LINCOLN, Neb. - Transfer quarterback Sam Keller already has fan adulation, plus preseason Big 12 offensive newcomer of the year honors. And he hasn’t been selected Nebraska’s starting quarterback yet.
Keller lost his starting job at Arizona State last year, so he left for the Cornhuskers.
“Best decision I ever made,” Keller said Monday before taking the field for Nebraska’s first practice.
Coach Bill Callahan said he wouldn’t choose a starter until the week of the Sept. 1 opener against Nevada. Keller said he’s preparing for a heated competition with Joe Ganz in the next three weeks.
“This is a legitimate quarterback situation where both of us can be the guy,” Keller said. “You have to let that play out as long as you can, until you know that that guy has earned it. Spring was a good barometer to know where I’m at. Likewise for Joe.
“The most important thing is that I have faith in the coaches. I trust them, and I think I can say Joe does as well. We’re going to have a good team regardless. They have to make the decision on which guy can get us the farthest.”
Keller emerged at the end of the 2004 Sun Bowl, when he was the MVP in a come-from-behind victory over Purdue. In 2005, he threw for 2,165 yards and 20 touchdowns in the first seven games before suffering a season-ending hand injury.
Keller was the Sun Devils’ starter in preseason practice last August, but coach Dirk Koetter decided two days later to go with Rudy Carpenter. Koetter, fired after a 7-5 regular season, explained the about-face by saying he made a mistake.
“I didn’t have time to sit around on my butt and mull it over and feel sorry for myself,” Keller said. “I had to either stay or go. So I decided to go.”
Keller was the most valuable player of the Huskers’ scout team last fall and turned in impressive performances in spring practice.
“The sense of urgency comes from the fact I just want to play,” he said. “After playing on the scout team, you realize how much you love playing football. I want to do it again, and I want to do it at the college level. I want to get out and play and get into a battle with my new teammates. That’s what I’m so hungry for, just to go out and beat somebody.”
The 6-foot-4 Keller added 10 to 15 pounds in the past year and weighs 240. Even though he hasn’t played a game since the middle of the 2005 season, he says he’s a better quarterback.
“I’ve got the game experience, and I’ve had all this time to fine-tune things,” he said. “I’m as big and strong as I’ve ever been. One thing I was worried about after the '05 season was my durability. I’m significantly bigger than I was then. It’s just time to get this ball rolling.”