After taking in Nebraska's Fall Camp practice on Thursday, former Cleveland Browns general manager, and now executive director of the Senior Bowl, Phil Savage said he thinks the Huskers' Tanner Lee has a chance to join that group when it's all said and done.
"The Luke Falk (Washington State), Tanner Lee, Mason Rudolph (Oklahoma State), Baker Mayfield (Oklahoma) foursome is going to have a lot to say how that quarterback class shakes out next spring," Savage told HuskerOnline.
Savage has actually had Lee on his radar for quite some time. Just like many other experts, Savage got his first taste of Lee at the Manning Passing Academy a few years ago in Thibodaux, La.
It was that same camp where Lee opened the eyes of former NFL quarterback Archie Manning and ESPN's Chris Mortensen.
"I saw Tanner Lee two summers ago at that camp and I said ‘wow, Tulane has a chance with this kid to maybe emerge as a legitimate team.’ Then, of course, they had a coaching change, and he ended up transferring and he finds a home at Nebraska with Mike Riley,' Savage said. "I was really anxious to see what he looked like because I had this vision of him in my mind from a few years ago.
"He can really spin the ball. He’s got a very compact, efficient release. The ball just kind of squirts out. He’s a legitimate candidate. He’s a redshirt junior, so he conceivably could play two more years at Nebraska. At whatever point, I think if he plays pretty well in terms of just pure throwing the football, he’s an ideal NFL candidate because he’s got size, he’s got arm talent and they speak very well of him in terms of his intangibles and personality.”
Savage has yet to see Lee play in a game, but he was able to watch him live in team drills this past Saturday in Lincoln.
Lee is technically eligible for the Senior Bowl as long as he graduates in December, so Thursday gave Savage a chance to get a better look at him. The Senior Bowl hasn't taken a Nebraska quarterback since David Humm in 1975.
“Without really seeing him play in a game, I would just say the thing that strikes me is the ball just comes out," Savage siad. "He’s got a really quick release. He’s got good rotation on the ball. He’s not somebody that’s 6-feet tall. He’s legitimately 6-foot-3, he may get close to 6-4 when he’s officially measured. He’s got a very efficient motion and he throws a good ball.
"I know (Thursday) on the first play they ran he ended up on the move to his left and he threw a little dart to a crossing receiver and I’m like ‘this kid has got something to him for sure.’”
Savage also has a high amount of respect for both Nebraska head coach Mike Riley and NU executive director of player personnel Bill Devaney.
Savage worked on Riley's staff as an assistant coach in San Antonio, before leaving in the middle of training camp to join Bill Belichick's Cleveland Brown's staff. Riley shared the story on Saturday how Savage leaving his staff actually opened the door for current Wisconsin head coach Paul Chryst to join his staff which eventually launched his career.
"Two fabulous guys," Riley said. "Phil Savage and Paul Chryst kind of moved right past us right at that time."
As for Savage's comments about Lee, Riley said he's not surprised one bit.
"Phil has been doing it a long time and has a great history as a scout and a general manager in the NFL," Riley said. "Now he runs the Senior Bowl. His opinion, he's seen a ton of people. That's not a surprising comment to me about Tanner. That stuff is out there like that, we are just looking forward to helping him really be comfortable and use that ability and play."
When Savage looks at Nebraska and their potential with Lee at quarterback, he said all you have to do is look in the NFL.
Savage was quick to point out that very few college coaches can say they have three of their former quarterbacks on NFL rosters.
Currently Derek Anderson, Matt Moore and Sean Mannion are all former Oregon State quarterbacks that played under Riley, and Savage thinks Lee has a good chance to be the fourth.
“The thing is, when you have a quarterback that gives you a chance, and a quarterback being coached by a guy like Mike Riley, I think you have chance to not only have success with the one they have in Tanner Lee, but that also gives you a chance if he does well to recruit other QBs," Savage said. "I think that can be a real distinguishing factor for them going forward.
"I think (Riley's) track record will help them in recruiting, and they certainly have the facilities there and the tradition is there. I think moving forward, they sort of have to figure out their niche in all of this. I don’t know if they can do it like they did it 20 or 30 years ago. It’s probably a little bit of a different formula as far as how they acquire their players.”