Official Husker Locker Blog
2010 Apr 17
SPRING GAME: Commentary: Jury Still Out on QB
You didn’t see a bunch of NU’s retooled running attack in the Red/White Spring Game. But you saw enough to know this much: It’s quicker, more aggressive and more dangerous than last year. It’s power spread stuff, a hybrid of Florida, Oregon, Baylor, West Coast stuff and old-school Tom Osborne.
“And then we’re coming up with our own twist,” offensive coordinator Shawn Watson said.
The line splits are wider. The targets and blocking assignments are simpler. The running backs - especially Rex Burkhead but even Roy Helu - are more decisive. Sweeps and veer plays and counters. A seven-yard shotgun formation and a quick-hitting four-yard formation, which offensive line coach Barney Cotton wanted to make sure was not called the Pistol.
Well, call it effective, either way, for the Red/White Spring Game - to the tune of 259 rushing yards.
“We studied football hard this winter,” Watson said. “We had a great winter. Our kids are grasping it. We sat down to make things easier, faster. More aggressive attitude. They did a great job. I’m talking our offensive line, our tight ends. Our receivers are huge.”
And when redshirt freshman Taylor Martinez is the guy running the zone read, that defense is on skates. Heck the White Defense, for several drives, was doing the roller derby, waiting for Martinez to finish his three-card Monte with Burkhead before picking a poison to tackle. More often than not, Martinez was a step ahead of the defenders, scampering with his short, choppy strides into green space.
“We had him 3rd-and-7, 3rd-and-8, and he just kept drives going,” safety Rickey Thenarse said.
“Very explosive,” cornerback Prince Amukamara said “I love when the ball’s in his hands. It’s really exciting.”
Said Watson: “He can put a foot in the dirt and go.”
But can Martinez win 10 or 11 in 2010? Can he win a Big 12 Championship? Can he, with his quirky throwing motion and chasm of inexperience, really storm the fortress and win the starting job?
Maybe. But he’ll have to storm uphill to do it.
Watching Martinez force two passes into coverage - one of which was intercepted, while the other should have been - gives any frequent shopper at T-Mart pause. Plus: Is he a leader? Can the team follow him into a national title chase? The kid won’t talk to the media once before the 2010 season opener - how does he handle the camera and tape recorder crush?
Martinez is a weapon. No doubt. But is he the side dish? Or the whole side of Big Red beef?
Cody Green’s play raised more questions than it answered. Green tossed two decent deep balls to Niles Paul and Will Henry, but otherwise looked like the same shaky passer from the Holiday Bowl. Too often with Green, it’s Niles or bust. Great when Niles gets open. Not so much during the season, while No. 24 is bound to get double coverage every time he smells a slant pattern.
Unfair? Maybe. Green’s a high-energy guy who’s better when he gets in a rhythm. But he struggles to find the rhythm. Green rushed five times for 12 yards. His zone read fakes were fine; his ability to elude tacklers was not.
Fans who expected a dazzling, confident Green didn’t get one.
Which leaves Zac Lee.
He dressed in a jersey and khaki shorts Saturday, and spent the day with headset watching from the sideline. Rehabbing this spring after elbow surgery, he didn’t give interviews this spring; if Lee has his way, he won’t be giving any this summer, either.
“I think Zac feels like he missed a lot,” Watson said. “When you miss reps, you miss a lot. He’ll have to make up for it. And he knows it.”
And yet the San Francisco senior remains the leader at the summer turn. He’ll have to earn the starting job, but, based on the current evidence, he’s the only passer in the lot who can win a game when the defense puts a plug in that shotgun run.
“You’ve got to be able to throw the ball,” Watson said. “Balance comes from throwing the ball.”
In his next breath, Watson said this: “But you have to be able to run, too. Because that gives you another element. It’s just a simple game of math, really. With the quarterback added to the running game, defensively they’re down a hat.”
Green appears to be a blend of both.
If Lee could sharpen his running skills. If Martinez could somehow read and process coverage he won’t see until the fall. If Green could simply play to the level of his tools and personality.
See you in August.
SPRING GAME COVERAGE: 5 Questions for Summer, Game Story, QB Commentary, Red Team Standouts, White Team Standouts, Photos
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