At least two people came up to me this week to for whatever reason congratulate ME for Zac Taylor being named Big 12 Offensive Player of the Year. I thought for a second, after giving them the Beavis confused face, that I shrunk 12 inches and turned into Billy C. They reminded of how I've been touting Taylor all season long. True, I said from the first game he should be all Big 12, but I never thought this would happen (at least not with a healthy Adrian Peterson or Colt McCoy in the league).
Taylor's got two more games yet before we can figure out where he stands in Husker History, and understand you really need to do a Pre-WCO and Post-WCO list with the stats that some QB's can and put up in this new offense. Remember, Nebraska's never exactly been Quarterback University (although Bill C certainly wants that to change). But right now, the gold standard is as follows (or in other words, there aint no way even if the Corn finish 11-3 that Taylor finishes ahead of these two):
- Tommie Frazier: Contrary to popular belief, Frazier did NOT play all four years of his Husker career. He didn't play until midway through his Freshman year, where he was absolutely brilliant. He missed most of his Junior Year with an injury, and didn't even get to play the entire Orange Bowl that year, even though he was named MVP of the game and secured Tom Osborne's first National Championship. But God what a player. In many circles, he's considered one of the greatest college football player ever, or at least the greatest college QB of all-time. He was the leader of the 1995 National Championship team -- widely considered the greatest college football team of all-time -- and had 5,476 yards of total offense with a 33-3 record as a starter. For good measure he was MVP of three straight Bowl games, all three of which determined the National Champion (the last two of course Frazier won). Let's just say it's going to be a while before anyone comes close to knocking Frazier out of first. They'd have to have a Matt Leinart collegiate career to do so. Word is that Osborne cried when he was told Frazier was coming to Nebraska.
- Turner Gill: Most of what you can find (or at least google) on Turner Gill is that he's the coach of Buffalo. You can email him if you want, and his direct line is listed on the school's website. Wikipedia barely mentions his playing career. Yeah, he was a lot more than that. In short, he was Tommie Frazier without the titles or press. He was 28-2 as a starter for the Corn, and literally carried the team on his back in the 1984 Orange Bowl after Mike Rozier got hurt. In fact, if Irving Fryar hadn't thrown the game -- I mean dropped that pass -- or Jeff Smith had better hands, we'd be talking about Gill as number 1 with a bullet. Stats don't begin to tell the story with Gill. He led perhaps the greatest offense in college football history with Rozier, Fryar, Roger Craig et al. He was Tommie Frazier before Tommie came to NU. Perhaps the greatest compliment to Gill can be paid this way: When Billy C came to town in 2004 to completely overhaul the staff, the only coach he kept was Gill, and I'm guessing a lot of it had to do with what he meant historically to Husker football.
The rest of the list, in no particular order whatsoever, looks like this:
- Eric Crouch: Vastly overrated because he rides that Heisman for all it's worth. He did (almost backhandedly) lead the Corn to a National Title game in 2001. Had to be talked off a cliff by Solich in the fall of 1999 (because he took his ball and went home when he learned that Bobby Newcombe won the QB job from him). In truth, Taylor makes him look like a AA QB.
- Steve Taylor: Was a very good player during his four year career with the Corn, but he's more remembered for his mouth than his arm. Never won the really big game. Is now a successful real estate agent in Lincoln.
- Scott Frost: Only a starter for two years (was only at NU for two years, if you don't count the whole unfortunate Lawrence Phillips incident in 1995 when Frost had to sit out for a year after transferring from Stanford), and for most of the time was booed until he won at Washington in 1997 (So many fans pinned the horrible shutout at Arizona State in 1996 directly on Frost). He'll forever be remembered for his passionate speech following the 1998 Orange Bowl, asking voters how they could possibly vote Michigan ahead of Nebraska and securing Osborne a share of a 3rd National Title. In a lot of ways, he became the epitome of what Nebraskans wanted from their football stars.
- Vince Ferragamo: Definitely (until Taylor pulls a Tom Brady) the most successful pro QB from Nebraska. We forget that until Turner Gill came in and was so devastating with the option that Osborne's teams could really air it out. You can also buy some real estate from this former NU QB, but you'll have to do so in Orange County.
- Mike Grant: Sorry, couldn't resist.
- Keithan McCant: OK, I'll stop now.
- Jerry Tagge: Will always be remembered for that Sports Illustrated Cover photo of stretching over the goal line against LSU to win the first National Championship for Nebraska in 1970. For good measure, was the QB of the 1971 title team as well, a team that was Number 1 for all but one week of the entire season. The stats don't tell the story with Tagge (In fact, if you look up the two big games from 1971, he didn't have a touchdown pass).
- Dave Humm: Had all of those passing records until Taylor came along (and also had the most passing yards in a game before Joe Dailey screwed everything up). Devaney's last QB and also the quarterback for TO's first two teams. Wound up winning two Super Bowl rings with the Raiders (although he didn't start for those teams). Truth be told, is probably the legitimate Number 3 on this list. Completed a school-record 15 consecutive passes against Kansas in 1974, the same year in which he led the Big Eight in both passing and total offense.
- Zac Taylor: Will ultimately be remembered as the first star of the Billy C era and the first true sign that Callahan's plan might actually work here. People are already quick to point out that Taylor is getting these accolades this year because the Big 12 is so downtrodden. Completely different from everyone else on this list (except for maybe Humm, who's records he topped in only two years at Nebraska). Time will tell where he ranks. Still, the numbers tell a lot with him. First QB to throw for over 400 yards in a game at Nebraska. Statement victory that may have saved Billy C at Texas A&M. In the next five years, there could be two quarterbacks who are miles better than Taylor, or he could be the bell weather for the WCO. He certainly is right now for the Corn. Perhaps Taylor's biggest legacy at Nebraska will be this: If it weren't for Zac Taylor, we're probably all sitting around this week talking about Billy C being fired and who the next Husker Head Coach will be next year.