Keller Will Have To Earn Starting QB Job At Nebraska

Friday, February 23rd 2007, 6:21 pm
By: News On 6

LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) _ The impressive resume Sam Keller put together at Arizona State won't mean much once he begins spring practice with Nebraska next month.

That doesn't come from coach Bill Callahan. That comes from Keller, who said Friday that no quarterback should expect the starting job ``because you have some feathers in your cap.''

``I'm here to play. I'm here to start. I'm here to take it. And I'm here to do huge things,'' Keller said. ``I think the fans should expect huge things from this team. As far as me, personally, I've got things I need to do on this practice field right here before maybe fans throw me in there as the anointed one.''

Two-year starting quarterback Zac Taylor is gone, but the Cornhuskers return many of the other key offensive elements from the team that won the Big 12 North and finished 9-5 after a Cotton Bowl loss to Auburn.

The strong-armed Keller, who will be a fifth-year senior, is seen as a possible upgrade because of his ability to get the ball downfield.

His main competition in the spring will come from Joe Ganz. Junior-college transfer Zac Lee, who'll miss the spring because of a knee injury, will join the fray in the fall.

``The one thing I've got going for me is my game experience,'' Keller said. ``I've played against the SC's, the Oregons, the good teams.

``But Joe Ganz is a sharp kid. He can rattle off these plays and get the offense going. That's where I need to get. I've got to get quick like Joe is. And then I'll have a chance.''

Keller emerged on the national scene after he was named MVP of the 2004 Sun Bowl for throwing for 370 yards and three touchdowns in Arizona State's 27-23 victory over Purdue.

He started the first seven games in 2005, completing 58.7 percent of his passes for 2,165 yards and 20 touchdowns before a torn ligament in his right (throwing) thumb ended his season.

``I was on fire,'' Keller said. ``Once I have the offense down and it's in my back pocket, I become a pretty solid force.''

Keller, who appeared on Heisman Trophy watch lists last summer, was named starting quarterback near the end of preseason practice. But ASU coach Dirk Koetter reversed field a day later, saying he made a mistake, and gave the job to Rudy Carpenter.

Within three days, Keller had transferred to Nebraska.

``You can stay there and bite the bullet and sit on the sidelines and watch. But I'm not a guy who likes to watch,'' Keller said. ``Instead of sitting and waiting and saying, 'I'm going to make the (NFL) anyway,' I didn't take that approach. Nothing's for sure. I want to come and play where I know I have the opportunity.''

Carpenter struggled as injuries took a toll on ASU's offensive line, and Koetter was fired after a 7-5 regular season.

Meanwhile, Keller spent last fall running opponent's plays as the leader of the Huskers' scout team. It was a humbling experience for a man who went into 2006 already listed as a probable NFL draft pick.

``I found out how much I really love playing football,'' he said.

The hardest days were game days, he said, because he loves the competition, the crowd and the spotlight that shines on quarterbacks.

All the while, he said, he knew his time would come in 2007.

Keller said he's never second-guessed his decision to come to Lincoln. His allegiance to ASU, he said, was severed the day he left there.

``If I have the chance to go to the NFL and, God willing, I'm in a 'Monday Night Football' game where you state what college you went to, I'm going to state 'University of Nebraska,' `` he said. ``That's a pretty cool thing to be able to say.''