Heading into the spring practice for the 2014 college football season, the Georgia State Panthers opened up the competition for the starting quarterback slot.
The Panthers, fresh off a 0-12 season, started then redshirt sophomore Ronnie Bell at quarterback.
The six foot one inch Camarillo, California native Nick Arbuckle emerged to win the Quarterback competition.
Arbuckle came to Georgia State from Pierce College in Los Angeles after a highly productive two seasons for the Brahmas. Arbuckle assumed the starting position and never looked back in 2014.
He took the field for the Panthers and led them to a win during the first game of the season against Abilene Christian on a late game-winning drive in his first start as a Panther.
Arbuckle threw for 413-yards on opening night along with four touchdown passes and continued his success throughout 2014. His name now lies throughout the young Georgia State football record book for his 2014 season.
He broke the school’s record for passing yards in a season with 3,283 yards, 23 touchdowns and completions with 259, along with total offense 3,293 total yards and touchdown responsibility with 25 total touchdowns. With all that production on the field, Arbuckle will look to be even better in 2015 for the Panthers.
New and Improved
This off-season, Arbuckle went looking for ways to improve that best quarterback season in Georgia State football’s brief history. He felt he needed to cut down on his interceptions.
“I had to focus mostly on not turning the ball over,” Arbuckle said. “So I studied a lot on the things that caused those turnovers,” Arbuckle said. Arbuckle threw 17 interceptions last season.
This can partly be attributed to the Panthers struggling running attack that allowed defenses to anticipate passing situations and the high volume of usage of the pass.
But Arbuckle studied himself this offseason and found things that he could do mechanically to improve in 2015 and fulfill his goal of lowering his turnovers.
Arbuckle noticed that his feet and eyes were not on the same page last season and that led to the ball being a little off at times and sometimes a bit late.
“I would see a throw, and I’d throw it, but my feet wouldn’t be in there. So I wouldn’t be as accurate and as powerful as I could be because my feet weren’t in place,” Arbuckle said.
For a quarterback, rhythm and timing are vital to being successful as there is limited time to get what needs to be done on a given play.
“One of the biggest things I’ve worked on this whole off-season is getting my eyes and my feet to work together,” Arbuckle said. “That wherever my feet go, my eyes go and vice versa. To make sure I’m always in a good position to make an accurate throw and that’s done a tremendous job cutting down turnovers.”
The results have been evident early as turnovers in camp have been limited not just for Arbuckle but the entire offense. Arbuckle doesn’t recall there being many turnovers thus far in the pre-season camp.
“I think as an offense we’ve only had one or two interceptions all fall camp,”Arbuckle said.
The work Arbuckle put into his throwing mechanics this offseason has been noticed by his tight end, Joel Ruiz. Ruiz sees the difference in Arbuckle and thinks he is more comfortable and confident.
“He’s definetly getting more confident in his deep balls, and his touch is better too,” Ruiz said.
Comfort Equals Confidence
Arbuckle appears to be more settled in and comfortable with everything going on around him, the offensive system, the coaching staff, his abilities and his teammates’ abilities.
He is now in his second season in the offense, which means he will be making decisions at a faster pace because of the familiarity of assignments and knowledge of what the players around him are capable of.
“I think he feels a little bit more comfortable as far as making decisions,”Offensive Coordinator Jeff Jagodzinski said. “We need to make sure he cuts down on his interceptions. It’s going to happen, [and] you’re going to have interceptions, but not make bad ones where you’re just throwing the ball away.”
This comfort means confidence. Confidence is important to any athlete. A confident athlete will be able to accomplish great feats. Some of the greatest athletes of all time such as Muhammed Ali, Michael Jordan, Deion Sanders, were known for their supreme confidence and ability to bet on themselves and back it up.
This confidence figures to make Arbuckle even more dangerous to opponents in 2015 and one of best quarterbacks in the world of college football.
Follow the Leader
Playing the quarterback position requires a player that has the leader factor. The player must also be able to show his teammates that he is worth following.
Thus, the right to lead a group of peers must be earned on the field. Arbuckle‘s 2014 solidified his teammates believe in him.
The 2014 season earned the right for Arbuckle to show one of his strongest attributes as a player; his leadership.
“He’s a leader, and he knows the game,” coach Jagodzinski said, “he’s a guy everybody can look up to.”
Arbuckle admits he feels his role as a leader has changed because he now has the trust of the team after 2014. He acknowledged that being new to the program called for him to be a leader by example at first, rather than being the vocal leader he is now.
“Whenever you’re first into a program, it’s kind of feeling where even if guys think you do something you have to show them first,” Arbuckle said “You first have to lead by example before they start following everything you say.”
Seeing Arbuckle’s huge impact on the field has convinced his teammates to follow his lead. Arbuckle’s hard work leads Coach Jagodzinski to describe him as a “gym rat.”
He’s famous for being the first guy into and last guy out of the Georgia State football facilities on a daily basis.
“He’s the epitome of a hard working quarterback and everything a quarterback should be. He knows his stuff,” Ruiz said. “They turn the lights off on him watching a film, [and] you’ve got to drag him out of here.”
This type of work ethic in a star player can be contagious and rub off on the younger players, young quarterbacks especially.
Arbuckle is a good player for the present, but the foundation that he is putting down and the example he is setting will bode well for the program in the future.
The young quarterbacks on the team’s roster freshman Aaron Winchester, redshirt sophomore Brett Sheehan, redshirt freshman Emiere Scaife are all getting to bear witness to how the day to day operations of being a college quarterback work.
These same lessons that can be learned watching Arbuckle will help the Panthers in their search for his heir as the starting quarterback for the Georgia State Panthers in 2016 and beyond.
At present, Arbuckle and all his attributes have him squarely entrenched as a mainstay in the panther’s offense and the face of the program.