LINCOLN — The race for Nebraska’s No. 2 quarterback lost a horse on Thursday when coach Mike Riley announced that sophomore Johnny Stanton, a much-ballyhooed prospect in the 2013 recruiting class, was transferring from the program.
Stanton redshirted in his first year on campus, served as Nebraska’s No. 3 quarterback last season and appeared to be the fifth-string quarterback — behind almost-certain starter Tommy Armstrong and backups AJ Bush, Zack Darlington and Ryker Fyfe — heading out of Nebraska’s spring camp.
“Johnny Stanton informed me this afternoon that he has chosen to transfer to another institution to continue his college career,” Riley said in a statement. “Johnny is an outstanding young man and we wish him the very best moving forward.”
Stanton said he is headed to Saddleback College in Mission Viejo, California, which is near his home in Rancho Santa Margarita. He’ll play one year there, then “look at what’s next after that.” He chose to transfer, he said in an interview, after Nebraska offensive coordinator Danny Langsdorf told Stanton earlier this month the quarterback wouldn’t be on the 105-man roster for training camp. Players who aren’t on the roster must wait until school begins to join practice.
“They wanted to let me know early on, which I appreciated, because it could have been a tough situation waiting until July or early August,” Stanton said.
Although he could have kept his scholarship and stayed on the team, he wasn’t sure his playing time situation would have improved with another year. Stanton leaves NU having completed one pass for six yards in the 2014 season opener against Florida Atlantic.
Riley also announced redshirt freshman slot receiver Glenn Irons wouldn’t be returning to the program. A call to Irons’ cell phone was greeted with a “not reachable” error message.
Irons worked as a backup slot receiver to Jordan Westerkamp and as one of Nebraska’s new “jet sweep” runners. He was one of three players from New Orleans Edna Karr High School who signed as part of the Huskers’ 2014 recruiting class.
None remain. None played a down at Nebraska.
Linebacker Jaevon Walton left NU before his first fall camp and transferred to Northwestern State. Wideout Jariah Tolbert, after two marijuana-related incidents with campus police, transferred to Arizona Western College.
Stanton, a standout quarterback out of Rancho Santa Margarita (California) Catholic High School, picked Nebraska over Oregon, Wisconsin and other schools. He then became an Elite 11 quarterback in ESPN and Nike’s much-publicized competition.
In the fifth week of his senior prep season, however, Stanton tore the ACL in his left knee. He got surgery and redshirted his first year at Nebraska, serving on the scout team. As a redshirt freshman in 2014, he made no particular dent in the depth chart — Armstrong won the job and Fyfe was clearly the backup based on training camp practices — as Bush and Darlington redshirted. Stanton was the first to greet Riley in December when the new coach arrived at Nebraska, but once Bush and Darlington joined the fray, Stanton dropped behind them, too.
“I know I didn’t play as well as I should have in spring ball,” said Stanton, who added he’s working on his passing accuracy and returning to the play-making instincts that served him well in high school.
In the 2015 spring game, Stanton was relegated to the second half. He played poorly, completing just 3 of 11 passes for 19 yards with one interception.
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