott Smith, Malcolm Murray, Tim DeRuyter, Ricky Howard, Caleb Lavey, Devin Hedgepeth, Donald Langley, Robert Griffin III, Chris McAllister, LeQuince McCall, Roosevelt Maggitt, Jake McDonough, Javonta Boyd, Marcus Lucas, Donovan Bonner, Casey LaBrue, Grant Garner, Tyrell Higgins, Joe Villavisencio, Justin Keown, LaAdrian Waddle

Big 12 lunch links: Self predicting 10 football wins at KU in 2009

August, 26, 2009
Posted by's Tim Griffin

Eight days and counting until the season starts.

Can't you feel it?

Until then, gnaw on these links to get ready.

Kansas basketball coach Bill Self tells the Topeka Capital-Journal's Kevin Haskin the Jayhawks will win 10 football games this season.
Dave Sittler of the Tulsa World reports on Day 7 of the Mike Gundy news blackout at Oklahoma State.
The San Antonio Express-News' Brent Zwerneman writes about the selflessness of Texas A&M defensive tackle Lucas Patterson, who switched back to defense this week from a starting position at offensive tackle.
The Waco Tribune Herald's John Werner writes about Baylor's backfield variety with Jay Finley, Terrance Ganaway and Jarred Salubi all contributing.
Lawrence Journal-World sports editor/columnist Tom Keegan writes why Kansas must start 6-0 to gather maximum national exposure for the program.
Colorado quarterback Cody Hawkins tells the Boulder Camera's Kyle Ringo about his growth and development in the Buffaloes' offense.
Nebraska offensive coordinator Shawn Watson tells the Lincoln Journal-Star's Brian Christopherson that freshman Cody Green has pushed past Latravis Washington for the backup position behind starter Zac Lee.
Iowa State coaches are hoping that undersized defensive tackle Austin Alburtis can overcome injuries to emerge as a key contributor, the Ames Tribune's Bobby La Gesse reports.
Injured starting Missouri tackle Dan Hoch could return to practice by the weekend, the Kansas City Star's Mike DeArmond reports.
Several Oklahoma teammates tell the Oklahoman's Jake Trotter that Sam Bradford is noticeably improved from last season. The Oklahoman also speculate about several NCAA passing records that Bradford could break before leaving college.
Texas defensive coordinator Will Muschamp says that sophomore safety Earl Thomas is inspiring increased confidence in the Longhorns' secondary by his steady play, Austin American-Statesman beat writer Suzanne Halliburton reports.
Texas Tech's switch of Mickey Okafor from tackle to guard will boost the athleticism of the Red Raiders' offensive line, the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal's Don Williams reports.

Nebraska QB Green impressing teammates -- with his voice

August, 19, 2009

Posted by's Tim Griffin

It's taken Nebraska freshman quarterback Cody Green little time to catch the attention of his teammates because of his maturity.

Green is in a battle with converted linebacker Latravis Washington for the backup quarterback job behind Zac Lee.

In the process, Green has picked up a unique and interesting compliment from teammates, according to the Lincoln Journal-Star.

"We said he sounds like the Allstate guy on the commercials," Nebraska center Jacob Hickman said. "He already sounds like a grown-up.”

"He comes up there with that big, deep voice,” Lee said. 'This kid's 18? What's up with that?'”

Green has taken a leadership role with the Cornhuskers with the comforting, reassuring qualities delivered with an authoritative bass voice. It apparently makes the 6-foot-4, 220-pounder sound older and more mature than his years.

The actor in question is Dennis Haysbert, who I still remember best for his role as President David Palmer on "24."

The Cornhuskers -- at least from early indications -- definitely believe they are "in good hands" when Green takes over.

But we'll have to take their word for it about Green's voice.

Bo Pelini doesn't let his freshmen speak to the media until they play in a game.

Heralded younger Gabbert brother commits to Nebraska

June, 5, 2009

Posted by's Tim Griffin

How about a little competition among the Gabbert brothers in the Big 12 North in the next few years?

Tyler Gabbert told the Lincoln Journal Star he wants to play for Nebraska, committing to the Cornhuskers after a visit that concluded on Thursday.

His older brother, Blaine, is the No. 1 quarterback at Missouri.

"It was an opportunity I couldn't pass up," Gabbert told the Journal Star. "I had Nebraska at the top before the visit, so this was almost a reassurance thing. I'm just glad everything worked out the way it did."

Interestingly, his older brother once committed to the Cornhuskers when Bill Callahan was still coaching there. He de-committed after Callahan was fired after the 2007 season with a 5-7 record.

His younger brother asked his brother for input before deciding to come to Nebraska.

"Sometimes I would bounce stuff off of him, but he wanted what was best for me," Tyler Gabbert said. "If I was going to do something completely wrong, he'd say something. If I wanted to talk to him I could, but he left it up to me."

Tyler Gabbert isn't as big as his older brother at 6-foot and 190 pounds, but is still a heralded recruit. He threw for 18 touchdowns and 1,850 yards as a junior last season at Ballwin (Mo.) Parkway West.

But he is significantly smaller than his older brother, who is listed at 6-foot-5 and 235 pounds.

"We're a lot different," Tyler said. "He says it all the time, too. We're both pretty competitive, that's one similar thing we have. ... But in our games, he's taller than me. I guess people get caught up in size too much. You see a lot of short guys doing big things."

The announcement by Gabbert sets up an intriguing battle for playing time next season. Zac Lee has apparently earned the No. 1 job heading into summer practice after strong work in spring practice.

But he'll be joined b converted linebacker LaTravis Washington, heralded incoming freshman Cody Green, Kody Spano, walk-on Ron Kellogg Jr. and perhaps Taylor Martinez.

It will make for some interesting competition for Nebraska coordinator Shawn Watson to sort through over the next several years.

And here's a guess, but an educated one. I'd be very surprised to see all those quarterbacks are on Nebraska's roster this time two years from now.

Ranking the Big 12's backup quarterbacks

May, 27, 2009

Posted by's Tim Griffin

Most coaches hope they never have to turn to their backup quarterback. But it's still a good insurance policy as any team gets ready for a season to have a trusted replacement who can bail out an injured or struggling starter.

Coaches in the Big 12 are no different. Here's a look at the top backup quarterbacks in the league. During my analysis, I placed particular importance on proven ability to play rather than future promise. And I also did not factor in highly regarded incoming freshmen players who will join their teams at schools like Texas and Kansas State later this summer.

Here's my ranking of the backup quarterbacks in the Big 12 in order.

1. Colorado: The conference's most fluid starting quarterback situation results in the Buffaloes having the top backup. With Cody Hawkins appearing to be nosing ahead at the end of spring practice, Tyler Hansen earns the nod because of his recent experience as a winning quarterback in the Big 12 -- even considering he is recovering from a broken thumb suffered in Colorado's spring game.

2. Baylor: Experience helps Blake Szymanski in case the Bears would ever need to replace Robert Griffin. Szymanski has made 13 career starts and has thrown for 3,561 yards and 26 career touchdown passes.

3. Kansas: Mark Mangino says he wants to keep the move of Kerry Meier to wide receiver permanent. If so, he would need to turn the backup quarterback job over to Kale Pick at some point this season. But it still has to be relatively reassuring for Mangino to know he can always turn to Meier, who made eight career starts and has completed 28 of his last 32 passes over the past two seasons.

4. Iowa State: Obviously, it was against the Iowa State offense. But redshirt freshman Jerome Tiller looks like he's ready to challenge Austen Arnaud for the starting position this summer after blistering the Cyclones' defense for 210 yards and adding a 65-yard TD run in the ISU spring game. That outing should enable new ISU coach Paul Rhoads to have some confidence if he has to turn to Tiller.

5. Oklahoma: With Sam Bradford likely to play most of the season, Bob Stoops probably won't turn to his backups that much. Redshirt freshman Landry Jones showed flashes in the Sooners' spring game, completing 5 of 12 passes for 73 yards and a touchdown during limited playing time. Drew Allen, who left high school a semester early to join the Sooners, looked painfully raw in his limited work.

6. Nebraska: For all of the pre-spring excitement about a battle for the quarterback job, Zac Lee easily won the starting spot. The Cornhuskers have several capable backups, with the best showing of the spring coming from converted linebacker LaTravis Washington. Kody Spano should be good to go by fall practice after he recovers from knee surgery. And Cody Green is the most heralded quarterback prospect in the Nebraska program, although he struggled with injuries and fell behind early after graduating from high school early to join the program this spring.

7. Oklahoma State: Mike Gundy hoped that former minor-league baseball player Brandon Weeden would distance himself from Alex Cate and earn the backup role behind Zac Robinson. Weeden struggled late in spring practice and couldn't widen the gap, leaving the backup battle continuing into the summer.

8. Missouri: After Blaine Gabbert claimed the starting job early in spring practice, as expected, scrappy walk-on Jimmy Costello had his moments, too. But Costello's performance leveled off late in spring practice and Blaine Dalton was pushing to unseat him as the backup before he was arrested and suspended from the team. Both Dalton and Ashton Glazer had typical freshman moments of great plays and shaky ones on a consistent basis.

9. Texas Tech: Taylor Potts was picked as the starter from the opening day of spring practice, but former walk-on Steven Sheffield appeared to have claimed the No. 2 job over Stefan Loucks and Seth Doege. All are relatively inexperienced in operating Mike Leach's offense.

10. Texas: Sherrod Harris struggled operating the Texas offense in the spring game. Some of his struggles might have been understandable considering he underwent arthroscopic surgery on his right knee only three weeks after spring practice finished. When Garrett Gilbert arrives this summer, it will push the Longhorns up several places on the list. But until then, they rank among the bottom Big 12 teams on the list.

11. Texas A&M: Expected competition in spring ball never materialized as wide receiver Ryan Tannehill was recuperating from a torn labrum. Instead, Tommy Dorman got most of the snaps behind Jerrod Johnson as the only other scholarship quarterback on the team. Dorman struggled with his consistency.

12. Kansas State: Carson Coffman appears to have claimed the starting job for the Wildcats -- at least until Grant Gregory and Daniel Thomas arrive to challenge him later this summer. His backups who played in the spring game struggled through a miserable effort against the Wildcats' defense, which is saying something. Collin Klein, Joseph Kassanavoid, Trey Scott and Milton McPeak combined to complete only 9 of 26 passes in the spring game with two interceptions and five sacks. Look for the Wildcats' quarterback depth to improve with the arrival of Gregory and Thomas.

These Big 12 positions got most help during spring

May, 22, 2009

Posted by's Tim Griffin

Sometimes the spring provides a chance for personnel holes to be filled. Sometimes it doesn't.

Here are some of the notable positions around the Big 12 that picked up some assistance during the spring.

Baylor: The quick development of defensive tackle Phil Taylor, a heralded transfer from Penn State, should turn a traditional position of weakness for the Bears into a strength. Joining him at the position will be Jason Lamb, who showed some promise after moving over from defensive end before spring practice.

Colorado: The emergence of hulking 260-pound middle linebacker Marcus Burton and B.J. Beatty at outside linebacker have helped transform the Buffaloes' defense. Burton led the team in tackles and was a prime playmaker in the spring game with eight tackles, two sacks and a fumble recovery. He had eight tackles in 10 games last season.

Iowa State: Redshirt freshman quarterback Jerome Tiller outplayed starter Austen Arnaud in the spring game, passing for 210 yards and getting free for a 65-yard touchdown run. I'm not sure that Tiller will be starting come September, but he'll make Arnaud work harder to earn his job.

Kansas: The Jayhawks had questions in the defensive line before the spring, even with the return of all-Big 12 honorable mention selections Caleb Blakesley and Jake Laptad and late season starting defensive tackles Richard Johnson and Jamal Greene. The development of tackle Darius Parish and end Max Onyegbule should add to the depth. And that doesn't even account for the arrival of heralded junior college transfer Quintin Woods, who originally signed with Michigan out of high school before heading to Bakersfield (Cal.) Community College to get his grades in order.

Kansas State: The emergence of linebackers like Alex Hrebec, Ulla Pomele and John Houlik has helped turn the position into the strength of the defense, even as the Wildcats are transforming to a 4-2-5 alignment. Hrebec, a former walk-on, contributed 19 tackles in the spring game and Houlik is a huge hitter despite his 5-foot-11, 219-pound size.

Missouri: Redshirt freshman Aldon Smith has only added to the Tigers' depth at defensive end, which already featured Brian Coulter and Jacquies Smith in front of him. Smith was voted as the team's most improved player in the spring. Throw in converted offensive tackle Brad Madison and redshirt freshman Marcus Marlbrough and you'll see why Gary Pinkel considers it his best collection of defensive ends at Missouri.

Nebraska: The Cornhuskers had serious questions at quarterback, particularly after the departure of projected starting challenger Patrick Witt before spring practice and Kody Spano's knee injury. But the strong spring by Zac Lee and the surprising development of converted linebacker LaTravis Washington eased some of offensive coordinator Shawn Watson's concerns. Their strong spring work also should mean that heralded freshman Cody Green likely won't be thrown into action perhaps as quickly as Watson might have feared before the spring.

Oklahoma: After losing starters Nic Harris and Lendy Holmes, safety was the only position without returning starters for the Sooners on defense. Quinton Carter nailed down one starting position and Sam Proctor and Joseph Ibiloye are poised to fight for the other job beside him. Emmanuel Jones and Desmond Jackson also had strong spring efforts to challenge for playing time.

Oklahoma State: Defensive tackle was enough of a question that new coordinator Bill Young moved Derek Burton inside from defensive end to help bolster depth at the position. Burton and Swanson Miller appear to have won starting jobs with redshirt freshman Nigel Nicholas and junior Chris Donaldson providing strong depth. Their strong play helped the Cowboys rack up seven sacks in the spring game - more than half of their 2008 season total of 13.

Texas: The Longhorns were concerned about defensive end after the departure of NFL draft picks Brian Orakpo and Henry Melton from last season. Those fears appear to be assuaged after the seamless transition of Sergio Kindle to the position from linebacker and the quick assimilation by freshman Alex Okafor. Toss in Sam Acho and Russell Carter and the return injured pass-rushing threat Eddie Jones and the Longhorns appear stacked at the position.

Texas A&M: Safety was a question mark before spring camp after the loss of Devin Gregg and Alton Dixon and the move of 2008 starting free safety Jordan Peterson to cornerback. But the strong return to safety by converted cornerback Jordan Pugh and the noticeable development by Trent Hunter helped solidify the position during the spring. And the Aggies' depth at the position was improved after the move of wide receiver Chris Caflisch to the position along with strong play from DeMaurier Thompson.

Texas Tech: The departure of two-time Biletnikoff Award winner Michael Crabtree and underrated Eric Morris was supposed to cripple the Red Raiders' receiving corps. Mike Leach appears to have found several serviceable replacements after Tramain Swindall, Lyle Leong, Detron Lewis and walk-on flanker Adam Torres all emerged during the spring. And that doesn't include Edward Britton, who was in Leach's doghouse much of the spring after falling behind in the classroom but still is perhaps their most athletic force on the field.

Marve makes it official by picking Purdue

May, 21, 2009

Posted by's Tim Griffin

It seems like the nation has been held hostage for months awaiting where Robert Marve will attend college.

It turns out the former Miami quarterback is headed to Purdue, where he will be playing for new Boilermaker coach Danny Hope. Marve made his announcement Thursday afternoon on ESPN's College Football Live.

Marve made a very brief appearance at Nebraska's spring game and also considered Texas Tech. Early speculation linked him with Oklahoma and Oklahoma State, but neither school seemed to have much interest in him, if any.

I think the team that could have benefited the most from attracting Marve would have been Nebraska. But even that wasn't much.

The Cornhuskers whiffed on their shots at both Marve and Greg Paulus, who ended up at Syracuse after playing basketball earlier in his career at Duke.

The fact that the Cornhuskers didn't attract either quarterback isn't a big negative. It's hard to believe that Paulus would have helped that much. Marve would have had two years to play when he became eligible in 2010. Zac Lee figures to be the starter the first season. Cody Green, Kody Spano and LaTravis Washington should compete in 2011.

It likely means that Green will play as an incoming freshman this season, particularly if Spano doesn't make a quick recovery from his knee surgery.

There are worse things that have happened before to Bo Pelini and Shawn Watson than Marve and Paulus not picking their school. I still the Cornhuskers will be a solid challenger for the North title this season and beyond with the quarterbacks currently in the program.

The Big 12's out of nowhere players this spring

May, 20, 2009

Posted by's Tim Griffin

As usual, several Big 12 players jumped out of nowhere this spring to make solid contributions and perhaps cement their roles heading into the upcoming season.

Here's a list of some of the more notable players from across the conference:

Baylor T Danny Watkins: The former Canadian firefighter has emerged as the Bears' starting left tackle. He'll fill the big shoes of Jason Smith, the No. 2 pick in the NFL draft.

Colorado WR Jason Espinoza: After arriving at school as a walk-on cornerback, Espinoza hoped to contribute as a punt returner last year before a broken collarbone ended his season. After switching to wide receiver, he emerged as Colorado's top receiver in the spring, punctuating his work with game-high totals for receptions and yardage in the spring game.

Kansas State LB Alex Hrbec: Had the best spring game of any defender in the conference, racking up 19 tackles. That effort should help the walk-on's chances at winning a scholarship before fall practice.

Texas Tech WR Alex Torres: After leaving the Air Force Academy prep school after breaking his wrist, Torres went home to El Paso to work as a server at Red Lobster while he awaited his chance to return to football. He walked on with the Red Raiders, earning the No. 1 slot on the depth chart after spring practice at Michael Crabtree's old flanker position.

Nebraska QB LaTravis Washington: The converted former linebacker emerged as Nebraska's likely backup at quarterback, taking advantage of injuries to Kody Spano and Cody Green to stake his claim for playing time. Washington passed for 191 yards and two touchdowns in the spring game -- perhaps paving the way to enable the Cornhuskers to redshirt Green.

Greg Paulus headed to Syracuse

May, 14, 2009

Posted by's Tim Griffin

Former Duke point guard Greg Paulus didn't surprise anybody Thursday morning when he announced he would be heading to Syracuse for an additional season of football eligibililty.

Paulus weighed offers from Syracuse and Nebraska and earlier visited Michigan before deciding on the Orange.

In the end, the opportunity to challenge for a starting position near his home in Syracuse proved to be a stronger lure than a likely backup position with the Cornhuskers behind Zac Lee.

At Syracuse with new coach Doug Marrone, Paulus will be competing with redshirt freshman Ryan Nassib, who was named the starting quarterback in spring practice. The backup quarterback is senior Cameron Dantley after former starting quarterback Andrew Robinson was moved to tight end earlier in spring.

Paulus said he strongly considered the Cornhuskers, and he met with coach Bo Pelini and offensive coordinator Shawn Watson last weekend.

"I had a great visit there," Paulus said. "Nebraska is a place where there is so much tradition and there are some great people there. I had a great visit with Coach Pelini and Coach Watson. But my heart and my gut told me that Syracuse is the best place for me."

Paulus' arrival would have provided depth for the Cornhuskers and a better chance to redshirt heralded freshman Cody Green.

But the Cornhuskers look set at quarterback heading into the season with Lee, Green, Kody Spano and converted linebacker Latravis Washington.

And look for a potential challenge later this summer at the position from Taylor Martinez who played quarterback at his high school in Corona, Calif., but had been targeted by Pelini to play defensive back.

Paulus would have added some depth to the quarterback mix, but his decision wasn't a great loss for the Cornhuskers.

If he had showed up in Lincoln, it would have been a bonus. But it wasn't anything that Nebraska coaches ever really expected.

Mailbag: Why isn't Tommie Frazier in Hall of Fame?

May, 8, 2009

Posted by's Tim Griffin

Happy Friday afternoon.

As usual here are some of the best questions I received this week from readers.

D.J. from San Diego, Calif., writes: Hey, Tim. Can you explain to me why Tommie Frazier is not in the College Football Hall of Fame? Do you believe he belongs there and how long does it usually take for a super quarterback like him to get in?

Tim Griffin: D.J., I'm similarly mystified why Frazier hasn't made the Hall. When I see lesser quarterbacks like Don McPherson and Major Harris get into the Hall before him, I wonder what the electors are thinking.

Remember, Frazier came within a missed field goal at the end of the 1994 Orange Bowl of leading his team to three-straight national championships. His play really defined those great Nebraska teams of the mid-1990s. And he was the focal point of the 1995 Nebraska team - which in my opinion is one of the three or four greatest teams in college football history.

Frazier didn't pile up the statistics that a lot of his contemporaries did. But he won games and championships. And I think that should be one of the primary determiners for Hall of Fame inclusion.

It sometimes takes too much time for players to get inducted. Tim Brown just made it this season and he even had the appeal of a Heisman Trophy and the fact he played for Notre Dame working for him.

But there are several players who merit inclusion out there. We can only hope that the Hall's selectors can find some room for Frazier and Pat Tillman in the near future.

Because both definitely deserve inclusion.

James Coulter from Corpus Christi, Texas, writes: I'm surprised after seeing your chart earlier this week that you don't have Baylor finishing in a bowl game. They were only one win away last year, and had three losses that could have gone either way. This year their luck in those games should change, so why don't you think Baylor will be bowl-eligible?

Tim Griffin: Actually, James, the Bears were two games away from bowl eligibility last season with a 4-8 record. But I don't like a couple of factors for the Bears that I think will keep them away from a bowl this season.

First is their non-conference schedule. A building program shouldn't be playing teams like Connecticut and Wake Forest in their formative stages. With all of the challenges that the Bears will face in the Big 12 South, it would be understandable if they cut back on the ambitiousness of their non-conference scheduling a bit.

I think Robert Griffin is one of the top young players in college football, but remember the Bears lost two veteran tackles in NFL No. 2 pick Jason Smith and Dan Gay. I think those personnel losses are going to be huge -- both literally and figuratively -- in pass protection, leadership  and in run-blocking.

The Bears also didn't do themselves any favors in their Big 12 scheduling. Their three home games will be against Oklahoma State, Texas and Nebraska. I think it would be an upset if the Bears can win any of those games.

And their other designated Big 12 home game will be the Texas Tech game that will be moved to Arlington, Texas. I would like Baylor's chances of beating the Red Raiders a lot more in Waco than there.

I think an absolutely pivotal game for their bowl hopes will be the road game at Texas A&M. The Aggies appear to be struggling and are picked by most to finish last in the Big 12 South. But Baylor hasn't won at Kyle Field since 1984 and it will be a long streak of bad karma in one place to overcome.

It wouldn't surprise me if the Bears were significantly better than last season, but only have a 5-7 record to show for it.

Bob from Sioux Falls, S.D. writes: Tim, great blog. I enjoy reading it every day. You provide some of the best mainstream coverage of the conference that I can find anywhere.

Quick question for you. Do the NFL scouts have something against the Big 12 quarterbacks? If anybody had seen last season in the Big 12 and determined that the best draft-eligible quarterbacks were Josh Freeman and Stephen McGee, somebody would have laughed them out of their "scouting rooms."

What gives?

Tim Griffin: I agree with some points that you make. I think NFL scouts and teams get caught up on a "profile" of a quarterback that if he isn't the right size or has the necessary they won't consider them.

But I think the biggest quality that NFL scouts sometimes don't consider is previous production. Guys like Graham Harrell and Chase Daniel aren't the biggest or fastest quarterbacks, but I think it says something that both were wildly productive players in winning programs.

If you had ranked Big 12 quarterback last season, Freeman and McGee both would have been behind Colt McCoy, Sam Bradford, Todd Reesing, Harrell, Daniel and Zac Robinson. I think Robert Griffin's playmaking ability makes him a better college player than Freeman or McGee. And Joe Ganz, despite his NFL detractors, was a capable leader who turned Nebraska into a solid bowl team last season.

It will be interesting to see if the so-called bias against the spread offense will affect the draftability of some of the current Big 12 quarterbacks.

I don't think it will matter with Bradford. I think Griffin's raw athleticism will make him an intriguing NFL quarterback if he can stay healthy. But I will be really curious about McCoy, who has played in a spread offense for much of his college career. Will that hurt his draft status? I guess we'll see next year.

Brad from Denver writes: Tim, Your article about APR ratings in the Big 12 left the door open for people to criticize Colorado. The Buffaloes' rating is in peril primarily because of recent attrition of players that were ineligible because of academics, an area that Colorado is more stringent on than just about any other school. Players don't study, they don't play; they don't play, they leave. All schools are created equally, and it is more difficult to achieve a 2.6 GPA at some schools than others.

Accordingly, I do not find it a coincidence that Baylor and Colorado, arguably the two Big 12 schools with the most rigorous academic standards, are at the bottom of the list.

Tim Griffin: I agree with your point about grades at some schools than others. But to steal a line from Tony Soprano, Colorado's APR score is what it is. It's close to falling below the level where punitive penalties start kicking in. If Coach Dan Hawkins is having trouble keeping players eligible and then they transfer, he might consider attracting players who would be more likely to stay.

The APR is the first piece of academic reform that actually has some teeth in it. The NCAA does a lot of things wrong. But I think this piece of legislation that is good for college athletics.

Ivan Martinez from Waco, Texas, writes: Since you talked about throwback uniforms and helmets, Baylor is actually bringing back the white helmet with the green interlocking BU for the first game against Wake Forest, along with an all white uniform like Oregon. They made some other uniform changes that are more "contemporary," according to athletic director Ian McCaw, which actually discourages me a little bit.

Tim Griffin: Ivan, like I said in my post, I love the idea of throwback uniforms on a limited basis. Texas and Oklahoma both have worn those uniforms for select games in recent seasons. I'd like to see every Big 12 team wear them on a specific weekend that could be designated by the conference office. I think that would be something really cool that would differentiate the conference from all else in college football that weekend.

And they don't have to wear single-bar facemasks, either.

Jason Lewis from Kansas City writes: Tim, I love your blog, but you missed one of the biggest surprises of spring ball in the Big XII. That was Patrick Witt transferring from Nebraska. After all, he was considered the favorite to take over at quarterback for the Huskers. How could you miss that?

Tim Griffin: I didn't consider Witt's transfer because it happened before spring practice started. And I don't know much of an edge that Witt really had over Zac Lee or Latravis Washington or Cody Green or any of Nebraska's quarterbacks after the 2008 season.

Sure, Witt was the player who Bo Pelini turned to when Ganz was dinged in the Gator Bowl. But Witt's struggling performance probably didn't do much to set him apart from the rest. It might have even brought him back to the rest of the other players. And if he was the favorite after the end of last season, it was by a very slight margin.

Rick from Boulder, Colo., writes: It stung a little that you didn't see any Buffs make your top 40 in the Big 12. Would you say a couple might have made the list if it were a top 50 instead? I think Colorado has some talent just about to have a breakout season.

Tim Griffin: I included Darrell Scott on my list of 10 players who nearly made the list. If Markques Simas plays up to his ability, I think he can develop into a solid Big 12 player. Josh Smith is a versatile player who does a lot of things well. Jimmy Smith looks like he might develop into a lockdown cornerback. And I like their offensive line collectively, although one player doesn't stand out for me.

And I think a big performance this season might enable them to have several players on the 2010 list.

Roger Smithson from Wichita, Kan., writes: Tim, who do you think is the best special teams player in the league? By that, if you could have one player to start your special teams, who would it be?

Tim Griffin: I might consider Oklahoma State's Dez Bryant or Perrish Cox or Colorado's Josh Smith. But for my money, the most valuable special-teams player in the conference might be Alex Henery of Nebraska. He was the best long-distance kicker in the conference late last season. He's working as a punter and showed some flashes in the spring of being able to do both. I'm curious to see if he can do both consistently.

Thanks for all of the great questions. I'll check back again next week.  

Posted by's Tim Griffin

The Robert Marve Traveling Circus apparently made its way through Nebraska over the weekend as the wayward Miami quarterback considers the options for his next landing place.

Marve is said to be considering Nebraska, along with Texas Tech, among a group of five finalists.

And that could be the rub. The Cornhuskers might have a better immediate option with a transfer who could come in and help the program for the upcoming season.

The Omaha World-Herald and Lincoln Journal-Star both confirmed earlier this week that Nebraska offensive coordinator Sean Watson has reached out to Duke point guard Greg Paulus, a former Gatorade National High School Player of the Year, about joining the Nebraska program.

Paulus played college basketball for four seasons with the Blue Devils but has talked about playing football again. He has flirted with heading directly for the NFL, but likely would need another season of seasoning in college football to convince NFL scouts he is a marketable prospect.

His high school skills caught the Cornhuskers' attention after high school. Paulus threw for 11,763 yards and went 42-3 during his career at Christian Brothers Academy near Syracuse, N.Y. His father even sent Cornhusker coaches tapes of his son in action when he was in high school.

And since he didn't redshirt for the Duke basketball team, Paulus would have one season of eligibility remaining in another sport. And because he's scheduled to finish his degree in four years, he could transfer to any graduate school and compete immediately, if he was granted a waiver by the NCAA.

Paulus met with Michigan coach Rich Rodriguez and was at Syracuse on Tuesday meeting with the Orange's coaching staff.

But Nebraska might represent an ideal place for him to end up.

The Cornhuskers have many pieces of a strong offensive team that should be able to compete for the Big 12 North title. And with the recent knee injury to Kody Spano and the still uncertain situations of incoming freshman Cody Green and converted linebacker Latravis Washington, Paulus would increase the Cornhuskers' depth even if he couldn't unseat projected starter Zac Lee.

Nebraska coach Bo Pelini said Tuesday he is comfortable with his current quarterback situation and doubted that the Cornhuskers would add another player at the position.

"For this fall, I don't think so," Pelini said. "You are always looking to upgrade players, but it has to be the right guy. I have confidence in what those guys bring. And we're fortunate we have a great guy (Watson) coaching them. We'll be well-equipped at quarterback and we'll get them coached up and be competitive."

Paulus, however, would be attractive to bridge the gap. I've got to believe he could help the Cornhuskers and have a lot of fun competing at one of the nation's most tradition-steeped powers.

If Paulus arrived, he would increase competition at the position. More importantly, he would allow the Cornhuskers to preserve a season for Green by allowing him to redshirt in 2009. Spano would not have to be rushed back into the lineup this season and Washington would not have to be counted as the team's immediate backup quarterback.

Marve wouldn't be as attractive for Pelini because of his baggage at Miami, where he was suspended twice last season by coach Randy Shannon.

And since Marve wouldn't be eligible until 2010, he would cut into the development time of Green, who is regarded as the Cornhuskers' quarterback of the future after a record-breaking high school career in Dayton, Texas.

It would be interesting to see if either Marve or Paulus would seriously consider the Cornhuskers.

Out-of the-box thinking? Maybe.

But still worthy of consideration as Pelini tries to restore the Cornhuskers to one of national elite programs.

Nebraska's spring growth stamps them as North title challengers

April, 20, 2009

Posted by's Tim Griffin

Nebraska's inexperienced play at quarterback was supposed to be the biggest concern that could keep the Cornhuskers from challenging for the Big 12 North title.

But after the Cornhuskers' spring game, production at the position was the biggest story in an impressive outing that was played before a Big 12-best crowd of 77,670.

Nebraska's quarterbacks combined to complete 36 of 54 passes for 485 yards and five touchdowns with no interceptions in a strong collective effort.

Projected starter Zac Lee looked sharp as he completed 15 of 18 passes for 214 yards and three TD passes to help the Red to a 31-17 victory over the White.

"I thought Zac played well and he had a great spring," Nebraska coach Bo Pelini said. "He did a lot of good things and he managed some things well. He just carries himself and he's a very confident kid. He did a lot of good things and he's clearly ahead."

Converted linebacker Latravis Washington, playing with barely a month of college experience at the position, was another revelation. Washington completed 13 of 21 passes for 190 yards and a touchdown and showed an intuitive grasp of the offense.

More importantly, Washington's strong showing could embolden Nebraska coaches into placing him in the backup position behind Lee. It might save a redshirt season for incoming freshman Cody Green -- a scenario that wasn't expected to be available after Kody Spano's knee injury earlier in spring practice.

"The quarterback position is in good hands," Pelini said. "I feel good about that spot. There's talent there. There's confidence there. And we've got a great guy (offensive coordinator Shawn Watson) coaching them."

The Cornhuskers barely ran the ball in the spring game, producing only 168 combined yards in the scrimmage.

But no worries there. Roy Helu Jr. will be healthy by the time fall practice begins and the Cornhuskers' running game likely will be their biggest offensive strength.

Wide receivers were another concern, but some of those fears were allayed after the strong showing by Antonio Bell, who made a couple of nice catches in the spring game and looked to be a natural running backs kickoffs. His effort should lessen any concerns about the status of Niles Paul, who was suspended for the team after he was charged for driving under the influence last week.

Development by young tight ends Dreu Young and Ben Cotton, son of the Nebraska offensive line coach Barney Cotton, also was notable this spring. Cotton snagged four receptions for 48 yards in the spring game and Young developed into a punishing run-blocker. Their growth only added to the depth at the position that is headed by underrated starter Mike McNeill.

The depth at tight end should lessen concerns about the loss of leading receivers Nate Swift and Todd Peterson from last season.

And any worries about the defense's performances in the spring should be tempered by the fact that the unit was split for the spring game. Continuity will be better as the group works together.

Defensive coordinator Carl Pelini has been happy with development this spring in the second season.

"I think we are moving a little more quickly than a year ago, and we're also a little more decisive," Pelini said. "I thought we were looking much faster on both sides out there."

Nebraska's spring development should boost them into the conversation to contend for the North title with Kansas. The quarterback questions appeared to have worked themselves out enough where the Cornhuskers look like a team that will contend for its first trip to the Big 12 title game since 2006.

"We got a lot accomplished this spring ball," Bo Pelini said. "We got a lot done. I'm happy. I'm not satisfied, but I'm happy with the progress we made. But we still have a long way to go yet."

Spano's injury further depletes Nebraska's QB depth

April, 15, 2009

Posted by's Tim Griffin

Kody Spano's spring practice-ending knee injury will reduce Nebraska's depth at the position to three quarterbacks for the rest of the spring.

Several Nebraska newspapers reported that Spano suffered a knee injury in practice Monday that will require surgery and sideline him at least until the fall.

Spano, a redshirt freshman from Stephenville, Texas, was a scout-team quarterback last season after arriving early at college last spring. But the departure of Joe Ganz had thrust Spano into a tight battle for the No. 1 job this spring along with Zac Lee, incoming freshman Cody Green and converted linebacker Latravis Washington.

It will mean a lot more throws for those remaining quarterbacks during the rest of spring practice, which will end Saturday with the Red-White game.

But Spano's injury, coupled with the earlier departure of expected challenger Patrick Witt, throws the position into flux for the next few months.

It remains unseen if coach Bo Pelini will attempt to convince a junior-college player to transfer into the program to provide more depth at the position.

A more likely scenario will be that Taylor Martinez, a heralded high school quarterback from Corona, Calif., who had been ticketed to play defensive back, might receive an immediate shot at quarterback when he arrives this summer.

And it also would make a chance to play for the Cornhuskers that much more enticing for former Miami quarterback Robert Marve, who is expected to attend Nebraska's spring game on Saturday during his tour of potential schools.

Cody Green's injury provides Zac Lee with early advantage

March, 24, 2009

Posted by's Tim Griffin

Even though Cody Green's early injury will only be for the first several practices, it provides Zac Lee with another opportunity to jump into the early driver's seat for Nebraska's starting quarterback.

Nebraska coach Bo Pelini announced Tuesday that Green will miss several early practices with a soft tissue injury in his hip. Lee, Kody Spano, converted junior linebacker Latravis Washington and walk-on Ron Kellogg Jr. will share snaps while Green is away.

Pelini said Tuesday that the arrival of Washington at the position is critical to get enough throwers to cover Nebraska's early practices. The Cornhuskers begin their spring work on Wednesday.

"It doesn't affect us that much and the guys that are ready to go will be out there tomorrow," Pelini said. "I think it will be good in some respects because it makes sure the guys out there will get a bunch of reps. And that's what we need."

Despite Pelini's apparent lack of concern about Green's injury, it can't help him as he tries to compete for the starting job from the early days in camp.

Several Cornhuskers said Tuesday that have been impressed with his presence and command in the huddle despite his youth.

"He's a big kid with a deep voice," junior running back Quentin Castille said. "His voice is deeper than mine."

But most expect Lee to win the starting job because of his experience working with the offense.

"He's a perfect fit for what the coaches are looking for," senior defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh said. "He'll have to earn the job .... but it's his to lose. The way he's been working in Coach (offensive coordinator Shawn) Watson's office, I don't think he'll lose. He'll just gain confidence in himself and make progress going through the drills."