LINCOLN — Little things, little things, the ones that lead to big things. Consider that the theme of Nebraska quarterback Taylor Martinez's monthlong homework assignment, also known as offseason camp.
He's a fourth-year starter. He's in the third year of coordinator Tim Beck's offense. In the long interview he gave just before the Huskers took spring break, he talked of leaps made between Year One and Year Two in the Beck attack, and how Year Three is rooted in sharpening the details that came into focus late in 2012.
Knowing how to block the basic running play against more types of blitzes. Knowing how to move a safety with his eyes. In NU's opening practice, Martinez flashed a slightly more efficient gallop to keeping the ball on a zone read. Little things.
At the top of the list: Reading defenses better before the snap. The better he sees it, the quicker NU's no-huddle offense can move. And Beck has stated openly that however quickly it moved last year, he wants another gear.
“We'll be at a faster pace,” Martinez said. “It's going to change a little bit. It's all on me, if I can read the defense, if they're blitzing or they're not blitzing. Just seeing what the defense is doing. If we're in the correct play. If we're not in the correct play it doesn't matter how fast we're going — it'll get stuffed.”
When Beck unveiled the very briefest glimpse of his offense to a Football 202 audience in the summer of 2011, he explained the homespun underpinnings of his philosophy: “Go where they're not.” But to do that means knowing where they are — and where they'll be.
So on Beck's direction, Nebraska defenders this spring have tried to bluff the Huskers' offense in all kinds of ways, wide receiver Jamal Turner said.
“Our defense tries to confuse (Martinez) in whatever defense they're in,” Turner said. “For the most part, he picks everything up. He's not hesitant.”
Neither, Turner said, are the starting trio of receivers. He, Kenny Bell and Quincy Enunwa have been looking at the same defenses — often at the same time — for the two years Martinez has. Since Beck's “get open” mantra relies to some extent on an almost symbiotic relationship between the quarterback and receiver, the bond strengthens with experience.
In 2013, Turner said, the receivers can often see the same coverage patterns that Martinez does. When a coverage “rolls” to one side or receiver — for example, to bracket cover Bell on a fly route — Turner can see it. If a safety is the over-the-top guy on Bell, it can open up Turner on the post.
Conversely, Turner said, the receivers are getting better at identifying coverages that might not favor a certain route. The kinds of routes that have led, in the past, to interceptions.
“I feel like when we did have a lot of our turnovers — when Taylor threw a pick or something like that — it's because he wasn't really sure,” Turner said. “And when we can help him out, we can help eliminate some of those turnovers.”
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