Top 10 Countdown: No. 8

Over the next 20 days, Big Red Report’s Josh Harvey and Bryan Munson will countdown their most important 10 players to Nebraska success in 2014.

No. 10 - Harvey: Vincent Valentine / Munson: Jake Cotton

No. 9 - Harvey: Jake Cotton / Munson: Corey Cooper

No. 8:

Harvey’s pick:
S – Corey Cooper
Senior / 6-foot-1, 215-pounds

What can I say about Cooper that Bryan didn’t say yesterday?

First off, the staff loves him. More importantly, they trust him in the secondary. They will rely on his experience to be a player-coach on the field and more importantly report back to the staff what is going on from the player’s perspective.

Cooper is a three-year letter winner and started 13 games last season. The notion he might be pushed to the second-team in favor of Nathan Gerry (those funny message boards) is just silly. It takes a lot for an honorable-mention All-Big Ten player to lose his starting spot due to injury. Cooper didn’t participate in the Huskers’ 15 practices this spring – if there was any player on the defense that could afford it, it was the Illinois native.

His best game of the season last year came on the biggest stage – a win over Georgia in the Gator Bowl, where the junior recorded 10 tackles.

Cooper’s quiet. The decision to take him to Chicago for Big Ten Media Days next week wasn’t a shock, but maybe a small surprise. But, the senior isn’t quiet on the field. His 91 tackles last year is proof.

Munson’s pick:
QB – Tommy Armstrong
Sophomore / 6-foot-1, 220-pounds

Some people might think that this is a little low to put the starting quarterback. In most years I might agree with you. Simply put, I look at what is surrounding the quarterback this year – a stable of running backs and a talented group of receivers – and think that the quarterback doesn’t have to win games like in previous years.

Yes, Tommy can go out and win a game. Don’t get me wrong. But his job this fall will be not to lose a game either. The quarterback will need to be more responsible and intelligent than a guy that just drew a play up in the sand and can rely on his athleticism. He will have to be tough in the face of adversity and be able to get the buy-in from an offensive line that may struggle at times because a lack of experience.

Armstrong has always come off as mature. If he truly is, then he will understand the role. He is for the most part not going to be the top option on any given play, despite the fact that he will touch the ball on every down. Sometimes that flies in the face of the player and his thoughts about the position. That’s where the maturity and understanding have to kick in.

There are definitely some things to watch for from last season to this season when it comes to Armstrong. Will he get control of the overthrows? Can he get just a half-second faster on the zone read and options to become a more effective runner? Those things are tweaks. It’s not an arm strength thing or a 40-time thing with Armstrong.

This offense won’t have to live or die with the quarterback this year. Players like Ameer Abdullah, Imani Cross, Terrell Newby, Kenny Bell, Jamal Turner and Jordan Westerkamp among others will take the pressure of whomever is taking the snap if there is an understanding about where to go with the ball, that they can make the throw/handoff and do it with the correct timing.

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