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2011 Mar 09

SPRING FOOTBALL: Presser Notes

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By HuskerLocker

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Notes and thoughts from Nebraska's spring press conference:

***Taylor Martinez didn't appear at the presser. No surprise there. But offensive coordinator Tim Beck quickly praised the sophomore incumbent at quarterback for his work during winter conditioning.

“He's been tremendous this offseason,” Beck said. “I've been very, very, very pleased with him. There's more confidence in him.”

Why? Because Martinez is no longer behind the learning curve on Shawn Watson's West Coast Offense. In 2010, he was three spring practices behind Zac Lee in terms of knowledge and one behind Cody Green. Beck intimated that Martinez had to play catch-up and left him frustrated – even if it didn't prevent him from starting.

This year Martinez – along with the rest of the quarterbacks – are starting from scratch.

Wide receiver Brandon Kinnie – one of Martinez's closer friends on the team – said No. 3 has begun to lead the “break out” yell in the weight room. It's just yelling “1, 2, 3, Team!” but it's a start.

He's going to have a slight advantage heading into spring camp.

***With Cameron Meredith out for spring rehabbing his shoulder, Carl Pelini mentioned four guys whom he's excited to see fill Pierre Allen's spot for the fall and Meredith's for the spring: Josh Williams, Jason Ankrah, Eric Martin and Kevin Thomsen. Guys he didn't mention: Redshirt freshmen Walker Ashburn, Tobi Okuyemi and Donovan Vestal.

Look for Ankrah and Williams to get the longest looks, with Martin continuing to develop into the position – remember, he's never taken a redshirt year – and Thomsen serving as a backup.

***It's not that Collins Okafor, Lester Ward and Austin Jones won't have their chances to make an impression on Beck and new running backs coach Ron Brown and “stake their claim” this spring. They will. But Beck seemed more interested in the “three new guys” coming in the fall: Aaron Green, Braylon Heard and Ameer Abdullah.

“All three of those guys possess something we don't have,” Beck said. “It's lot easier to call plays when a guy can go 90 yards on one play than to have me call 10 or 12 in a row.”

Brown will help instill the tradition of what Beck calls “Running Back U.”

“What better guy to teach about the legacy of the program, the toughness it takes, the integrity?” Beck said. “What better coach than Ron Brown?”

Beck said he's not sure yet whether NU needs a “big back” to attack Big Ten defenses.

***Whereas NU used Peso personnel roughly 90 percent of the time last year – that included safeties Eric Hagg and Dejon Gomes as hybrid linebackers – Bo Pelini expected that number to go down in the Big Ten, where offenses feature a “more physical” running game.

Defensive coordinator Carl Pelini said he'll try to match up “the best 11” with a base personnel package first. Hagg and Gomes were part of that “best 11” last year; both have a chance to be picked in the upcoming NFL Draft. The “best 11” may include linebackers Will Compton and Sean Fisher this time, if consistent replacements aren't found for Gomes and Hagg. Carl Pelini said he had some players in mind for Hagg's spot; he didn't say which guys they were. LaVonte David, he said, is too good of a linebacker to be a candidate for that job.

***Speaking of David, Carl Pelini said the senior from Miami may benefit the most of all his defensive players from a spring practice. David didn't have one last year – although he drove up from Fort Scott (Kan.) Community College a few times in 2010 to watch Mike Ekeler direct the linebackers – and still broke the school record for tackles.

“His understanding of what we're doing will double from what it was in the fall,” Pelini said.

Why? Because David is a “student of the game,” Pelini said, spending the the last few months breaking down tape on his play last year.

“He's very analytical about it, watching his successes, watching his mistakes,” he said. “Getting a different view of how he could do things differently, how he could expand his vision. This offseason will be great for him.”

***Bo Pelini typically starts his opponent review later in the offseason. That's because conference foes generally carry over coaches and schemes from year to year. The Big Ten, obviously, is a new league for the Huskers, which equates to, essentially, 11 new opponents for 2011. (NU has played Washington twice in the calendar year).

“I started early this year,” Bo said. “As we all did. You wonder why I haven't been available to talk to the media a lot? We have to do some work. Getting the coaches on the same page. Moving ahead philosophically.”

Defensive coordinator Carl Pelini said the coaching staff treated each new Big Ten team “as if we were playing them next week.”

“Looked at their run game, their pass game,” Carl Pelini said. “We did that prior to putting our playbook together just to see if we could account for everything. There's nothing we haven't seen, but different teams have different emphases.”

In general, the Brothers Pelini agreed, the Big Ten is “a more physical brand”of football with “more downhill running.”

We asked if the offensive lines in the Big Ten are better than the ones in the Big 12. Carl Pelini scoffed. NU faced plenty of good offensive line in the Big 12 – Oklahoma and Colorado among them.

Overall, the Big Ten is a bit more homogenous, the Brothers Pelini said.

“You're still going to have to defend the quarterback stuff and the zone read,” Carl said. “You're still going to have to defend some pretty elaborate passing games. The physical nature of some teams – there's more of that.”

***There are a few distinct differences between former secondary coach Marvin Sanders and new coach Corey Raymond. Carl Pelini called Raymond “a technician.” Senior cornerback Alfonzo Dennard raved about Raymond's teaching skills while lamenting the loss of Sanders, whom he saw as a “father figure.”

Of Raymond, Dennard said: “He's terrific. He knows about his technique. He meets with us every other day and just go out there and help us with technique. Last year, Coach Sanders, he'll helped us out on technique but not like Coach Raymond.”

Tags: spring football 2011, taylor martinez, tim beck, jason ankrah, josh williams, carl pelini, bo pelini, ron brown, corey raymond, alfonzo dennard, lavonte david

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