LINCOLN, Neb. — In the midst of the chaos Monday morning, Nebraska senior quarterback Tommy Armstrong was still all business.
For him, Monday was just another practice, he said. With controversy now swirling about whether wide receivers coach Keith Williams will be on the sidelines for the Huskers this fall after his DUI arrest, Armstrong stood strong that his main concern right now is fall camp.
“Things happen, we just gotta make sure we stay on the right path,” Armstrong said.
Armstrong is a four-year starter and has been in Lincoln for five years now after redshirting the 2012 season. He’s been around the block and back. He’s been through his fair share of incidents that could distract the team. From getting thrown into the rotation as a redshirt freshman when then-senior Taylor Martinez got hurt, to a leaked audio tape of Bo Pelini cursing about fans, to the firing and hiring of new coaches. When controversy swirls, Armstrong has learned to focus on the team.
Fall camp is tough enough, he said. Add on a controversy and it becomes tougher to focus. But Armstrong doesn’t have time for that.
“Some guys were down,” Armstrong said of the first practice of the week, noting the first early Monday morning practice of two-a-days. “We got make sure we pick those guys up.”
So far in these first few weeks, Armstrong has been encouraged by his offensive line, a group with no returning starters. He feels good about the new line. They compete, he said, and they’ve got an attitude.
“That’s the best thing about them,” Armstrong said. “They don’t take it for granted. They work hard, they work for each other.”
One of the main questions surrounding the Husker offense this fall camp is how, if at all, coach Mike Riley and offensive coordinator will use Armstrong in the run game. At the scrimmage on Saturday at Memorial Stadium, Armstrong took off for a few runs, and said on Monday he’s up to run when asked.
“I do what I can,” Armstrong said of his run game. “A lot of packages are just to give running backs some space.”
The next step for the offense, he said, comes down to limiting turnovers. It has been seven years since Nebraska was on the positive end of the turnover margin. This year, Armstrong said the offense is making a concerted effort to turn that around.
“I’m trying to take care of the ball myself, as all the quarterbacks are,” Armstrong said.
In the end, with the news of Keith Williams’ arrest hanging over the Huskers’ heads, plus the drag of two-a-days in the muggy August heat, Armstrong said this week will separate the boys from the men.
“Right now this is going to be a tough time for us. We’ve got things going on now, and we’ve got eight practices left in this week,”Armstrong said. “The weekend is over, now it’s actually time to grind these next couple of weeks.”
Chris Heady is a staff writer at Landof10 and covers Nebraska football and recruiting. He takes movie and story suggestions at firstname.lastname@example.org, or on Twitter @heady_chris