There was a time, and it was not that long ago, when Nebraska's Jamal Turner still had a piece of him that wished he played quarterback.

At certain times, it may even have been more than a piece. It may have been the whole pie.

"I was like, 'Ah, I'm athletic, but I still feel like a quarterback, I still wanna play quarterback,'" Turner said.

But that time has been left behind like a feet-twisted defensive back now.

"I wouldn't go back to quarterback if they asked me," Turner said. "There's no way. I feel like I'm too good at the (wide receiver) position. From my route running from this spring to last year, it's night and day. I look like a wide receiver now and I feel like a wide receiver now."

The junior from Arlington, Texas, who was a quarterback when he signed with the 2011 Husker recruiting class, is as confident as he's been since joining the Nebraska program.

And that's worth more than some pocket change, because anybody who knows Turner knows he's always been one confident dude.

But the 6-foot-1, 185-pound Turner began to see the payoff in life as a wide receiver near the end of last season. It started with that game-winning touchdown, the first of his career, against Michigan State.

Then he scored again the next week against Penn State. Then he piled up a career-high six catches against Minnesota. Then he scored again in the bowl game against Georgia.

Turner ended the year with 32 catches for 417 yards, an increase from the 15 grabs for 243 yards he had as a freshman.

That was progress, but now Turner has grander ambitions. And those ambitions aren't limited to receiver. He thinks he'll get a big opportunity as a punt returner, too.

"I feel like I've been here forever. It's really funny, because the younger guys come to me for a lot of things," Turner said. "They watch me run routes, and they're like, 'He's really successful now. He came from ... all these stories that Jamal couldn't learn a play and couldn't run routes to now he's really good.' So they really look for me and they feel they can relate to me because of the situation they're in."

Among other things, Turner's chemistry with quarterback Taylor Martinez seems to have grown significantly.

It was a connection that perhaps didn't really take off until the two hooked up with five seconds left in East Lansing, Mich., last fall.

"You're not going to come into an offense, where you don't know anything about the quarterback, don't know how he throws, and think that, 'Hey, your chemistry's going to be perfect,'" Turner said. "Over time, you build that relationship with a quarterback, and that's what I've done with Taylor."

During the first year-and-half of his career, after Turner captured Husker fans' imaginations with a spring game touchdown and flip into the end zone, it was common to hear people ask why Turner wasn't getting the ball more.

Turner can answer that question.

"I've watched film (from his freshman year) and I looked terrible," he said. "I'm thinking, 'Why did they play me?' I'm running straight lines. Just terrible. I've come a long way. I'm really proud of myself, but this isn't the time to stop working hard."

He needs to continue to watch film, he said. Not just of himself, but of great receivers. He names Jerry Rice and Wes Welker.

Among the specifics Turner still wants to improve is yards after a catch.

"I feel like a lot of times, I was just so worried about, 'Hey, catch the ball, catch the ball, catch the ball,'" Turner said. "Now it's, 'Catch the ball and let's go try to make a play.'"

It's also the time to help younger players. Wide receivers coach Rich Fisher says he has seen the veterans such as Turner, Quincy Enunwa and Kenny Bell take a high level of ownership in that position group's room.

They're trying to bring along young players such as Jordan Westerkamp, Alonzo Moore and Tyler Evans to build depth that will help them stay fresh for the long haul of the season.

"They want and understand that we're only as good as our weakest link," Fisher said. "I'll give you an example: We were talking about our (Thursday) scrimmage and about preparing like you're going to have a game, and getting in your playbook and understanding it. And Kenny said, 'If anybody needs anything, let me know, give me a call, I'll help.' That's what you want from an older guy. He understands that their success is going to make him successful."

Turner said he gets that, too. He's no longer the young up-and-comer. It's his time to lead.

Because, leaders and playmakers are necessary if Nebraska's offense is going to meet the expectations Turner has for it this fall.

"Our goal is to be the best offense. Not just in the Big Ten. But the country."

Reach Brian Christopherson at bchristopherson@journalstar.com or 402-473-7439. You can follow him on Twitter @HuskerExtraBC.