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Reading Between the Lines With Tim Beck

Fans and the media alike have been pouring through Tim Beck's radio interview last week on the Husker Sports Network, since it's the only public comment Beck has made about his plans to revamp the offense and move forward. That being said, I get the feeling that the media is locking in too much on some aspects of the interview, but we'll have to wait until this fall to really get a good read on where the offense is headed. That being said, you're probably safe making a few assumptions.

Beck has said that he "can't be afraid to start over.  Junk everything and get a system in place."  Good soundbite, but I don't think he's going to junk EVERYTHING. He's going to junk the overall system, and reassemble it from scratch. And frankly, don't be surprised if more than a few things from last year's offense remain. When Beck arrived on the staff three years ago, he brought a lot of the zone read/spread concepts that started to find their way onto the field. Think Beck isn't going to use that as his foundation? What I think Beck is intending is that the overall scheme is going to be completely revamped. When Shawn Watson took over three years ago, he dialed down Bill Callahan's phone-book sized playbook, but the west coast scheme survived.

For three years, anyway.  But that amalgamation is dead.

“A mistake of a lot of football coaches that coach a lot of years in a lot of different places, they tie in so many different philosophies, techniques and verbiage and it becomes a bunch of stuff."

Direct shot at Shawn Watson? Maybe, maybe not. I read it more as an indictment of what Shawn Watson tried to do by trying to marry a spread offense to a west coast scheme. For a previous "Cornhusker Kickoff", I looked back at Watson's history as an offensive coordinator, and I found a coach that tried to adapt his offense to what he had available to him. At times it worked.  But at the end of last season, it didn't.

So Beck is going to start over and lay down a philosophy, and then build a playbook around it. Frankly, I think that playbook that Beck is going to use this spring is going to be based on some of the things that Nebraska did last season. Not everything, mind you. Mostly, the stuff Beck helped implement and resonates with his vision. It'll be a stripped down playbook, because Beck has said he wants to make sure that the team understands and masters what they are trying to do. There always will be time to add plays and tweaks down the line; now is the time to get the core concepts down.

One statement that Beck caught my attention, though I read it a little differently:

“The first thing he's (the quarterback) got to do is be a great leader,” Beck said. “He stands in front of the huddle, talking to the guys and telling them what we're going to do. He's going to have to lead.

“He's got to be able to convince those guys that no matter what, we're going to have success.”

Is that a signal that Taylor Martinez won't be the quarterback going forward? Not in my book. That being said, it's a not-very-subtle message that Martinez needs to heed. I still believe that Taylor Martinez is a special athlete. One problem is that he's still learning how to play quarterback. I believe he has all the physical tools, but he's got to work on the mental tools.

Remember when the hype machine was running at full throttle with the "Martinez for Heisman" campaign? He's still got those physical tools. Jon looked at Martinez in the zone read last September, and pointed out why it worked so well early on. His blazing speed, decisiveness, and his sleight-of-hand made him a difference maker. But that injury he suffered against Missouri robbed him of his blazing speed. Then as a result, he lost his confidence. Suddenly he wasn't decisive, and he wasn't as fast. And the more he played, the less confidence he had...and the end result was the muddled mess we saw in the Holiday Bowl.

I'm assuming that Martinez will get his speed back.  Coaching can help him with his confidence and his decisiveness. But Martinez's biggest issue might be his leadership style, as he's a guy who lets his legs do the talking. Last season, how often did Martinez talk to the media?  And in the offseason, it was his father Casey who was doing the talking. That's something that needs to get unplugged immediately. Taylor has to take control of the situation, and not let his coaches and his father speak for him. It's great to have a father who cares and wants to be involved, but at a certain point, he has to step back and let his son do his job while he sits in the stands watching silently.  (Well, he's more than welcome to cheer loudly from his seat...) Thing is, I think Taylor is fully capable of being that leader, especially when I look back at that October Fox Sports feature and how Taylor helped his father rebuild his life.

And frankly, if Martinez doesn't answer Beck's challenge, it isn't as if there are no other quarterbacks waiting in the wings. Cody Green was a highly regarded recruit, and still could develop into a good quarterback in the right system. Brion Carnes has the bloodlines (second cousin of Tommie Frazier) and has a redshirt season under his belt. Jamal Turner is the flavor of the day as the hotshot recruit who arrived on campus this spring.  And who knows, maybe Bubba Starling really wants to play college football.

As the snow melts, spring football is just a matter of days away, and we'll start getting a picture of where Nebraska's offense is going. Don't make too many assumptions, and we'll see where things develop from here.