LINCOLN, Neb. - On Wednesday, a set of Big Ten Network analysts debated the best quarterbacks in the Big Ten. Seven quarterbacks were mentioned during the discussion – Nebraska’s Tommy Armstrong wasn’t one of them.
While it’s always nice to have an all-conference caliber type signal-caller, Armstrong doesn’t have to be one of the best quarterbacks in the Big Ten for the Huskers to win this season. He just needs to be better than he was last year when he completed on 51.9 percent of his passes and nine touchdowns to eight interceptions.
“I think he has a lot better handle of the offense. I think he understands the offense,” said Nebraska head coach Bo Pelini this week. “Is he perfect? No. I don’t think there is anyone who is perfect that plays that position. There’s a lot of things happening and there’s a lot of things on his shoulders just by the nature of that position. I know this, he is a lot more prepared to be lined up on the center this year than he was at this point a year ago or even at the end of last year.”
Pelini is right. In the practices the media was allowed to attend this fall camp, most reporters saw growth in Armstrong’s game and confidence as the weeks progressed.
“He’s going to make mistakes and hopefully he understands that there are times when to do things and when not to,” said Pelini. “There are times when you take your check down. There are times when you can take your shots. Not only that, but it’s about understanding situational football. I think we’ve spent a lot of time on that. He’s worked through some growing pains like everybody has in these situations. I think he’ll continue to get better as we move along.”
There is also something to be said about being the starter entering the season and knowing game-reps won’t be split up.
“It is a lot different,” said Armstrong. “Last year I was battling for the number two spot with Ron (Kellogg). This year, Coach Bo (Pelini) said I am the guy that is going to walk out there. It is a lot different.”
“I am expected to do exactly what I have been doing all spring and fall. And that is to put these guys in the right position to win some football games. This year it is going to be a lot different, there is not going to be a veteran guy talking in my ear telling me I need to do something. Honestly now I am one of the oldest guys in the quarterbacks room so no matter who is in, I need to be that guy that helps people out and be able to see the right things.
“I may make a mistake here and there, but that is how I overcome it. Last year I would probably say that it was the domino effect of mistakes, one would lead to another. I think this year I have been great at overcoming mistakes.”
Armstrong probably doesn't like the term game-manager, but with a defense that looks to be in the top three of the conference and an All-American running back, he doesn’t have to be a game-changer.
We will see Saturday just how far he’s come this offseason.