There may not be a more important position to Nebraska's chances of success in its debut season in the Big Ten Conference than quarterback. Will Taylor Martinez return to the electric player he was through the first five games of last season? Or will a young freshman surprise everyone and claim the starting job?
Here's an early look how things might shake out at the quarterback position when the Huskers open up fall camp in a couple of weeks.
Biggest question: What will Bubba do?
There isn't a bigger X-factor on Nebraska's entire roster right now than heralded true freshman quarterback Bubba Starling. At the moment, the four-star recruit is on campus, registered in classes and working out with his teammates. However, that could all change once August 15 rolls around. Obviously Starling is in the unique and enviable predicament of having to choose between playing college football or playing for the Kansas City Royals, who selected him fifth overall in this year's Major League Baseball draft. While a contract has yet to be officially offered by the Royals, there's no question that Starling will have millions of dollars waiting for him in Kansas City. He still hasn't made a final decision one way or the other, though, and the fact that he's in Lincoln and will go through at least the first week of fall camp is at least an encouraging sign that he might end up a Husker. Should he turn down the money and play football, he suddenly becomes immediate competition for Martinez for the starting quarterback job.
What we know right now: Martinez has the advantage
Should Starling end up in Kansas City, that leaves Martinez as the clear favorite for the starting job entering fall camp. That could change of course if redshirt freshman Brion Carnes picks up where he left off this spring and continues to push for the No. 1 spot, but for now it looks as if it's Martinez's job to lose this fall. For as much as he struggled late last season and even in the spring game, there have been nothing but positive reports of Martinez over the course of the summer, both in his rehab from his ankle injury and in embracing the role as a leader of the offense. We'll all see for ourselves in a couple weeks just how far Martinez has really come from his disastrous finish to 2010, but at least he's seemingly doing all the right things.
Fresh fall camp faces: Tyson Broekemeier
There's pretty much a zero percent chance that freshman walk-on Tyson Broekemeier will come in an compete for the starting spot this season, but that doesn't mean he couldn't end up doing so eventually. As far as Nebraska high school quarterback prospects go, the Aurora native was one of the most talked about in-state players of the summer after his breakout performance in the Shrine Bowl, where he completed 30-of-37 passes for 371 yards and five touchdowns. His pinpoint accuracy and natural confidence at the position make Broekemeier a player to watch over the next couple years.
Early camp prediction
Unless Starling shocks everyone by choosing to stay at Nebraska, there's really no way in my opinion that Martinez doesn't open the season as the starting quarterback. A year older and wiser and having been able to finally let his body heal, Martinez should come into camp a much more confident and effective quarterback than he was for the final six games of last season. Now, should Martinez continue to struggle and Carnes continue to progress, don't rule out the chance that Carnes could end up the starter by season's end. At this point, however, it looks as if Nebraska's offense under first-year coordinator Tim Beck will be left in the hands of No. 3.