Spring preview: Quarterback
With spring practice beginning next week, HuskerOnline.com begins our in-depth look at each position with our 2015 spring position previews.
Today, we analyze and breakdown the quarterbacks heading into spring practice.
What we know right now: With 21 career starts under his belt, Tommy Armstrong is far and away the most experienced quarterback on the roster. He's well-versed in running the option and was second among Big Ten signal callers with 705 rushing yards. He possesses a strong arm, though his accuracy and decision making, especially under pressure, leave much to be desired at times. Armstrong's inconsistency can be downright maddening - his struggles against Iowa helped put the Huskers in a 24-7 deficit midway through the third quarter, but his late heroics (three passing scores in the second half and overtime) brought NU back from the brink.
Armstrong is arguably coming off the best passing game of his career, throwing for 381 yards and three touchdowns in the Holiday Bowl against USC. But on the season, Armstrong completed just 53.3 percent of his passes and tossed 12 interceptions. He completed on fewer than 52 percent of his throws in seven of Nebraska's 13 games, an unacceptably low number even for an offense that wasn't overly dependent on the pass. Armstrong is a hard worker and a tough self critic, so there is little doubt he's labored to improve this offseason. Whether that translates onto the field will have a lot to say about Nebraska's 2015 season.
Biggest question to answer: Can Armstrong fit into Mike Riley's offense? The new coach figures to run a system that looks very different from what Bo Pelini and Tim Beck did during their time in Lincoln. Riley has said that he will mold his attack to match Nebraska's personnel, but his most successful offenses have featured pocket passers Derek Anderson, Matt Moore and Sean Mannion. He and offensive coordinator Danny Langsdorf will look to shift the Huskers into a pro-style offense with more three-step drops than read options. Armstrong's issues throwing the ball are documented above, so can he improve enough to be the man? And if not, could inexperienced backups Ryker Fyfe, Johnny Stanton, Zack Darlington or AJ Bush make a run at the job?
Spring dark horse: Given Armstrong's major edge in experience, it's hard to see Nebraska starting the season with anyone else under center. But if the junior isn't able to improve on his passing, Riley doesn't have the same loyalty to Armstrong as Pelini did and might be quicker to pull the trigger. If he does, keep an eye on Bush. Stanton or Fyfe will likely be Armstrong's backup this season, but Bush was impressive in fall practice last year and might have the most potential of the group. The lefty is still a bit raw and has yet to take a college snap, but his ceiling is high and Riley might want to see what the redshirt freshman can do.
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