LINCOLN — They will get to know each other better in the next few months, but Nebraska coach Mike Riley said Wednesday that he likes what he has seen so far from Tommy Armstrong.
The Husker quarterback has been the returning player Riley has studied the hardest while balancing his evaluations with recruiting.
“I like how he plays, competes, makes plays,” Riley told The World-Herald after his signing day press conference. “It’s a little different skill set than I’ve been used to, but I’m kind of excited about that.”
Armstrong started all 13 games last season and 21 overall since redshirting in 2012. The junior-to-be is the front-runner at quarterback as Nebraska prepares to install a new system with Riley and offensive coordinator Danny Langsdorf, who were together for nine seasons
at Oregon State before Langsdorf spent 2014 with the New York Giants.
“I’ve already given some direction to the offensive coaches about what we have to look into more, that we have never ventured into, because of our quarterback,” Riley said.
Is Riley comfortable with that?
“I will be,” he said, laughing. “We’re not going to do anything we aren’t good at or don’t really understand.”
Oregon State had little or no quarterback running threat the last four years with Sean Mannion. Armstrong rushed for 705 yards and 4.9 per carry last season.
Armstrong has passed for 3,661 career yards and 31 touchdowns, but completed 51.9 percent of his passes with 20 interceptions.
Riley and Armstrong have weaved in some extended conversations since the Holiday Bowl, where Armstrong capped his sophomore season by completing 32 of 51 passes for a career-high 381 yards and three touchdowns. He added a 15-yard scoring run in the 45-42 loss to USC.
“I really like him,” Riley said. “I think he’s bright and I think he’s really invested. That’s what I like most about quarterbacks. After their talent level, the thing that you want to know is: Are they kind of football junkies? Are they going to hang around the office? He’s always here. I love it.”
But the first quarterback battle of the Riley era won’t be uncontested.
The Huskers also return Ryker Fyfe and Johnny Stanton after both played sparingly last season, and AJ Bush and Zack Darlington are coming off redshirt seasons. New eyes will be on each, not only Riley and Langsdorf’s, but three other new offensive assistants.
As they all get settled, Riley said Armstrong has been curious about what Nebraska might plan to do — and how he might fit it — when spring practice starts March 7.
“I don’t know that he ever said he was worried, but he was anxious,” Riley said. “And I’ve told all those guys to hang with us a little bit, don’t jump the gun, let us get this (recruiting) class done and then we’ll get to the football part.”
Riley continues evaluation of QB