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The Bell’s Already Rung on Tommy Armstrong Versus Patrick O’Brien

Tommy Armstrong

Tommy Armstrong

I have some bad news. Unthinkable for some. The No. 9 quarterback prospect in the country and Nebraska commit Patrick O’Brien is coming for Tommy Armstrong’s job.

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This shouldn’t matter at all to the junior captain because competition comes with the territory in Big Boy College Football. I’ve heard so many fans upset with the idea that O’Brien could one-up the senior-to-be.

It’s a conservative stance and honestly somewhat offensive to No. 4. Should Armstrong be scared that this baby-faced freshman who stands tall in the pocket, makes every throw on the passing tree look effortless and plows over defenders already signed his financial papers?

Armstrong has years on him playing at the college level and what’s more, a year in Mike Riley’s system.

Naturally this is all moot if the commit decides to up and bolt elsewhere, but he’s Riley’s guy for the class of 2016.

It’s simple, really. Armstrong will keep his position under one condition: he must improve. He cannot continue to lock onto his first reads, throw blindly into double and triple coverage or serve up turnovers like grandma on Sunday morning.

Riley’s offense really isn’t that complicated. If the quarterback can be efficient – not even dynamic, but efficient – it’s dangerous. A 21:16 touchdown-to-interception ratio won’t cut it in this system (or any, really). Four games of two-plus interceptions won’t win the day. Armstrong has both of those to his credit this season.

He’s not a terrible athlete. His actions are baffling at times, yes. His legs have saved drives, he can make proper passes, but his issue is consistency. Talk about Nebraska’s running game all you like, but his decision-making has sputtered just as much. If that improves by leaps and bounds, all of this talk is for naught.

However, O’Brien is going to be given the opportunity to stand next to Armstrong and out-do him. He doesn’t have to be some wunderkind Heisman Trophy-winning savior for this offense to be effective, he just needs to be smart. That’s where people who doubt Armstrong going into 2016 are looking to. They question his football IQ.

Regarding just how long this bout should go, I’m personally of the opinion that there needs to be a good 7-10 practices through fall camp to figure out who The Man really is. No mystery reveal for the opener, but no Kirk Ferentz announcement that’s carved in stone early on.

Fans are picking sides already, regardless of where they may stand when it comes to O’Brien sneaking out of a redshirt season let alone jumping Armstrong for the starting spot.

No one’s saying O’Brien will be the next Peyton Manning, Matthew Stafford, Terrelle Pryor, Johnny Manziel or Jameis Winston. They’re just saying he’ll be better than Armstrong.

Who says the offseason’s going to be boring?

— Written by Brandon Cavanaugh, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Be sure to follow Brandon on Twitter @eightlaces and like his Facebook page.