Red-White Spring Game, 4/15

Nebraska quarterback Tanner Lee works under center Michael Decker in the second half during the Red-White Spring Game on Saturday at Memorial Stadium.

There is clarity regarding the pecking order of Nebraska's quarterbacks. Tanner Lee is at the top.

In a string of tweets Wednesday evening, NU coach Mike Riley announced Lee as the team's top quarterback exiting the spring, with Patrick O'Brien the presumed second in line.

"We're excited about that. Tanner won the job, but he won it with great competition from Patrick O'Brien and great work from the next guy, Tristan Gebbia," Riley said during a brief radio interview on the Husker Sports Network.

"We feel like the Husker quarterback position is in good hands right now. Those guys made it a tough decision."

The coach explained why he chose to name a quarterback depth chart at this time and not carry that mystery into fall camp.

"We had been real thorough in our evaluation. I've done it different ways through the years. There have been years — and one I remember in particular — when I waited until the week before the first game. I learned then that I didn't want to do that again," Riley said during the radio appearance.

Riley acknowledged it could take off the table a potentially distracting storyline once practices kick up again in August.

"I didn't really want to start fall camp making that the story," Riley said. "The story is out right now. Everybody can sit on it, including our team and our quarterbacks. And we can prepare and basically enter fall camp without any drama at that position."

Some always assumed Lee a favorite in the quarterback race based off his previous college game experience and various comments from coaches, players and really high praise from Billy Devaney, Nebraska's executive director of player personnel.

But both Lee and O'Brien shared reps with the top unit this spring. They even flipped a coin before each practice to see which QB would take the first snaps each day.

"I believe they understood that we gave them a fair competition throughout the spring to share the turns, the repetitions, through practice," Riley said on the Husker Sports Network.

"For sure, Patrick was disappointed (with the decision). Tanner, excited. That's kind of a natural easy reaction to relay to everybody. But I think the reality of it is we have good quarterbacking here."

While Riley noted during his Twitter announcement that all the quarterbacks understand that competition and opportunity is ongoing, there is now a more defined order heading into summer workouts.

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On Saturday, before the decision was known, Lee said that Riley has been around this game a long time and he trusted whatever decision that was made by the coach.

"We can make each other better. I think we understand that," Lee added. "I really think we're focused on what's best for the entire team. It's really not about Patrick and I. It's about who's going to move the ball. I think we have four (quarterbacks) on our team who can move our team."

The 6-foot-4, 220-pound Lee sat out last year after transferring from Tulane. Since his arrival in Lincoln, he has shown himself to have a strong and accurate arm, while quickly building a strong rapport with other players.

He was one of 11 captains voted on by teammates for an offseason conditioning program.

"I like Tanner and POB. They're both calm-and-collected-type guys," junior running back Mikale Wilbon said this weekend. "Those are the type of guys you want in your huddle. It's going to be a tough decision by the coaches."

Both had solid performances in the Red-White Spring Game. Lee was 13-of-19 for 190 yards, including the throw of the day on a 30-yard touchdown pass to JD Spielman.

O'Brien was 11-of-17 for 134 yards in a practice that was just one puzzle piece to the spring evaluation for coaches. Neither of the top two quarterbacks threw an interception in the season's final practice.

After the spring game, O'Brien said he and Lee will keep being supportive of each other in everything they do.

"Every single time either of us threw a touchdown, we were the first people to give each other a high-five," O'Brien said. "He's a great guy. He's a great quarterback. It's just making us both better. We're both competitors, and we’re both just good people. We’ve got a good relationship."

Reach the writer at 402-473-7439 or bchristopherson@journalstar.com. On Twitter @HuskerExtraBC.


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