Nebraska Football First Practice, 8.4.12

Nebraska offensive coordinator Tim Beck talks to his players during the first practice for the Husker football team on Saturday, Aug. 4, 2012, at Hawks Championship Center.

So, perhaps you crave stress.

Nebraska offensive coordinator Tim Beck can tell you about stress.

Try joining a new conference and installing a complex offense, in one fell swoop.

Factor in the conference's reputation for rugged and intelligent defense.

Suffice it to say Beck's stress level has decreased considerably from last year at this time.

Last August, as Nebraska installed Beck's diverse spread system, players' heads were spinning. The coaches' heads were spinning.

Not now.

Then to now is like going from calculus to addition, Beck says.

"It was like a whole different language for the players last year," he says.

I've long found that we often learn more and more about a certain season as time passes. As months elapse, we get closer to the truth.

We're now learning that Nebraska's challenges on offense last season were even more numerous and impactful than we realized at the time.

We're learning the Huskers experienced confusion a lot of the time during Beck's first season as the team's coordinator.

Challenges or excuses? You be the judge.

Making adjustments at halftime was harder than under regular circumstances, Beck says. Remember, Nebraska's assistants were teaching Beck's offense for the first time. Never mind the players' issues -- the coaches also were learning to work together.

"They may know the play, and how to coach the play, but how does that play tie into something else?" Beck says.

Nebraska finished 9-4, including 5-3 in the Big Ten. In losses to Wisconsin, Michigan and South Carolina, the Huskers were outscored by a combined 63-10 in the second half.

Nebraska didn't always seem discombobulated in the second half of games. Far from it. On the season, the Huskers outscored teams 198-173 after halftime (although foes held a 107-88 advantage in the fourth quarter).

Halftime adjustments were just one issue.

Nebraska's style of offense isn't necessarily pervasive in the Big Ten. So, as Husker offensive coaches watched film to construct a game plan, they often found themselves trying to guess how a team might defend NU.

Once games began, defenses often looked different than what Nebraska players and coaches had studied on film.

"So you had to make adjustments right away," Beck says. "You'd say, 'OK, they're going to play us like this, so let's run this play.' So, we'd run that play and then say, 'Oh, OK, so this is how they're going to stop that play.' So then we'd have to run this (other) play.

"So there might have been three adjustments before we got it right. Other times, the defense would do what we thought it would do, and we were OK."

Nebraska wound up 66th nationally in total offense, averaging 379.9 yards per game, 18.2 fewer than the previous season. The Huskers averaged 29.2 points last season compared to 30.9 in 2010.

Beck saw plenty he liked last season.

"You have a base in place, and I think the system is designed to be flexible," he says. "Because of that, we were able to bend when we needed to bend."

We're conditioned to believe teams improve in the second year in a particular system. I'm guessing that will be the case with Nebraska's offense in large part because its complexity severely tested some players, especially the younger ones.

Receivers, for instance, must recognize coverages and adjust routes accordingly, often on the fly.

"I didn't really know defenses too well," says sophomore receiver Jamal Turner. "In a perfect world, the look you see from a defense before the snap stays the same. That never happens. Most often a safety rolls down, or a corner drops back.

"Coach tells us to keep our eyes up."

Turner says he now understands the offense much better.

Quarterback Taylor Martinez also should be more comfortable.

"Number one, he has a bank of reps now," Beck says. "So, if we're running a play, and he ran it last fall, and he ran it this past spring, and now he's running it again, he's getting a better understanding. You can teach the detail of it a little bit more."

Martinez threw only two interceptions (in 165 attempts) during the last seven regular-season games.

"He was growing at running our team and audibiling, and not putting the team in bad situations," Beck says.

Nebraska coaches emphasize the importance of players educating themselves as the offense continues to evolve.

"You cannot show them everything that goes on," Beck says. "You're really coaching them how to be coaches on the field and to be able to adjust and adapt as things go on.

"There are a lot of different things, especially in the system we run, that nobody is really telling a player -- he just has to learn it."

They often learned the hard way last season.

"The way the terminology and the way the system is presented, it's like a jigsaw puzzle," says Beck, meaning one right answer can lead to another -- and perhaps to improvement in Year Two.

Reach Steven M. Sipple at 402-473-7440 or ssipple@journalstar.com.


Husker columnist

Steven, a lifelong Nebraskan, newspaper enthusiast and UNL grad, joined the Journal Star in 1990 and has covered NU football since 1995.

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