If you're a Nebraska football fan, chances are you waited all day Saturday for news that never came.

At some point very soon, Nebraska football coach Scott Frost will announce his starting quarterback, or his plans for the position (a two-man system?). I thought he would give us the news Friday. He said Friday the announcement will come over the weekend. So, perhaps we'll hear Sunday.

In the meantime, here's something to ponder: How could one second-guess the selection with any credibility unless you're around the program virtually every day and watched the two freshman quarterbacks -- Adrian Martinez and Tristan Gebbia -- this month in practice?

You're going to have to trust Frost and his offensive staff on this one. They seem to know what they're doing.

On the other hand, Frost, his eight 2017 national coach-of-the-year awards notwithstanding, could get this wrong. News flash: Coaches often pick the wrong starting quarterback. Heck, NFL teams spend months determining the best quarterback to draft. Then JaMarcus Russell happens. Or Ryan Leaf. Or Todd Marinovich. On and on.

"One year I had all of spring ball and all of preseason camp to figure out (a three-quarterback race), and I messed it up," says BTN analyst Gerry DiNardo, former head coach of Vanderbilt, LSU and Indiana. "I'm probably the wrong guy to ask about Nebraska's situation."

He's a better alternative than yours truly, or anybody else in the Nebraska football media corps, for that matter. That's because DiNardo last weekend watched an entire Husker practice, which is one more entire practice than media members witnessed this month.

"They both have the talent to do what Scott wants to do offensively," DiNardo says of redshirt freshman Gebbia and true freshman Martinez.

For long-suffering Nebraska fans who are uninterested in the notion of a throwaway season, DiNardo's assessment should be interpreted as reassuring news because this much is certain: The Huskers have a nice supply of talented playmakers to cause discomfort for even the best defenses on the schedule. As long as the quarterback or quarterbacks make consistently good decisions distributing the ball (i.e., limiting turnovers), eight wins is doable in the regular season. But keep in mind, I thought Tanner Lee would limit turnovers.

Another unknown in this discussion is the quarterbacks' mental makeup, which is arguably as important as athleticism and arm strength. How well will a young quarterback react under the bright lights Saturday night, when energy on Stadium Drive will be breathtaking? If you're a Nebraska fan, you hope all the energy and anticipation associated with the start of the Frost era doesn't take the air out of the position.

Remember, the kid's a rookie.

Remember that fact come Sept. 22, when Nebraska heads to Michigan Stadium (capacity 107,600) to face one of the most ferocious defenses in the nation.

How a young man reacts to that is anybody's guess.

"You can try to prepare them," Frost said recently, "but sometimes they have to go be around live bullets themselves to make it happen. We'll put them in as many situations as we can for them to be successful. We're not a yelling and screaming coaching staff, so if they make mistakes along the way, we're going to live with it and understand it's part of the journey. We'll teach them a better way to do it and move forward."

It's a mentality that fits Frost's mantra: Perform with a desire to excel and no fear of failure.

Frost feels a measure of comfort in starting the season with three home games, saying in July "the safety of that environment will help them develop quicker."

That said, another unknown in the discussion is Nebraska players' level of trust in the quarterback(s). How could anybody from outside a program even attempt to judge that aspect? And, yes, teammates' trust in a QB is a critical aspect, at least if you believe the best college football coach in the nation.

"Somebody’s got to win the team over," Alabama head coach Nick Saban said recently. "These guys (teammates) have to have the confidence that if this guy plays, he’s going to do the things that are going to help us have the best chance to be successful, because the quarterback is a distribution center of the ball, and the guy has to distribute.”

Saban obviously faces enormous pressure to get his decision right. Frost, of course, is in a much different situation in that regard. But in many ways, they're looking for the same qualities in their quarterbacks, and one in particular: ability to distribute.

"Quarterback's obviously the most important position on the field, arguably the most important position in sports," Frost said. "But you can win games with guys surrounding a quarterback. I think offensively, if we get some good play from our quarterback, some consistent play and we don't turn it over, we have a chance to be dangerous."

You heard that right: "We have a chance to be dangerous."

It helps that all those playmakers reduce pressure on the quarterback.

By the way, so does Frost's spread offense. Such formations tend to reduce deception across the line of scrimmage, making defenses easier to read.

But making the right call in a quarterback race can be extremely difficult, even for coaches who dissect every play of every practice.

Yes, even for guys with eight national coach-of-the-year awards.

Reach the writer at 402-473-7440 or ssipple@journalstar.com. On Twitter @HuskerExtraSip.


Husker columnist

Steven, a lifelong Nebraskan, newspaper enthusiast and UNL grad, joined the Journal Star in 1990 and has covered NU football since 1995.

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