Our countdown continues with a look at Nebraska position groups with most room to improve. Next on the list is not so much a group of positions, but just one spot.
It’s important enough, though, to warrant inclusion on the list. At No. 4, the quarterbacks:
Major losses: Taylor Martinez is gone after an anticlimactic senior season in which the returning three-year starter played in just four games. He started all four and lost two after suffering a plantar plate tear in his left foot during the Cornhuskers’ season opener against Wyoming. He leaves as the school record-holder in passing yardage, total yardage and starts at QB, among many other marks. Also departed is Ron Kellogg III, a former walk-on who rose to prominence and turned into a popular figure following his Hail Mary heroics in Nebraska’s November win over Northwestern. Kellogg came off the bench to lead the Huskers to victory at Penn State and earned his first career start on Senior Day as Nebraska fell to Iowa.
Top returnees: Tommy Armstrong Jr. played in nine games and started eight in his redshirt freshman season. His numbers, in retrospect, appear rookie-like: 68-of-131 passing for 966 yards with nine touchdowns and eight interceptions. Still, as things unfolded, it felt as if Armstrong was working magic at times behind a makeshift offensive line. And his record -- despite help from Kellogg against Northwestern and Penn State -- sits at 7-1 as a starter, with wins at Michigan and over Georgia in the Gator Bowl. Sophomore Ryker Fyfe and junior Tyson Broekemeier are also back; both are untested walk-ons.
Numbers to know: Armstrong connected on 5 of 7 throws for 59 yards on the game-winning drive as the Huskers snapped Michigan’s 19-game streak at Michigan Stadium with a 17-13 victory. That possession, likely more than any other, offered a glimpse at the kid’s poise. Nebraska fans also soon won’t forget the 99-yard strike to Quincy Enunwa on New Year’s Day.
Key question: How serious is Nebraska about giving redshirt freshman Johnny Stanton an opportunity to challenge Armstrong this spring?
The outlook: Armstrong enters the spring with a big advantage over Stanton, the former Elite 11 co-MVP and state-champion California prep star. But let’s not anoint the confident Texan as the starter in 2014 unless he earns it in March and April.
Armstrong ranked 13th nationally and second in the Big Ten by averaging 14.2 yards per completion. Of his pass attempts, 6.9 percent went for touchdowns -- behind only Braxton Miller in the conference. But Armstrong has plenty of room to improve. His QBR index of 54.4, which measures total quarterback performance, ranked 10th in the Big Ten.
He needs to cut down turnovers and increase his awareness in many situations as a passer. Improvement figures to come with time.
The competition with Stanton could turn intriguing. Stanton is listed as one inch taller and five pounds heavier. He brings a different set of skills but similarities with his attitude and likeability factor.
Countdown of Nebraska position groups with most room to improve:
No. 5: Secondary