Tomerlin's move changes mind-set, not attitude

Zac Taylor had to feel relieved when he knew former teammate Justin Tomerlin was going to Lincoln. Yes, they were friends, roommates even, but that's not the reason Taylor should have felt so thrilled. Tomerlin was going to be a tight end with Nebraska, not a rush end like he was at Butler, where he made Zac's life on the practice field hell. Well, it's déjà vu all over again and now Taylor isn't looking for Tomerlon in the practice for one reason: To know where not to go

Out of high school, Justin Tomerlin was a pretty highly touted tight end. A ton of big names came after him and one landed him, Justin signing with Florida State. It wasn't until after arriving at FSU, though, did Tomerlin realize that if he wanted to be a tight end with a purpose, Tallahassee probably wasn't the best place to go.


So, off to junior college he went, but not as a tight end, rather something else he ended up being pretty good at nonetheless. Instead of catching balls from QBs, he was going to be deflecting them and doing his best to make sure the quarterback couldn't even get the ball off at all.


Tomerlin became a rush end


Turns out that Tomerlin found himself a niche of sorts and it was something that fit his body just as well as the position he used to play. Maybe even better.


You wouldn't find the offenses in junior college arguing against how effective he was from the defensive end spot, Tomerlin ending this last season with almost 8 sacks and over 15 tackles for loss. For Justin, the mind-set of a defensive player was actually more appealing. "On defense, you just pin it back and go get the guy," he said of going after the QB. "There wasn't a lot of thinking involved, just go get the guy and that's what I liked to do."


Being recruited yet again, there were many that were going after Tomerlin for that position, seeing that his 6 foot, 7 inch frame and 4.7 speed would be hard to stop at the elite collegiate level, similar to how he was effective at the junior college ranks.


It would be irony then that had him committing to Nebraska not as a defensive end, but a tight end instead.


Waxing nostalgic back to the prep days, Tomerlin grabbed that opportunity, especially considering the fact that his JUCO teammate would be the guy probably throwing him the balls. "It was exciting to think about playing on the same side of the ball with Zac," Justin said. "I know what kind of quarterback he is and there's nobody I would want in clutch time more than that guy."


"The more I thought about it, the more I liked it, because I saw a lot of great opportunities to make some plays on that side of the ball."


Up until a few days ago, that's what his itinerary has been, when not struggling through the brutal summer conditioning:


Read the playbook for a couple of hours, go practice seven-on-sevens and repeat it all the next day.


Tomerlin knew after seeing the playbook that he had to do things like that or he simply wasn't going to be ready for the fall. "It's huge, man", he said of the offensive playbook. "It's like a novel or something the thing is so big, so I knew once I got here, that was going to be a big priority."


"I had to put my nose in there and not to take it out until Fall."


Within this last week, though, Tomerlin got both good news and bad news of sorts. Well, it wasn't really news as it was the coaches discussing with him what they had already discussed amongst themselves.


Making the move over


It was when Tomerlin was brought in that they told him of their conversations, but even before they just came out with it, Justin knew what was up. "Well, they were sitting there talking about how they have meetings once a week and talk about what they need as a team," Justin said of head coach Bill Callahan and the assistants. "And they were talking about the rush end spot and all that, but they still never just came out and asked me to move."


"Finally, I just said ‘hey, if you need me to move, I'll move. I'm game for whatever. I'll kick if that's going to help the team'.".


Probably with a sigh of relief, the coaches and Tomerlin agreed and his mind-set went from one side back to the other.


In the long run it's all good for Justin as this is the position he's grown accustomed. It's also a job that won't require him to tote around and memorize the "War and Peace" version of the West Coast offense. The only bad side, though, is that up to this point, he's been thinking about grabbing a few balls from his buddy and former roommate, Zac Taylor and now, he's going back to trying to keep those balls from getting to their guy.


"Yeah, that's the only downer to that, because me and Zac talked about how he kind of knew how I ran and he knew how Frantz (Hardy) ran, so there was some familiarity there," Justin said. "But Zac was ok with it, because he said that he knew what I could do on the other side of the ball as well."


If you are a Husker fan, you've been anticipating Tomerlin filling a very urgent at tight end. With Nebraska probably without the services of their All-Conference tight end in Matt Herian, Tomerlin was a much needed boost to a group that had all of a sudden become full of solid blockers or players with good hands and some with speed, but nobody with the combination of the three.


With Tomerlin there, they would have had that and Justin even said that based on his performance in seven-on-seven drills, he was becoming pretty optimistic. "I don't think I dropped a single ball the whole time," he said. "I was getting the routes down and I was getting that feeling that it was starting to come."


"So, when they talked to me about the move, I was a little surprised."


The surprise probably doesn't stop there as Tomerlin said that as much of a need as there appeared to be on the offensive side, the coaches made it sound like the defensive side needed it more. "They told me they didn't have the quickness they wanted on the open side of the line, opposite Carriker," Justin said. "They said that they thought I had the quickness and ability to be that this year."


"I never really doubted them, because they are the coaches and like I said, I'll do whatever I can for the team."


The move adds to a position that wasn't considered as dire in its need as say the secondary or the offensive line. And it puts even more of an emphasis on the absence at the tight end spot of its most seasoned star.


According to Tomerlin, though, the emphasis, at least this year seems to be a little different than previously thought. "To me, it sounds like there's going to be a lot more three and four-wide sets, with the tight end doing a lot more blocking than they have done in the last couple of years," he said.


"The tight end will get used, but with the way they have this offense down, it sounds like the receivers are going to get a lot of shots."


Tomerlin did say that the coaches told him not to get too used to playing just the rush end spot, because they could still see a use for him on the offensive side as well. But, that's situational stuff and now Tomerlin has his focus and mind squarely on the majority of his future task.


Taking quarterbacks apart


"This defense fits me perfectly in what I like to do," he said. "They say I need to get to the quarterback and that was my whole job back in Butler. Just get off the ball as quick as you can and kill the guy in the backfield."


In the entirety of everything the staff and team has to accomplish as they continue to try and improve, Justin's move over from the tight end side is hardly climactic. Just another move to try and make a position or unit better.


And in retrospect, Tomerlin doesn't regret the fact that he's now going to be playing a position he didn't originally commit to play. "I didn't come to Nebraska just to play tight end," Justin said. "There's so much about this place to like and I knew that no matter what, there were going to be good opportunities for the future."


"That's all I am thinking about, plus what I have to do to help this team. If me being at rush end helps the team more than me being at tight end, I would have moved me to."


"It's not about egos, it's about wins and that's what I came here to do."


One other good thing that Tomerlin will get out of the switch is he'll be able to live it up like he did back at Butler CC. And Zac Taylor, a guy who was thinking that Tomerlin was going to be HIS weapon, now he has to get used to watching for him out of the corner of his eye.


"He'll know where I am at all times," Justin said with a laugh. "I'll make sure of that."


"It should be a lot of fun."

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