As spring practice nears a close at many Big Ten schools, the competition for various starting spots still has yet to be determined. Some of the most fascinating battles are taking place at quarterback. For Monday's Take 2, we debate which QB competition is the most intriguing. The answers come in the form of two teams still trying to make their name in the Big Ten West.
Jesse Temple: Nebraska
The competition between junior Tanner Lee and redshirt freshman Patrick O'Brien appears to be neck-and-neck as Nebraska approaches its annual spring game on Saturday. Cornhuskers coach Mike Riley told the Lincoln Journal Star last week that he wanted to name a starter soon after the spring ended, which means we likely won't be in suspense too long before we find out his decision. Still, there is a lot to process because whoever earns the job can put Nebraska in position to rise up the Big Ten West this season and beyond.
Lee has experience in a different system and made 19 starts at Tulane before he transferred to Nebraska. But O'Brien could have more upside as a potential four-year starter if he takes control of the position. O'Brien was one of the top quarterbacks in the country out of high school and participated in the prestigious Elite 11 summer camp in 2015. Nebraska offensive coordinator Danny Langsdorf hasn't tipped his hand but has complimented both players -- O'Brien for his arm strength and Lee for his quick release. If nothing else, the competition will make both players better in their quest to replace longtime starter Tommy Armstrong Jr.
Brian Bennett: Minnesota
There are several intriguing quarterback battles around the league, but Minnesota is the one I’m most interested in. That’s because there isn’t one obvious guy to replace Mitch Leidner, who seemingly began his career under Bernie Bierman.
Senior and former walk-on Conor Rhoda is the most experienced option, with one career start, while redshirt sophomore Demry Croft is tantalizing as a 6-foot-5, dual-threat possibility. Seth Green was a highly-ranked recruit two years ago, while the new staff brought in Tanner Morgan as part of its first class. Morgan, who enrolled early, could force his way into the conversation sooner rather than later.
P.J. Fleck and his staff showed that they know how to develop quarterbacks while turning Zach Terrell into a star at Western Michigan. As reliable as Leidner was, he didn’t often reach the elite level. With a good nucleus returning at running back and on the offensive line, the quarterback position holds the key to the entire Golden Gophers' offense in 2017 and perhaps their chances in the West Division. That’s why the spring competition there demands so much attention.