Nebraska Football: Is Tommy Armstrong Headed for Taylor Martinez-Esque Career?

Erin Sorensen@erinsorensenContributor INovember 21, 2013

It's challenging to sum up quarterback Taylor Martinez's career. It is right now, at least.

However, as one career ends, another is beginning.

That career belongs to redshirt quarterback Tommy Armstrong.

Since Martinez stepped aside with injuries, Armstrong's step into the spotlight has been nothing short of a roller coaster. It's not over yet, either.

Armstrong has fans overjoyed one week and in shock the next.

Questions have started to surface around Armstrong and his future career. The biggest question needs to be about his development.

When Martinez stepped in as the starter in 2010, he beat out former Husker Zac Lee for the job. Lee had previously been the starter.

Regardless, Martinez had many believing that with time he would transform. The raw talent was there. It all depended on development.

However, most of his development did not happen at Nebraska. Instead, it took Martinez going elsewhere for help.

During his 2012 spring break, Martinez worked with QB guru Steve Calhoun on his mechanics, according to ESPN. He then also worked with outside help during the summers prior to both his junior and senior seasons.

The challenging part is that Martinez's career ended with an injury. It still feels like he never fully developed into the player he could have been.

Many place that blame on the Nebraska coaching staff. It wouldn't be completely unfair to do, either.

After all, coaches are there to develop their players. Much like head coach Bo Pelini is a "defensive guru" and knows how to bring young Blackshirts along, that attention is needed on the offensive side of the ball.

For quarterbacks, that job falls on offensive coordinator Tim Beck.

It's not uncommon for a university to have the offensive coordinator handle the quarterbacks. That may not be the best solution for Nebraska, though.

In Beck's case, he does have a little help.

Former Nebraska quarterback Joe Ganz is in his third year with the Huskers. According to, he works primarily with the quarterbacks.

That's no secret. Ganz has been a very active participant in the development of Martinez. That also makes him very active in the development of the other quarterbacks.

However, that's a lot of pressure to put on Ganz. While he has been successful with the group, he's still learning himself.

His advantage is that he can pass along what he learned in his time being developed as a Husker.

Ganz was primarily developed by former Nebraska head coach Bill Callahan. Despite fans' perceptions of the former coach now, Callahan is a proven quarterbacks coach.

For all other flaws he may have had, that was where Callahan shined. He took players like Ganz and former Husker Zac Taylor and helped them evolve. It was his true strength as a coach.

When Callahan was fired, things shifted. Pelini, after all, is a defense-focused coach.

With that switch in mentality, the quarterbacks were not developed quite the same.

So fans have asked what can be done. Many have suggested just hiring a quarterbacks coach to work with Armstrong and future players.

However, that would require Nebraska removing a current coach from the staff. The question then would become who that would be.

The likelihood of a current coach being removed from the staff for a quarterbacks coach is unlikely. Yet, it's necessary to have someone who can really develop Armstrong and future quarterbacks like Johnny Stanton.

Armstrong has a lot of potential. He's made some rookie mistakes so far in 2013, but none of those are things that cannot be corrected.

It will just take the right person correcting him.

The right coach can evolve players. Looking back in Husker history, former quarterback coach Turner Gill did just that.

According to, in his 13 years at Nebraska, he helped develop quarterbacks Tommy Frazier, Scott Frost and Eric Crouch. Between those three players, Gill led Crouch to a Heisman Trophy in 2001, Frazier to two national titles and Frost to one.

That doesn't mean Nebraska needs to go hire back Gill. Instead, it means the Huskers need to find someone who can evolve players in the same way.

In doing so, that means Nebraska also must determine if that job can still fall on the shoulders of Beck. If not, a more serious discussion of how to bring in a quarterbacks coach would have to happen.

Ultimately, Nebraska fans need the quarterback position to be strong. With players like I-Back Ameer Abdullah and wide receivers like Kenny Bell, a developing quarterback is a necessity. What use is a talented offense without a developing quarterback to lead it?

Without taking a harder look at this potential problem, players like Armstrong could end up not reaching their full potential.

It's hard to compare what Armstrong will be to what Martinez ended up as, especially with Martinez's injuries.

However, the feeling that Martinez never fully lived up to his potential could ultimately be how fans feel about Armstrong.

Does that fall on the player or on the coach?

More importantly, is it worth waiting to find out?


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