ORLANDO, Fla. — Tim Beck started his first go-round as a major-college offensive coordinator in 2011 directing two Nebraska assistants who had coached a lot of football and already gone through all the paces.
To Beck, that was a good thing.
He listened to Ron Brown and Barney Cotton. Not only accepted their input but solicited it. Let them help him, rather than fear their presence.
“I think those guys ... they're 'we' guys,” Beck said Saturday.
This is Beck's offense, to be sure. His vision slowly expanding and evolving. His stamp out there for all to see with the high-tempo pace, zone-read game and utilization of the many weapons the Huskers have to offer.
But it also involves the ideas not only of Cotton and Brown, but those of John Garrison and Rich Fisher, and even graduate assistant Joe Ganz.
“I know where I want it to be and how I want it to be, and I feel like I know how we need to get there,” Beck said. “But if you involve people and they have input and ownership, it gets there faster. I need everybody's help. We all need each other.”
Nebraska heads into the Capital One Bowl on New Year's Day ranking among the nation's best in rushing offense (254.5 yards per game), total offense (462.2) and scoring (35.1 points a game), and tops the Big Ten in rushing, total offense and pass efficiency. It has led to at least two schools approaching Beck recently, NU head coach Bo Pelini told The World-Herald on Saturday, and a coming bump to his current salary of $365,000 annually.
Beck was the last assistant Pelini hired when he took over the Huskers, and Beck served as running backs coach from 2008 through '10. Pelini elevated him to offensive coordinator after the departure of Shawn Watson.
By then, the relationships already had been built with Brown, a 27-year coaching veteran who was part of the Husker heydays, and Cotton, who had been a Big 12 offensive coordinator at both NU (2003) and Iowa State (2004 to '06) as well as for six seasons at New Mexico State.
Both are 56, 10 years older than Beck.
“The thing I like about him is that he listens,” Brown said. “He's not a guy that would be like, 'Aw, I know it all. Don't tell me what to do.' You got something to say, he'll hear you.”
That can happen both through the week or during a game, Brown said, and the relationships are strong enough for it to survive the way it might be said in the heat of the moment.
“We built all that infrastructure, so we can say things to each other that way and not take it personally,” Brown said.
Beck said it helped this season to have Cotton move from the sideline to the press box to be with him during games. Cotton said the new perspective has grown on him over time, and all the better if it's for Beck's benefit.
“We're seeing the same thing, and able to talk about what we see between series,” Cotton said. “It's become a real comfortable situation.”
Beck said three years on the staff before becoming offensive coordinator allowed him to already “know the terrain,” as opposed to an outsider coming in. When he was promoted, he never felt any pressure despite the veterans who would now be reporting and answering to him.
With somebody like Cotton and his experience as a play-caller and game-planner, Beck instead saw incredible value and somebody to lean on.
“I try not to have an ego,” Beck said. “I don't feel like I have all the answers.”
|BIG RED TODAY ON FACEBOOK|
|Join the conversation on the Big Red Today Facebook page.|
Together, Beck said, they mix and match ideas and philosophies. Brown said it's obvious that Beck — last an offensive coordinator at the college level at Football Championship Subdivision Missouri State in the late 1990s — had been preparing himself for this very chance, piecing together things from other stops and other colleagues and other mentors along the way.
Brown also called him just a fun guy to be around — “I love who he is, more than anything he does football-wise.”
Brown said a “vintage moment” for Beck came before the regular-season game with Wisconsin on Sept. 29. The staff and players were getting worn down in preparations for the Big Ten opener. It was meeting after meeting.
So Beck got the offense together.
“And he says, 'Look, this is what I want you to do.' Everybody thought he was going to open up the book on them,” Brown said. “But he goes, 'Go watch cartoons.'
“In other words, he was telling them to go do something other than football. And go have some fun. And relax. That was the best thing he could tell them that day.”
NU's offensive players have said they like what Beck has them doing and the pace in which they do it. With the hurry-up element, the Huskers are averaging 74 offensive snaps per game.
Pelini feels the same, saying Saturday that Beck is “real important to me.” Pelini wouldn't reveal what the increase in Beck's salary will be — he first went from $220,000 to $345,000 after his promotion in 2011 — but said it was deserved whether Beck was courted by others or not.
The vision, Beck said, is still a work in progress. The short description is that he wants Nebraska to remain a fast-paced and attacking unit, minus the obvious turnover problems.
What should help is that Nebraska will transition into his third season as offensive coordinator losing only a half-dozen seniors off its two-deep roster, and return not only quarterback Taylor Martinez but a 1,000-yard rusher (Ameer Abdullah) and the Huskers' three top receivers (Kenny Bell, Quincy Enunwa, Jamal Turner) from this season.
“We've got to execute better and continue to grow, but I like where we're at,” he said. “We're on that right track.”
Contact the writer:
402-444-1042, email@example.com; twitter.com/RKaipustOWH