LINCOLN — As Nebraska tries to land a quarterback for its 2013 class and I'm waxing philosophic on 2012 walk-on Ryker Fyfe, the Husker signal-caller who's actually started 25 games — Taylor Martinez — continues a quest to improve his throwing mechanics. Steve Calhoun, the Los Angeles-area quarterback coach who spent a week with Martinez in the spring, got three more weeks with the junior in May. And Calhoun helped get Martinez an invite to the mid-July Manning Passing Academy, where Calhoun will work as a camp assistant.
The private coach's verdict so far?
“People are going to be quite surprised in how far he's come in such a short time,” Calhoun said.
Martinez focused on his footwork in the thrice-weekly workouts. On Mondays, Calhoun took Martinez through every kind of drop he might have in NU's offense — including bootlegs — without throwing to any receivers. Then Calhoun brought in receivers to see how well Martinez's “muscle memory” from the Monday workouts settled in.
The two worked on Martinez's deep-pass accuracy by placing trash cans all over the practice field as Calhoun coached Martinez to guide the ball better without throwing it harder.
“Taylor has such a strong arm,” Calhoun said. “On the 25-yard fade routes, he did a much better job of guiding the ball. You just saw his eyes light up when he got it.”
Calhoun, who also works with Washington's Keith Price and Florida State's E.J. Manuel, communicated with NU offensive coordinator Tim Beck twice a week during Martinez's sessions. Everybody's on the same page here. Ditto for the Manning Passing Academy, a four-day, invite-only crash course in QB mechanics, tactics and leadership. Archie, Eli and Peyton Manning all generally appear at the event. That's three Super Bowl rings.
“It's going to be tremendous for him to be around other top quarterbacks and be around the Mannings,” Calhoun said. Price and Manuel will be there, too.
Will it help? Check back Sept. 1. Better yet, Sept. 8, when Martinez heads back to L.A. to play UCLA, a school that spurned him out of Corona Centennial High School.
Nebraska can and should tout its senior leadership. But to win this year's Big Ten crown, Martinez, still only a junior, has to throw the ball more often and more accurately. You know it. He knows it. His coaches know it. And, if nothing else, Martinez is shelling out money to Calhoun and the Mannings and putting in a hard summer's work to do something about it.
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The design appears set on Nebraska's 2012 alternate uniform.
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“We know pretty much what they're going to look like,” NU Athletic Director Tom Osborne said in an interview Wednesday. He didn't want to give many more details.
Is there black in it?
“I would imagine so,” he said. How much Osborne wouldn't say.
Osborne knows which game NU will wear them, too. He's holding off an announcement because of the visiting school, which could wear its own alternate uniform.
Nebraska's apparel provider, Adidas, has contracts with four other Big Ten schools. Two of them, Michigan and Wisconsin, visit Lincoln this year. Both games are set for prime-time ABC/ESPN, and both will be NU's biggest official visit games of the fall.
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Back to QB recruiting. Nebraska is out of the Anthony Jennings race. The Atlanta-area prospect is down to four schools: LSU, Missouri, Oregon and Wisconsin.
“They felt like I could have success in their offense like Russell Wilson did last year,” the 6-foot-2 200-pounder said of the Badgers to 247Sports.
Husker fans do not want to see that kid at UW.
NU has offers out to Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex prospects Devante Kincade (small and quick, with an accurate arm) and Damion Hobbs (better runner, less-polished passer). Great movie names, but neither, at least on film, is as good as NU's 2012 recruit, Tommy Armstrong. And Kincade's getting smothered with attention from Ole Miss and Mississippi State.
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NU a ‘surprise team'
Phil Steele's 2012 College Football Preview bible is hitting stores, well, Thursday, according to his website. But a Lincoln supermarket apparently put out its stack a day early.
Nebraska is No. 17 in Steele's rankings and in a three-way tie for first in the Big Ten Legends division. NU is listed as Steele's No. 7 “surprise team,” as well.
Steele tabs Wisconsin — at No. 9 — as the Big Ten champ, and Florida State as his national champion. Not the FSU team I saw in December, that's for sure. Oklahoma, long a favorite of Steele's, is No. 2. LSU, USC and Alabama round out his top five.
Nebraska ranked in the top 40 of all Steele's position group rankings, which is encouraging. Senior Brett Maher was Steele's highest-ranked Husker individual as the No. 3 kicker and No. 6 punter. After that, Rex Burkhead was the No. 11 NFL draft-eligible running back, and Baker Steinkuhler was the No. 11 draft-eligible defensive tackle.
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A good show
Nebraska's Football 202 returns Tuesday. It's an all-day event with Big Ten flavor, as the Big Ten Network's Howard Griffith is scheduled to attend. Recruiting coordinator Ross Els, who's brought some extra pep to NU's recruiting organization, will break down his process, too.
Head coach Bo Pelini — who gave the stage to new coordinators Tim Beck and John Papuchis last year — is back and heavily involved in this year's program with an extended film session.
Another bonus of the event is seeing true freshmen working out with the strength staff. Last year, I observed that Ameer Abdullah looked every bit the athlete that Aaron Green did and even outperformed Green in a few drills. Look how it played out last year — and this spring.
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