What three things in life are certain?
That after Tommy Armstrong's first interception of the 2016 football season, thousands upon thousands of Husker fans will be screaming for him to be benched in favor of true freshman quarterback Patrick O'Brien.
Johnny Stanton: Transferred to Saddleback College in Orange County, California before the 2015 season began.
Tyson Broekemeier: Graduation
|4||Tommy Armstrong Jr.||QB||6-1||220||Sr.||Cibolo, Texas (Steele)|
|6||AJ Bush||QB||6-4||225||So.||Alpharetta, Ga. (Norcross)|
|2||Zack Darlington||QB||6-2||195||So.||Apopka, Fla. (Apopka)|
|17||Ryker Fyfe||QB||6-3||215||Sr.||Grand Island, Neb. (Grand Island)|
Armstrong and Fyfe were the only quarterbacks to play in 2015.
|Tommy Armstrong Jr||12||402||222||55.2||3030||7.5||22||16||128.63||33.5||252.5|
AJ Bush spent the 2015 season listed as the #3 quarterback on the depth chart, but did not play in a game. Zach Darlington never made the depth chart, nor did he get on the field in 2015.
|Tanner Lee||QB||6-4||205||Jr.||Destrehan, La. (Tulane) (Jesuit)|
|Patrick O'Brien||QB||6-4||230||Fr.||San Juan Capistrano, Calif. (San Juan Hills)|
Lee is a transfer from Tulane who will sit out 2016. O'Brien is the heir apparent, the new guy, the savior, the one who will deliver Nebraska the conference championships that have been missing since 1999. (Hope Springs Eternal.)
Looking Ahead to 2016:
Armstrong returns as the clear starter for the 2016 campaign. He's started 34 games in his career. He's #2 on the career passing list with 6,691 yards, only 567 yards behind Taylor Martinez, who has 7,258. He's lead Nebraska's offense the past three seasons and there is no reason other than wishful thinking about O'Brien to expect that he won't do it again.
It will be very interesting to see how Mike Riley handles the quarterback position next season. Riley may not survive to get a third year should he go 5-7 (or worse) again in 2016. Given that scenario, does he play a well-seasoned starter who isn't the ideal fit for the offense he wants to run? Or does he take a chance on the guy who's supposed to be "the next big thing" (as O'Brien is being touted to be, mostly by a Nebraska media who knows everyone loves a backup quarterback more than any other player in any sport anywhere ever)?
Ideally the new coaching staff figured out how to manage a game with Armstrong at quarterback while Armstrong doesn't feel like he has to win the game by scoring on every single play because the defense will be vastly improved. This will bring much-needed relief to Riley, Langsdorf, and Armstrong and give Patrick O'Brien will get a year off the field to transition to the college game.
Nebraska has some backups in place should Armstrong get injured. Ryker Fyfe saw action last year (although we'd all like to forget the Purdue game) and AJ Bush and Zach Darlington have spent a year learning what's expected of them should they be called to lead the offense (although it's disconcerting that both were learning last year yet didn't unseat Fyfe from being #2).
Is there a possibility that Patrick O'Brien is the savior everyone wants him to be? Yes. It's especially fun speculation for an offseason. Is it probable? No, although six first-year starting quarterbacks have won a national title since 2009 (because you need fuel for that offseason koolaid swillin', yes sir you do!).
The #1 thing that must improve in order for the 2016 offense to be better (from the quarterback perspective) is Armstrong's decision making. A lot of time could be spent analyzing how he did on third down passes between 5-10 yards, but what Husker fans remember most (unfortunately) are the mistakes - the pick six against Northwestern, the same against Iowa, the overtime interception against Miami (even though it was Armstrong who got us there), and that damned third down play against Illinois.
He might not be the most popular choice, but he's the most rational. Armstrong as a starting quarterback is Nebraska's best bet for a great season in 2016.