ORLANDO, Fla. -- Familiarity breeds a smile. That's how it was for Brion Carnes on Wednesday, back in his home state for a bowl game and quite enjoying it, thanks.
"I miss The Sunshine State," the redshirt freshman quarterback said after NU's morning practice, a big smile when asked about being home. "I mean, it's all right in Nebraska, but it ain't nothing like Florida, though."
The native of Bradenton, Fla., has been busy helping his family secure tickets for Monday's Capital One Bowl game. He expects 39 relatives to be in attendance to see Nebraska take on South Carolina.
Nebraska's backup quarterback has seen limited snaps behind sophomore starter Taylor Martinez, but says he's made the most of improving himself this season.
"I feel like I've progressed," Carnes said. "I've still got a lot of learning to do, but you can only take it day by day. You never know when your opportunity is going to come. I've got to prepare myself like I'm the starting quarterback. You never know if Taylor may go down in a game and I've got to be ready to step up and lead the team on."
Fans don't know much about Carnes as a player other than his impressive performance in the Spring Game last April.
Offensive coordinator Tim Beck said Wednesday that Carnes has taken positive steps this season, but says Carnes is still a relatively young player.
"It's hard, there's no timetable on him. He's still young, he's still a redshirt freshman," Beck said. "And basically last year, he took very little, if any, snaps at quarterback with the exception of some scout-team quarterback. So it's a complete learning process for the kid going through what he's going through this year. He consistently gets better. He's still inconsistent, which most young players are, and that's a tough thing to be when you're at the quarterback position. He's just got to continue to work on his consistency, because that guy (at quarterback) can cost you a game when he's inconsistent."
Beck said he feels comfortable playing Carnes. Of course, there's just one quarterback position, and Martinez owns it right now.
"At this point right now, especially if I feel like Taylor's in a rhythm and running our offense, Taylor's just further advanced in the game management, identification of defenses, coverages, than Brion is," Beck said.
Like every player, Carnes would rather be playing, but he's staying patient and feels like he's earned the respect of his peers this fall if called on to run the offense.
"At times I kind of feel frustrated, but I'm good," he said. "The coaches, they're a good supporting cast, and my teammates are very supportive of me. They look to me and I think they believe in me if something does happen to Taylor, I believe they'll believe in me to lead the team."
*POSITIVITY IN THE AIR: Two practices in Orlando have produced positive reports from Husker coaches.
Now, there also was some positivity flowing out of practices in San Diego in the days before last year's bowl game, so make what you will of it.
But Beck said Wednesday he's liked the work ethic of the team since its arrival.
"The retention has been good, the tempo's been good," Beck said. "I've been pleased. Obviously, we have a couple days to shore up some of the finer details of the game, but I like where we're at right now."
Beck said he's been "pleasantly surprised" by the team's focus, despite new scenery and all the distractions, including Wednesday's team function at Universal Studios.
"The thing about this football team, and I really appreciate the fact with these guys, when they come to work, they come to work," Beck said. "And they leave all that other stuff behind. And when they have those other opportunities to do what the committee puts on, they go and enjoy those things."
*DEALING WITH THE SPEED: Asked about combating South Carolina's speed, Beck said: "I just think you've got to play fast. You've got to keep watching film and talking about how quick they are. Holes are going to close fast. Those guys run to the football and do a good job, so we just focus on ball security and doing the things we can control. We can't really control that. We just focus on ball security, doing the things that we can control. We've just got to expect it and be ready for it."
Beck said South Carolina's speed is comparable to what Nebraska saw last year from Oklahoma, Texas and Texas A&M.
"Those guys can really run."