March 04, 2017

LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) Patrick O'Brien won a coin flip, so he took the first snaps with the No. 1 offense when Nebraska opened spring practice Saturday.

The Cornhuskers have a true quarterback competition for the first time since 2010, and coach Mike Riley says it's dead even between O'Brien and Tanner Lee. Lee will take the first snaps at the next practice.

The offense will look much different without Tommy Armstrong Jr., the four-year starter who was a running threat. O'Brien, a redshirt freshman, and Lee, a junior who transferred from Tulane, are true pro-style QBs.

''We're looking for consistent production,'' Riley said. ''Without a running quarterback, we need to be a high-percentage passing team.''

O'Brien was the No. 3 quarterback last season and Lee was on the scout team because transfer rules required him to take a year off from competition. On Sundays during the season, each would get 20-25 plays in scrimmage situations in addition to one-on-one work with coaches.

Riley said he was curious to see how O'Brien and Tanner would carry over what they learned on those Sundays to the first day of spring practice .

''What we saw were pretty comfortable guys,'' Riley said. ''They made some plays, they made mostly right reads, they were fairly efficient in how it all looked.''

Nebraska also began installation of the 3-4 base defense. New defensive coordinator Bob Diaco moved quickly as he explained what he wanted, positioned players and demonstrated.

Linebacker Chris Weber, who will be a fifth-year senior, played two seasons in Bo Pelini's 4-3, two in former coordinator Mark Banker's 4-3 and now is transitioning into his third defense. Weber said the adjustment should be manageable.

''Take what you learned earlier and apply it to this defense,'' Weber said. ''It's a lot of new terminology and concepts. It's going to take a lot of reps. That's the only way you can learn it, by doing it.''

NOTES: Freshman WR Keyshawn Johnson Jr., who had an appendectomy in December, still isn't feeling well and might not practice until late March. Johnson enrolled in January. ''It's been ongoing for a couple months,'' Riley said. ''We were very worried about him - still are a little bit - but he's gotten a lot better. He's running now. I'm hopeful he can get in a little work, but I'm not going to push it.'' ... Another freshman early enrollee, QB Tristan Gebbia, is generously listed at 180 pounds. His priority is to gain weight. ''He'll be fine when he is expected to play. He should still be in high school,'' Riley said. ''He's got a great release. He's a football junkie. None of this stuff surprises him.''


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