The Countdown to Spring: Quarterback

Sure, there's lots of other sports, but you can't help but think of spring. Don't feel bad. It's not your fault. You are obsessed. Well, that's what we are here for: to feed that obsession as you are already piecing together just what Nebraska will look like for 2006, which includes how they will and should do in spring, what will be the keys during the off-season, a little speculation about the fall and we'll even touch on recruiting for these positions and just what Nebraska needs to do.

Zac Taylor proved a few things last year:

 

-                      He proved that he was extraordinary in learning the Oakland Raider playbook as fast as he did.

-                      He proved that his age and junior college experience in this type of offense gave him the maturity to make plays with his arm and even his feet. The touchdown to the back of the end zone to Todd Peterson epitomized the reasonTaylor is at Nebraska and the reason expectations are so high for him this season.

-                      He proved that he could take ownership of the offense and be not only its most prolific player, but one of its most respected. Regardless of all the hits Taylor took, he said nary a word to his linemen, who saw Taylor get dropped to the turf consistently all season.

-                      He proved he could take a pounding

-                      He proved that as the season went along, his progression went with it, Taylor limiting his mental mistakes more and more as the year wore on and late in the game he always seemed to make plays.

 

With everything Taylor was able to accomplish in only his first year as a Husker, his last year will be one where people will not be surprised by the big plays and the mental sturdiness. They will expect it instead.

 

That savvy in being able to stay in the pocket and deliver the ball even when he knows he's going to get pummeled. That patience in being able to go through is progressions, check down whether he's in our outside of the pocket and the awareness to know when he needs to tuck and go, throw it away or put the ball away and take the sack.

 

They say you can't teach speed. Well, you can't teach maturity either. Only experience gives you that, but Taylor seems to have matured even faster than expected.

 

Going into Spring there isn't much you are going to learn from Taylor that you didn't already know. What will be more important is seeing how the chemistry continues to develop between he and his group of receivers.

 

Tyrell Spain will be added to this group and he'll be a welcome addition as his size and ability to make catches in coverage will be invaluable as will his ability to make plays downfield.

Lydon Murtha and comnpany will be
under a lot of pressure to keep Taylor
much safter this season than last.

 

What you won't learn this spring, or at least to any major degree is if the pass protection is going to be any better this year than it was last year. The absolutely abysmal protection Taylor was getting had Zac looking at the clouds as often as he was looking down the field. Lydon Murtha, Matt Slauson and Chris Patrick will be better, but will it be good enough? Also, if Cornealius Fuamatu-Thomas does indeed return to the field, he's got the experience and at least the size to make for some competition before August arrives.

 

One other key in pass protection for Taylor will be if any of the running backs can step up and replace the departed Cory Ross. If not for Ross you could have added another 10 or so sacks to the already formidable number given up by this team.

 

One of the biggest reasons both Marlon Lucky and Cody Glenn didn't see the field as early as they did was because both were having troubles with blocking and knowing where to be in that respect.

 

Brandon Jackson is having surgery on his other shoulder, so he's a physical presence that will be missed. And Leon Jackson will probably have similar struggles to Lucky and Glenn as he tries to acclimate to being at running back, apparently for good this time. The x-factor could be Kenny Wilson, but that won't be known until Fall when he arrives, so it's up to the still very young backfield to pick it up,  which includes picking up a few defenders as well.

 

Nebraska was very fortunate in the fact that Taylor didn't get knocked out of a game until toward the end of the season when Nebraska faced off at home against Kansas State . I doubt, though, that Nebraska wants to push their luck, especially when they don't know just what they are going to get as far as pass-protection this year.

 

Beck HAS to get some quality reps this
season.
That brings up possibly one of the biggest questions, but not just for this year, but the year after that: Will Harrison Beck get any reasonable amount of reps in 2006?

 

It's one thing to have a junior quarterback leading the way and your true freshman QB learning as he goes. You have that luxury if your starter stays healthy, you can work your back up in gradually.

 

The staff didn't get that done, stating that the situations during games this last season dictated that they couldn't put Beck in, but didn't have any choice when Zac went down during the second to last game of the regular season.

 

They can't afford to let the situations dictate their rotation this year, because it could mean that as a potential junior in 2007, Harrison won't be anymore experienced than fellow QB Beau Davis.

 

There were some games last year, specifically Maine and Wake Forest , where Beck could have gotten in. You should expect at least a couple of games this season to be like that as well. It's imperative that Beck not just get the practice reps, which we know he'll get, but actual game reps. If Taylor goes down again, do you think Beck hitting one out of six passes, including an interception will work out as well as it did the year before?

 

When it comes to recruiting the staff is in urgent mode, having to get at least one quarterback, probably two.

 

And they better be good

 

You can probably get away with getting one slam dunk and one project, but one of the quarterbacks has to be seen as a kid that has a legit shot to start his first year even if you don't expect him to.

 

The top candidate right now is Ryan Mallet, the staff even admitting that there was a young man down in Texarkana, who was someone they were focusing in on. Of course, they didn't say his name, but since his appearance at the first annual Nebraska Quarterback Academy as a sophomore, the eyes of the Huskers have been upon this Texas prep star.

If Nerbaska gets a top ten quarterback,
Bates would make a perfect addition
as a potential playmaker under center.

 

If Nebraska can get one of the many studs at the position this year, that gives them the ability to go after guys that aren't instantaneous starters, but could be seen as legit candidates for the position down the road.

 

Omaha North's Phillip Bates Jr. is a perfect candidate as he brings great versatility with his legs, but a raw approach at throwing the ball. Bates has the potential to be pretty darn good, however.

 

He's got a very quick release, a strong arm and he has shown at times, even when he's outside of the pocket, he's still looking for receivers down the field. Bates insists on being a quarterback and if he's patient enough to let a team develop him into one that can compete on a consistent basis at the Division 1-A level of play, he'd be a quality pick up for the big red.

 

Right now, though, it's Taylor-time. He's figuratively and literally taken his hits his first year and came out of it mentally stellar and physically proven in being able to do the job. He's got the respect of his teammates and most definitely the coaches. He'll also have a more seasoned group of receivers and when the fall arrives, if everyone qualifies, he'll have a very impressive set of weapons to break in.

 

For any offense, the quarterback position is always the most important, because everything revolves around their ability to make plays and not make a lot of mistakes. From the start of 2005 to the end, Taylor improved dramatically in doing and not doing just that.

 

What will be the most key is his ability to take that next step and he appears to be on track.

 

Now he's just going to need a little help.

 

That takes us to the next segment and what is arguably the second most important position on the field: Offensive Line. This group has a lot to improve and a lot of holes to fill and we'll go over our analysis, tell you if we think they will do just that and see how much recruiting has helped them and how urgent this position is in recruiting for 2007.

 

Stay Tuned


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