Nebraska football fans will be paying close attention to Johnny Stanton, the redshirt freshman who ran the scout team last year. Over the past few years, there was little question who was going to be Nebraska’s signal-caller in the upcoming season. There certainly wasn’t a battle between two well-qualified and exciting quarterback prospects for the job.
But this year, Nebraska has a full-bore quarterback competition going into the season, maybe the most contested since Bobby Newcombe and Eric Crouch. The injury to Taylor Martinez at the start of last season did give Tommy Armstrong, now a sophomore, a chance to get in-game experience. And Armstrong did a lot of things to impress, perhaps most notably the game-winning drive in Ann Arbor against Michigan.
And Armstrong grew into the quarterback role as the season progressed. In an interview with the Florida Times-Union leading up to the Gator Bowl, Armstrong said:
I’m young, but there are seniors on the team that have told me they respect me for what I do and how I took on this role out of nowhere in the middle of the season. I’m proud to say that I’m the leader of this team.
That’s a big statement for a then-freshman to make, and he wouldn’t have done so without the backing of his team. There is little doubt that his time as a starter has helped Armstrong grow into a leadership role, something he would need to win the starting job in 2014.
But getting to play in 2013 also exposed some of Armstrong’s warts. Take a look at Armstrong’s final numbers for the season, per cfbstats.com.
Armstrong’s completion percentage was certainly not good enough to win the job on its own. His touchdown-to-interception ratio (9/8) is poor. And his rushing statistics are certainly not enough to make Armstrong the clear favorite for the position.
So the door is open for Stanton to make a claim for the job. Stanton is an inch taller and slightly heavier than Armstrong. He looks to be a more physical runner than Armstrong, even earning the nickname “Johnny Tebow” at the Elite 11 quarterback came in which he participated.
And oh, by the way, the fact that Stanton was not only invited to, but was a finalist at the Elite 11 competition, is nothing to sniff at. Guys like Tim Tebow, Vince Young, Matt Leinart, JaMarcus Russell, Mark Sanchez, Matthew Stafford, Andrew Luck and Jameis Winston are all Elite 11 alumni. Not bad company for a Nebraska quarterback, eh?
Stanton brings a pedigree to the quarterback competition, to be sure. Armstrong has to be considered the favorite given his experience from last year, so it will be up to Stanton to play his way into the starter’s job. That means the competition for the job will be fierce, which can only push both Armstrong and Stanton to be better.
So keep an eye on Stanton as spring practice begins. And you might want to follow him on Twitter. After all, how often do you get to see an elite athlete in a situation like this?
That was so scary https://t.co/ILfy1KbyYs— Johnny Stanton IV (@johnnystanton5) January 12, 2014
Or, you could always use the Twitter machine to follow @patrickrunge.