Top spring position battles: No. 4

We began our latest countdown on Monday with a look at the top position battles of spring practice.

Up next is the battle likely to get the most attention, though it’s not necessarily set to rank as the most intriguing fight of the spring. Hence, the No. 4 spot:


The contenders: Sophomore Tommy Armstrong Jr. and redshirt freshman Johnny Stanton

The storylines: Armstrong played in nine games as a redshirt freshman, starting eight. Nebraska won seven of those, including a trip to Michigan in which Armstrong led a late, game-winning touchdown drive, and the Gator Bowl over Georgia.

Case closed, right? He’s the guy? Not so fast. While Armstrong, whose positive mental attributes rate just as favorably as his athletic skills, shows great promise, don’t discount Stanton. Nebraska fans get their first real taste of the dual-threat Californian next month. At 6-foot-2 and 225 pounds, he's bigger than Armstrong, if not quite as athletic.

Both quarterbacks are proven winners. Stanton led his high school to a Division I bowl-game victory as a junior and was named co-MVP at the Elite 11 finals in July 2012. He earned comparisons to Tim Tebow for their similar quarterbacking styles, leadership qualities and winning pedigrees.

If Stanton shows Tebow-like traits, the race is on in Lincoln.

The outlook: Much of this boils down to a matter of choice. How do offensive coordinator Tim Beck and coach Bo Pelini want to shape the situation? Fifteen practices in the spring likely aren’t enough for Stanton to make his case as the Tebow of the Big Ten, nor are they enough for Armstrong to put so much distance between himself and all challengers that the starting position is decided by mid-April.

But if Nebraska coaches like what they see from Armstrong as the incumbent and want a clear-cut starter to take command in the summer -- when coaches are allowed no on-field contact with the players –- that can be arranged.

Armstrong accounted for 1,168 yards and 11 touchdowns last season, among the best seasons for a rookie QB at Nebraska. How much will it mean for 2014? This spring ought to tell us a lot.

Countdown of Nebraska position battles to watch spring practice:

No 5: Outside linebacker