Guenther: Should Armstrong get the job?

2013-10-02T23:45:00Z 2013-11-07T20:27:09Z Guenther: Should Armstrong get the job?By Dylan Guenther / Columbus Telegram

Change can be a tough pill to swallow for some people.

To me, it's more of a matter of perspective.

Does the change improve your plight, or does it make things worse?

Either way, there could potentially be a major change on the horizon.

With Taylor Martinez's status for Saturday's Big Ten Conference opener in question due to a turf toe injury, Husker fans should get another extended look at redshirt freshman Tommy Armstrong Jr. at quarterback.

Some may be worried about the absence of the fourth-year starting quarterback, while some may be excited to get a better look at the new kid on the block.

Armstrong got his first start two weeks ago against South Dakota State -- an FCS team -- and performed wonderfully, completing 12-of-15 passes for 169 yards and a touchdown. Another surefire score on a perfectly thrown deep ball was dropped by the otherwise sure-handed Kenny Bell.

The freshman is completing passes at an 80 percent clip while adding nine carries for 61 yards (6.8 yards per carry).

Armstrong figures to get his second start in as many games Saturday, but Martinez's turf toe injury will eventually heal, returning him to the lineup at some point.

That's when the Husker coaches will face a tough decision.

On one hand, a player shouldn't lose his starting job due to injury, especially a record-setting quarterback.

But on the other hand, what if the replacement lights it up?

Another promising freshman quarterback earned the starting job under center at NU due to an injury (and poor performances by the incumbent senior) just over 20 years ago. Sound familiar?

You remember Tommie Frazier, right? He turned out to be pretty good.

He took over for Mike Grant in 1992 and never looked back on the way to a 33-3 record as a starter and two national titles.

So, if Armstrong puts up a dominating performance against the Illini and follows it up with a similar outing the following week against Purdue, should Martinez be relegated to the bench?

I say yes.

It's not that I don't think Martinez is a good quarterback. He owns a bevy of school records. He has proven to be a tough customer while playing through pain at times over the past few years. He may be the fastest quarterback in the nation, if he's running in a straight line that is. Just don't expect him to make anybody miss. If Martinez can't run past a defender, he generally runs into them.

For many Husker fans, Martinez is a known commodity. With him, you know what you will get. You will get some explosive plays like his highlight-reel touchdown run against Wisconsin in last season's Big Ten Championship game, but you will also see the head-scratching mistakes that have become a hallmark of watching a Martinez-led offense.

He led the nation in turnovers two years in a row and owns a 0-5 record in conference championship games and bowl games. Martinez has reached his peak as a player, and he may even be declining as his career winds down.

With Martinez, you will get nine or 10 wins, but he will never bring a championship to Lincoln.

At least not with this year's defense.

Yet another reason to go with the promising youngster.

The NU defense is littered with freshmen and sophomores, especially in the front seven. It will take time for them to learn and gain experience, but those same young players could potentially become a force in the next couple years. Players like Vincent Valentine, Josh Banderas, Nate Gerry, Randy Gregory, Maleik Collins and Greg McMullen up front could form into a dominant front seven in the coming years.

So if Armstrong does what Frazier did two decades ago, Bo Pelini would be wise to hand the reins to the hot hand and focus on the future.

Throwing Armstrong into the Big Ten fire would certainly get him battle-tested for some potentially great years to come.

Dylan Guenther is the sports editor for The Columbus Telegram. Contact him at with questions, comments and story ideas. Or follow the Telegram Sports Staff on Twitter at CTelegramSports.

Copyright 2015 Columbus Telegram. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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