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Friday, August 25, 2006

Looking Ahead

I promise this is the last time I mention Sam Keller until 2007…

As you all know by now, former ASU quarterback Sam Keller began practicing with the Huskers yesterday. Keller’s arrival is expected to fill the 2007 QB void that will be created by the graduation of Zac Taylor. Unfortunately his addition does nothing to add to the depth for this season and I would still recommend packaging Taylor in bubble-wrap on Saturdays this fall. The acquisition of Keller also provides the Huskers with their first legitimate NFL talent at the quarterback position in decades. Sure some could argue that Zac Taylor will get a shot at playing on Sundays and I would agree. In fact, NFL Draft Scout ranks Taylor as the 17th best quarterback among 2007 NFL prospects.

Taylor, however, is not in the same league as Keller in the eyes of NFL scouts. At 6’4” 230 lbs, Keller has a prototypical NFL quarterback frame. He has also shown a live arm and plays the game with an infectious enthusiasm and toughness. Prior to his transfer ranked him as the 12th-best quarterback to be eligible for the 2007 NFL Draft. Keller was also named to several preseason first-team All-Pac-10 lists, was regarded by Lindy's as having the strongest arm in the Pac-10 Conference and was rated as the 10th-best NFL talent in the conference by that same publication. Street & Smith’s also regarded Keller as the Pac-10's best passing quarterback. Currently, NFL Draft Scout has Keller listed as the sixth best quarterback who will be eligible for the 2008 draft, without having ever taken a snap at Nebraska.

The addition of Keller could go a long way towards the development of a prominent NFL quarterback legacy at NU. Over the last decade schools like Central Florida, Dartmouth and Delaware have all had alumni start at quarterback in the NFL. Nebraska on the other hand has not had a quarterback even take a snap in an NFL game since 1987. In addition, the last time a former Husker finished in the Top 10 in the league in any passing category was 1983 and no player is in the all-time Top 50 in any passing category. Overall, the Huskers’ NFL quarterback lineage looks like this: Dennis Claridge, Jerry Tagge, Frank Patrick, Terry Luck, Dave Humm, Vince Ferragamo, Jeff Quinn (who never actually took a snap), and Bruce Mathison. If you combine the career NFL efforts of all of the former Nebraska quarterbacks they would look like this:

Games: 222
Completions: 1327
Attempts: 2486
Completion %: 53.4%
Yards: 16,756
Yards/Attempt: 6.74
TDs: 92
Ints: 147
QB Rating: 62.35
Of these numbers Vince Ferragamo accounted for one-third of the games, almost 70% of the yardage and all but 16 of the touchdowns. The low point of Nebraska’s NFL QB struggles came in 1985. In that year, Ferragamo and Mathison shared the quarterbacking duties for the Buffalo Bills. During that season the Bills managed to score just 200 points and the pair of ex-Huskers teamed for nine TD passes and 31 interceptions. Just how bad was it that season? Take a look at this quote from a December 4, 1985 NY Times article.
The last time Bruce Mathison faced the Jets, he now admits, he didn't know what he was doing. “I was calling the wrong plays in the huddle.”
So of course I’m excited about the acquisition of Keller. He could be just what Nebraska is looking for as we continue to climb back to our rightful place among the nation’s elite. Keller could also be influential in allowing us to forget the lackluster NFL performances of past Husker QBs, while creating a new legacy of NFL signal-callers in the future.