What Does NU Need from Tommy Armstrong in 2014?
It goes without saying that quarterback is a very important position on a football team, if not the most vital one. That said, how much do we really know about Tommy Armstrong heading into 2014? What do we need him to do for NU to win 9 games or to win 11?
His Freshman Campaign
Armstrong won 7 games in 8 starts. At that rate, he could lead NU to 11 or 12 wins. His debut against South Dakota State was nearly flawless. He was similarly effective in an easy victory over Illinois. He had a very poor passing day against Purdue as he threw 3 interceptions and completed just 6 of 18 passes. He had another 3-pick day against Northwestern, though he did some damage with his legs. He had an efficient day at Michigan, which was crucial to the victory. If not for his fumbles, you'd say he had a reasonably good day against Michigan State with 2 touchdowns against 1 interception. But those extra two turnovers were killers. He left the field early with an injury in a scoreless contest with Penn State. He did not play in the loss to Iowa. He helped deliver the victory over Georgia with a pair of touchdown passes to Quincy Enunwa. The 99-yarder elevated not only his day but his season numbers. His pass efficiency for the year was 124.3 (it would have been 115.6 without the miracle pass).
How it Compares
While Armstrong was less efficient than Taylor Martinez was over his freshman campaign, he nearly matched the passer rating that Martinez tallied as a sophomore or Zac Lee as a junior. It was actually better than Zac Taylor's first year at Nebraska. It was better than any year by Jammal Lord or Joe Dailey. It was better than Tommie Frazier's rating in 1994. It matched Eric Crouch's passing numbers in his Heisman year (also a year that Nebraska played for a national championship). It was in the neighborhood of Scott Frost's senior year (a national championship season) or Tommie Frazier's sophomore year (a near miss of the title).
What it Means
Certainly you can see that your team can have a lot of success with a quarterback about as efficient as Armstrong. At the same time, those numbers are hardly elite nor guarantee success. If he stays around his current level, he'll need to complement those skills with his own running ability (so far, pretty pedestrian for an NU quarterback). It will also matter what's happening around him. It certainly helps that he has a back like Ameer Abdullah behind him. Frost certainly benefited from having Ahman Green who might be the best back at NU over the last 20 years not named Abdullah. The defense will certainly have to do their part as well. Nebraska doesn't beat Georgia or Michigan without some critical plays by the defense.
NU has already shown it can win with Armstrong. But he'll likely need to raise his game if he's going to elevate the Huskers beyond the four-loss plateau.