Arbuckle the leader Georgia State needs

Nick Arbuckle admits he may not be the tallest, strongest or fastest quarterback.

But just as breezily as he rattles off what he isn’t, he has no problem saying what he is.

“I bring the other 90 percent of what a quarterback is supposed to be: the mental part, the leadership part,” he said. “The kinds of things you see more in games and less in practice; just competing and getting things done.”

It’s those intangibles that pushed coach Trent Miles to pursue Arbuckle over two years to get him to move across the country from California and sign with Georgia State. Those qualities are also why Arbuckle will be the starter when the Panthers open the season hosting Abilene Christian on Wednesday at the Georgia Dome.

“Composed field general that leads our team, gets us into right plays and manages the team,” Miles said. “He doesn’t try to win games on his own. I’m confident Nick will do that.”

Miles may just settle for consistency.

Quarterback has been a question mark for the team since Drew Little quit following the team’s second season in 2011 when Bill Curry was coach. The team has gone through a lengthy list of starters since with little success.

Ronnie Bell, last year’s starter, will be this year’s back-up. Playing behind an offensive line that couldn’t consistently block for the run (Sun Belt-worst 102.2 yards per game) or pass (Sun Belt-worst 32 sacks allowed), Bell passed for 2,573 yards and 15 touchdowns during last year’s 0-12 season, but completed just 50.1 percent of his passes with 11 interceptions.

Some of those problems should be fixed this year. That line has been rebuilt and Arbuckle said he is an effective runner, has a knack for making people miss and has the footwork necessary to avoid sacks.

He almost got away from Georgia State.

Arbuckle spurned the Panthers after his freshman year to return to Pierce Community College in in his native California for the 2013 season because he wanted to finish building something.

Arbuckle led Pierce, which went 3-7 in 2011, to an 18-4 record over two years while passing for nearly 7,000 yards with 73 touchdowns.

He wants to build something similar in Atlanta.

“I liked the idea of going somewhere and starting something new and starting a new tradition,” he said. “Take a team that hasn’t won very many games and bring them into an era of actually winning, possibly winning a conference championship and bowl games.”

Miles has consistently praised Arbuckle’s gym-rat attitude and drive. Miles has frequently found Arbuckle leading film sessions.

Wide receiver Robert Davis is one of several players who have said they have developed good on-field rapport with Arbuckle, who has shown a deft touch with deep balls.

He is usually the only quarterback left still hanging around after practices, throwing ball after ball into a target net in the steamy Georgia summer.

Some of that is to work on fundamentals that he and quarterback coach Luke Huard have been refining. A left ankle injury suffered at Pierce resulted in Arbuckle throwing with a three-quarter motion to avoid putting weight onto his front foot. Arbuckle admits quarterbacks who are 6-1 shouldn’t make themselves shorter by lowering their arm angle.

So, as he has done with many things, he has worked to improve.

It’s more evidence that Arbuckle is bringing what Miles and others hopes to see.

“I’ve been able to win in the past, competed hard wherever I’ve went and tried to come out on top,” Arbuckle said.