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Posted on Sun, Apr. 15, 2007

At Nebraska, Keller’s the man

Arizona State transfer looks ready to take over as Huskers’ quarterback.

LINCOLN, Neb. | In the race to become Nebraska’s starting quarterback, Sam Keller got the edge over Joe Ganz in end-zone celebration.

Keller played a cameraman, taking a shot of a Cody Glenn touchdown run. Ganz led a group Macarena. Advantage Keller.

It may also turn out that way on the field for the Cornhuskers, who wrapped up spring drills with Saturday’s spring scrimmage before 54,288, but there was no declaration of starter from coach Bill Callahan.

“We won’t name any starter until the end of fall camp,” Callahan said.

But it’s difficult to imagine Keller not getting the job. The 2007 season will the final year of eligibility for Keller, who transferred from Arizona State.

“I’m confident that it’s my job,” Keller said. “I know Joe feels the same way.”

Both performed well against reserve defenses Saturday. Keller completed 10 of 13 passes for 193 yards and one touchdown. Ganz went 11 for 18 for 157 yards and a score.

“I thought it looked pretty even to me,” said Ganz, a junior. “But maybe that’s just my sense of reality.”

The starter will be replacing Zac Taylor, last year’s All-Big 12 quarterback who set several school career passing marks in his two years at Nebraska.

Keller arrived in Lincoln after a wild turn of events at Arizona State, when he was chosen as the starter in fall camp before head coach Dirk Koetter switched to Rudy Carpenter the next day after meeting with the team’s senior leadership council.

Keller bolted for Nebraska and brought along some impressive credentials. He’s played in 20 games over three seasons, starting the first seven of the 2005 season. His first career start came in the 2004 Sun Bowl and he was picked as the game’s offensive MVP after throwing for 370 yards and three touchdowns against Purdue.

As the full-time starter he averaged 309 yards per game and threw 20 touchdowns and nine interceptions. He tossed four touchdown passes in each of the first four games, including a loss to LSU.

“I was on fire that year,” Keller said.

But a thumb injury ended his season, and a coaching decision ended his Arizona State career.

“They made a business decision to go in a different direction,” Keller said.

So did Keller. When he got to Nebraska, Ganz had been in the program for two years. Where Keller was a high school hotshot from California, Ganz was an unheralded recruit from Illinois in Callahan’s first class who had been waiting his turn to take over. He was Taylor’s primary backup last season.

Experience in Callahan’s system favors Ganz, but both looked comfortable on Saturday. For Keller, the game marked his first action before a crowd since 2005, and he said he’s become more comfortable by the practice.

“Anything dialed up I understood it, I felt comfortable with it,” Keller said.

It wasn’t an entirely fruitful day for the Cornhuskers. Marlon Lucky, who had emerged from the pack of running backs and was the day’s leading rusher with 94 yards, suffered a left knee injury late in the game and left the stadium on crutches.

To reach Blair Kerkhoff, college sports reporter for The Star, call (816) 234-4730 or send e-mail to bkerkhoff@kcstar.com