The mad scientist is still mad, in that sense.
But Tim Beck, one of his players said, isn’t as red-faced in his second season as Nebraska’s offensive coordinator.
Picture a less-stressed coach who’s a tad calmer at practice and more trusting of his players, both on the field and in the meeting room.
“He still calls himself the mad scientist,” senior tight end Kyler Reed said. “He still gets to yelling once in a while, but I think he’s a little calmer. We’re not installing a whole new offense, which was pretty stressful on the whole team last year.”
Hence, an inconsistent season in which Nebraska ranked 66th nationally in total offense, with its 379.9 yards per game average almost 20 yards fewer than the previous season.
Virtually all of the Huskers’ skill players return — including junior quarterback Taylor Martinez, who’s operating the same offensive system in consecutive years for the first time in his playing career, dating through his high school years.
Naturally, improvements are expected. But exactly how will Beck’s up-tempo, spread-option attack look Saturday against Southern Miss compared with last season?
If fall camp is any indication, vastly improved, says head coach Bo Pelini.
“I’m excited about our offense,” Pelini said. “I think it’s going to be a formidable group. They’re way ahead of where they’ve been. It’s not even close.”
The offense itself, Reed said, is “basically the same stuff.” Now comes the art of perfection. Or trying to perfect.
“(Beck) has less coaching to do," Reed said. "More people know what they’re doing now, so he doesn’t have to stop plays all the time and explain stuff.”
Hence, a more relaxed offensive coordinator. And one who’s grown and matured in the same manner his players have.
Beck, the former running backs coach, said his goal this season is to trust his instincts more and be less hard-headed.
“I just think sometimes there were situations (last year) I wanted to do something or felt like we needed to do something, and was pretty stubborn at trying to do it,” Beck said. “If it wasn’t working, I kept trying to figure out a way to use a bigger hammer and make it fit, as opposed to going to something else.
“That’s part of my growing up. I need to keep trusting my instincts and just doing what I think we need to do as opposed to maybe getting sidetracked and doing something different.”
If you’re thinking of the Wisconsin and Michigan games as examples, guess again. Beck said those games — 48-17 and 45-17 road losses — were simply a result of poor play.
“I think our turnovers took us out of our rhythm,” he said. “Most offenses aren’t very good when you’re down, or you’re behind the chains a lot. We were a lot of both in (those games).”
Beck, noting those issues have been addressed in the offseason and in fall camp, said he has more players — “a lot more” — who “get it” and are on the same page.
“A guy who can’t do it and a guy who won’t do it, there’s not much difference. It’s not getting done,” Beck said, referring to last season. “To put a guy in a position that he doesn’t understand it, it doesn’t do any good. Even though we may think it’s going to work, if he doesn’t get it, it ain’t going to work. You can’t do it.”
Also helping Beck’s cause this season: No coaching changes on his offensive staff, and a better understanding of Big Ten defenses as Nebraska begins its second season in the conference.
“There are no gimmick defenses. They are pretty true to their core,” Beck said. “They are well-coached and they have a system in place. This is what they run, and they kind of make adjustments to stop what you do.
"They’re not going to come out with a completely different (plan), where in the Big 12, you would see a little bit more of that, because of so much spread.”
Until conference play begins Sept. 29, don’t expect Beck to hold back with the playbook. He’ll do what it takes to win.
“Shoot every bullet in your gun,” Beck said.