LINCOLN, Neb. - Joe Ganz figured he would be Nebraska’s starting quarterback after waiting three years for his turn.
Then along came Sam Keller, whose transfer from Arizona State last fall was greeted with the kind of fanfare not seen at Nebraska since the signing of another quarterback, Harrison Beck, in 2005.
Ganz, the unheralded kid from the Chicago suburbs, didn’t back down against Beck and won the top backup job last season. Beck, in turn, left for North Carolina State.
Ganz says he doesn’t plan to back down against Keller, who comes in with impressive credentials after a gangbusters 2005 season at ASU that ended with his being named MVP of the Sun Bowl.
Coach Bill Callahan said Ganz, Keller and Beau Davis would be given the opportunity to compete on even terms, with no starter to be named until August.
Ganz said after Wednesday’s opening spring practice that Keller’s transfer to Nebraska initially stirred up his competitive juices. After all, Keller was getting headlines in the state last August even though he would have to sit out because of transfer rules.
“I’ve learned to take the back seat on all the publicity,” Ganz said. “So it’s nothing new to me.”
If nothing else, Ganz has learned about humility in his three years at Nebraska. He said he has accepted Keller’s presence and the challenge in front of him.
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Ganz said he’s taken a positive attitude toward the competition.
Keller has said he’s been pleasantly surprised at how much help Ganz has given him in learning the offense.
Told of Keller’s comment, Ganz said: “I’ve been telling him all false staff, actually.”
After a hearty laugh, Ganz added: “That’s not my nature. I’m not that kind of guy, to be a jerk to a guy coming into play. I was in his shoes once. I didn’t know the offense, I didn’t know anything, and it really helped me to have someone there to help me out. I’m just returning the favor.”
Ganz admitted catching glimpses of how Keller was doing when they were going through separate drills Wednesday. That went against the advice of new offensive coordinator Shawn Watson, who has counseled him to keep his eyes on his own work.
“He told me at the beginning of the year that if you’re looking at the competition, you’re falling behind,” Ganz said. “You’ve got to focus on what you can control and what you’re doing out there and not worry about what everybody is doing.”
Keller said Ganz has an advantage because of his three years experience in Callahan’s offense.
“An offense like this, you can’t just step in and be perfect,” he said. “I’m not perfect. I’ve got a lot of work to do. That’s a good thing. It means I’ll get in there and I’ll do the work because that’s what I love doing.”
Regardless of the public’s perception, Keller said, there is no quarterback controversy. It’s just pure competition, he said.
“One guy is going to get the job,” Keller said. “If it’s me, that means I will have put in the time to get good at this offense. I’m not there yet, but I will be. It will all play out and the chips will fall and the best man will play.”
Davis, who hasn’t seen meaningful action since a disastrous performance against Texas Tech in 2004, said he senses he’s being given a real opportunity to compete for the starting job.
“I feel the playing field has evened out and they’re going to try to find out who the best quarterback is,” Davis said. “They’re giving everyone equal reps, and they’re letting us play football out there.”
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Video: Football from NBC Sports
Saban hurt by colleagues' comments?
DPS: Alabama head coach Nick Saban was recently trash-talked by colleagues, and he tells Dan Patrick what he think of these comments.
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