LINCOLN — Take two for Tommy Armstrong, Jr.
Nebraska coach Bo Pelini told reporters Thursday that Armstrong, a redshirt freshman, would start at quarterback against Illinois and fifth-year senior Ron Kellogg III would be his backup. Expect both quarterbacks to play, Pelini said.
Four-year starter Taylor Martinez, still suffering from a left turf toe injury, will sit out.
“We’ll start Tommy, Ronnie will be ready to go and Taylor will not play,” Pelini said.
Martinez “is getting pretty close,” Pelini said, to playing, but “until he’s 100 percent and feels comfortable where he can put his foot in the ground and do what he needs to do, we won’t see him. When that time is, I don’t know. I know he’s making progress.”
Armstrong and Kellogg — who combined for 305 passing yards in a 59-20 win over South Dakota State — have continued to practice well in Martinez’s absence, Pelini said. Armstrong “gives you a little bit more of an advantage in the running game,” Pelini said, “but I have confidence in both guys. I’m sure you’ll see both guys in the game.”
Pelini was asked whether Martinez has communicated he’s ready, but Nebraska’s not prepared to play him yet.
“We communicate,” Pelini said. “I’m not telling him he can’t play. Like I said, to be able to play and function in our offense — do what you have to do — he’s got to able to put his foot in the ground and feel comfortable doing that. And that’s where we are.”
A few more quick hits from Pelini’s Thursday availability:
>>Look for redshirt freshman LeRoy Alexander to get more playing time at safety, where he continues to battle for playing time with senior Andrew Green and junior Harvey Jackson.
Sophomore Charles Jackson, Pelini said, is “coming along” but needs to improve communicating with the defense.
“I’m not afraid to put him in the game, but he’s still got a ways to go,” Pelini said.
>>Sophomore David Santos is likely to start at Mike linebacker ahead of true freshman Josh Banderas. Santos was benched after NU’s 37-34 win over Wyoming and demoted to third team. In four weeks, he’s battled back to the starting spot. Banderas is likely to still play.
“There’s two ways you can respond: You can either run and hide or you can fight back. He’s fought back,” Pelini said. “He’s kept a good attitude. He’s just kept working. That doesn’t say anything about where Josh is. I still have a lot of confidence in Josh and like where Josh is as far as what he’s doing. He’ll play in the football game. David should be ahead of where Josh is right now. Josh shows his youth at times.”
>>Nebraska had a poor practice (at least on defense) Wednesday, Pelini, but Thursday’s practice was one of the best since camp started.
“I thought our communication today was probably the best it’s been since we started this camp,” Pelini said. “That in itself — the focus we brought today, the communication we brought today — I thought we had a great meeting today. We talked about a lot of things. Now we’ve got to apply it.”
Video: Nebraska coach Bo Pelini on Thursday