After pondering Athlon Sports’ declaration of Nebraska’s wide receivers as the cream of the B1G’s crop and how this might make or break Taylor Martinez, another thought blindsided me.
When fans and the media discuss Martinez’s maturation, quarterback guru Steve Calhoun seems to enters the conversation more often than not.
Perhaps injuries kept T-Magic from improving last season, although I don’t recall him being dinged up too badly. There’s also the excuse that no one has been able to help him work on his technique.
Tim Beck would like to point out that since he was installing a new offense last year, he didn’t have time to help Taylor improve as a quarterback, let alone any backups.
With former Husker quarterback Joe Ganz as a graduate assistant, not to mention Martinez’s main tutor in Lincoln, it makes you wonder why Nebraska can’t have a “true” quarterbacks coach on staff.
The last time I checked, we’re talking about a guy who handles the ball on every snap. Installing the offense in the spring and fall makes sense, but come the end of September, I doubt addressing quarterback issues suddenly becomes priority No. 1.
That Calhoun threw Beck and the staff under the bus – on purpose or accidentally – bothers me. That no quarterbacks coach is on staff, but Nebraska has two full-time offensive line coaches and another as a graduate assistant bothers me.
Don’t get me wrong, the line actually got better last year with Barney Cotton, John Garrison and Brenden Stai working to improve a youthful bunch. However, the group’s performance went from abysmal to serviceable.
The level of the line’s play last year was appropriately measured by other programs in the Big Ten. Wisconsin was a prime example, being able to shove defensive lines aside for Montee Ball.
Regardless of their struggles, Nebraska was still No. 15 in the nation when running the ball averaging 215 yards per game. That doesn’t translate to being the best in the B1G though, as Nebraska was third behind Wisconsin and Michigan.
The Huskers were easily middle-of-the pack last year on offense, ranking No. 66 in total offense and No. 55 in scoring offense.
What does all of this mean?
For what Nebraska seems to be sacrificing in terms of quarterback development, they are only getting moderate returns from their offensive line with a litany of coaches helping out.
When you add the down year of Kyler Reed in 2011, keeping in mind that John Garrison is also the tight ends coach, you see even more effort being taken away from key areas.
As recruits like Tommy Armstong – and knock on wood – Johnny Stanton come to Lincoln to take over Taylor’s spot, Nebraska can’t keep outsourcing development.
Unless the Huskers hire Steve Calhoun, a quality coach needs to be identified, and dare I say one of the offensive line coaches needs to be shown the door or reassigned.
For those that think Taylor will be just fine in 2012, here’s a riddle for you. One that I can’t seem to answer:
Shawn Watson was a fairly good offensive coordinator when Bo took over. Joe Ganz had worked with Watson when Bill Callahan was in Lincoln.
Ganz had a good 2008, throwing at a 68 percent completion rate and for almost 3,600 yards. Don’t forget, Watson was desired by some high-caliber programs at the time, including Alabama’s Nick Saban.
In 2009, there was a clear step down in production as Zac Lee only threw for 2,100 yards, but the running game improved.
Moving on to 2010, when Taylor started over Lee and Cody Green, there was no offense to learn per se, because Martinez was a redshirt freshman and had already been exposed to Watson’s system.
Three quarterbacks who were considered good, but not great were on the roster. Where was the development then? Interestingly, Nebraska didn’t field a full allotment of assistant coaches that season.
At the end of the year, Watson stepped away from the Husker program, barely able to find work at Louisville before eventually becoming the offensive coordinator.
How did Watson go from one of the hottest coordinators in America to being fortunate enough to not sack groceries 12 months’ time?
Is this quarterback development problem due to Beck or is something else standing in the way of progress? Why should a guru from California have to adjust what Taylor hasn’t been able to fix in Lincoln in almost four years?
If you can solve that puzzle, we need to hit up Vegas.
Follow Brian on Twitter: @btbowling