We here at CornNation have been disappointed in some of the reaction to the Capital One Bowl loss. While yes, discipline is something that needs to be addressed, there's much more that hasn't been discussed. But hey, that doesn't make for good talk radio, so we get hours and hours of wallowing online. We're not going there. Instead, we're going to look at the team. What do we have to look forward to, and where are the holes? We'll start under center, with quarterbacks.
Tommy Armstrong, HS Verbal
Mike: Barring an injury, Taylor Martinez will be the starting quarterback going into the 2012 season. In other breaking news, water is wet and Steve Pederson doesn't know how to hire football coaches. Really, the question is more about the backup quarterback situation. When the offense is designed to have the quarterback run the ball, injuries are going to happen...and Nebraska has little depth at quarterback. Brion Carnes looked very promising in the 2011 spring game, but less so in mop up duty in two games. He completed 2-of-2 passes for 26 yards, but lost six yards on two carries.
At the start of spring practice last year, it appeared that depth was not an issue at quarterback. That allowed Jamal Turner to switch to wide receiver, where he starred in the spring game and showed some impressive flashes at times in 2011. It's unlikely he'll switch back. Then Kody Spano suffered a career-ending shoulder injury and Cody Green transferred to Tulsa. Bubba Starling put on a Nebraska jersey for picture day, then signed with the Kansas City Royals to play baseball. It'll be important to get some depth on the bench at quarterback, as it's unreasonable to expect Martinez to go injury-free the rest of his career.
Andy: The treatment of Martinez can be expected to mirror last years' through 2012 spring & fall practice and begs the question - why isn't this position open to challenge or competition? It is often said by the coaches & players at NU that you have to win your spot every week..except at QB. I'm not buying the company line that Carnes is, oh, so raw and has so much to learn still. Baloney. This kid was a four year starter in Florida 5A at one school and looked very developed and mature running the spread in his high school film. Nothing I've seen of him in spring and brief appearances changes that opinion.
And by the staff's own admission, Martinez is still very much a work in progress who is still working on mechanics, learning the offense, etc. and is still raw in many ways himself. Why does he get to learn on the job while Carnes must be shielded from the playing field while he develops, to the point of only be allowed brief appearances in two games?
Yes, I'm not a coach and don't see him in practice every day, but still.
It seemed as if Bo & Beck almost went out of their way not give him snaps in games against punching bags, big wins or blowouts. Your starter is a running QB with a history of injury. What possible reason is there not to give your backup as many snaps and as much experience as humanly possible - especially when there are no other QB's on scholly?
I hope I'm wrong on this, but it's almost like a minor version of the Ron Prince/Josh Freeman dynamic - Freeman's tender psyche and aversion to competing for a position, traits Prince played on when recruiting him (along with, um, other "family considerations"), led Prince to not pursue recruiting other QB's of any talent or consequence in his stay at KSU and to make sure the ones he had rarely saw the field, so as not to alarm Josh that even token competition might be looming.
The situation is probably not that extreme here, but I still find it odd that Carnes' exposure was so limited following his impressive spring performance. How was that strong enough to bump him past Cody Green, helping precipitate his transfer, yet resulted in him seeing the field less than last year's 3rd stringer?
Tommy Armstrong has committed but likely won't provide any immediate threat to compete for time, but Devin Fuller might should he come on board. I know this is a day and age in which players transfer left and right the minute the minute their ballyhooed high school career doesn't translate into a college starting job ( see McGuffie, Sam and Gabbert, Tyler), but what will send many others running is the perception that they are not even being allowed to compete for the job.
Mike: The Brion Carnes I saw way-too-briefly this fall looked nothing like the Brion Carnes that impressed me in the spring. I do agree that Nebraska needed to get Carnes much more experience this season, but I don't think the coaching staff is avoiding challenging Martinez. I do think Nebraska needs to turn up the recruiting on quarterbacks because if Carnes isn't ready, somebody else needs to be.
Jon: One thing you guys haven't mentioned is offensive coordinator Tim Beck's play calling. Your OC is supposed to focus on your strengths and downplay your weaknesses. After a full season with Beck calling the plays - tell me - what plays did he have designed to show off Martinez' strengths? What plays (other than handing the ball to Rex Burkhead) did Beck have that allowed Martinez to be a playmaker? (BTW, those are not rhetorical questions - I'd like to see answers in the comments section, even if your answer is "None".)
If there's one thing that's still irking me about Nebraska's offense it's Beck's first season of playcalling. I'll do some separate articles on that, though.