The news is out. The takes, they are hot. Nebraska senior quarterback Tommy Armstrong was not voted a team captain. Surely mutiny must be afoot in the Husker locker room, no?
“It went well,” Armstrong said during a Monday press conference when asked about a meeting head coach Mike Riley had with seniors regarding potential captains.
“Honestly, in my opinion, I think captains are chosen but leaders are born. I know from day one I’ve always been a leader here. I’m going to still continue to do what I’m doing, leading this team the right way. [The captains] have gained the respect of a lot of people on the team, they’ve got a lot of respect for me. They’re named captains for a reason, but I’m going to continue to be the leader that I am.”
Those words refute the thoughts of anyone who was ready to claim that true freshman Patrick O’Brien would start by the time Nebraska took on the Oregon Ducks.
Armstrong’s right, though. Captainship is what it is and the Cornhuskers determined that there will be four members of the team with such a season-long designation. There will also be a week-by-week honor in memory of punter Sam Foltz, who died in a car crash this offseason.
No. 4 has bigger things to worry about. He didn’t even vote for himself, but rather an eventual captain, wide receiver Jordan Westerkamp. Former Husker greats Tommie Frazier and Scott Frost didn’t have the label and things went relatively well for them. No one’s suggesting that the Cibolo, Texas, native is going to lead Nebraska to a College Football Playoff championship, but hey, stranger things have happened.
That said, his own improvement is paramount.
The Huskers racked up their biggest rushing total of the 2015 season in the Foster Farms Bowl against UCLA with 326 yards. Armstrong contributed 76 yards and a touchdown in the effort. Along with going 12-for-19 and 174 yards through the air — and scoring another touchdown — this is the type of stat line Big Red coaches need their starting quarterback to aim for this year.
Armstrong appears to be more than comfortable with the idea of using his legs, a weapon few other quarterbacks in the Big Ten have. “It’s opened up a lot for our running backs,” he commented.
Armstrong’s ability to lead Nebraska is truly in his own hands. As the Blackshirt defense tries to regain an ability to cause turnovers, the Huskers’ signal-caller has to determine how to limit his own mistakes. Last year, one could almost chart a win or loss depending on how many interceptions and fumbles he was responsible for.
If he is truly the leader he claims, Armstrong must prove it by eliminating the bad habits of 2015, such as not looking off his first receiver and throwing long passes up for grabs. Otherwise, a season with a potential for double-digit wins may very well only deliver a couple games’ improvement from last year’s offering, if that.
Interestingly enough, offensive coordinator Danny Langsdorf will be heading up to the coaches’ booth in 2016 so that he can watch over his quarterbacks. This indicates confidence that his messages can get down to Armstrong efficiently. With the combination of trust from above and a belief in what he can do, it’s all on No. 4 now.
He claims the title of “leader.” Now it’s time to own it.