Mike Riley has a reputation as a bit of a quarterback guru, so it shouldn’t be a surprise to hear that he’ll take a role in the position group during his first season as the Nebraska Cornhuskers head coach. Still, the emphasis he’ll be putting on the position is a bit surprising.
You can pretty much pencil Riley in anywhere and everywhere the quarterbacks go during the upcoming 15 spring practices, according to Nebraska’s Rivals.com site.
As many expected, Tommy Armstrong is going to get every chance to prove he can run the offense that Riley and Co. would like to in 2015.
The decision was really an easy one for Riley, given the vast gulf in game experience between Armstrong and his competition. He’s started 20 games to a combined zero for the five other quarterbacks available this spring.
“Experience is a big, big factor for every player,” Riley said, via HuskersOnline.com. “Guys that have played in games have an advantage, because there is nothing like playing in the games. That is multiplied by some degree for the quarterback. There is nothing like playing in the games for a quarterback. So that experience is good.”
That doesn’t mean the others won’t have a chance to impress, and Armstrong’s own numbers suggest there is plenty of room for improvement. In his first season as the starting quarterback, Armstrong was 10th in the Big Ten with a 53.3 completion rate.
Still, his 22 touchdowns to 12 interceptions indicates he was also able to make some smart decisions with the football.
Armstrong’s ability to adapt to the style Riley will like to play may be the main question in the quarterback group this spring.
If he struggles with the transition that could very well open the door for someone else to impress in spring ball. Perhaps the most intriguing of the names is former Elite 11 finalist Johnny Stanton, who has a body and style more directly suited for what many associate with a Mike Riley-esque quarterback.
What would it take for one of the other five quarterbacks to unseat Armstrong when spring camp concludes with the annual spring game?
Riley has been frank about spring not being the end of things at quarterback or any other position and he’ll use spring more as a time for evaluation, especially early on.
“We’ll see if we can beat the air,” Riley joked. “If you can drop back and throw the ball to a receiver and there’s no rush and no coverage. That’s the starting point.”
Considering the importance of the quarterback position and the intriguing options at wide receiver, spring could vault the passing game in to a different stratosphere at Nebraska — a far cry from the triple-option days from the 1970’s and in to the 1990’s.
Riley’s hands on approach to evaluating the position early on should give the Huskers a great advantage in determining if there will be a further battle.