LINCOLN — Inside his office at Memorial Stadium, offensive coordinator Tim Beck has taped to his desk a reminder sent years ago from his mother.
The gist of it is this: A coaching promotion can't change you, and this too — success, failure — shall pass.
So while Beck said he was “extremely fortunate” that Nebraska's offense had a good 2012 season — strong enough for Beck to attract interest from other schools and earn a major salary bump to $700,000 — he doesn't feel more in charge or expect to alter his approach.
“I've always felt a big sense of ownership in this program from when I started as a running backs coach,” Beck said. “I coach football because I love to do it.”
That doesn't mean the man wants his experienced attack to stand still. In fact, he wants NU's no-huddle offense — ranked 26th nationally last year in yards per game and 28th in points — to get even faster in 2013. More plays. Better tempo. The kind of rhythm, Beck said, that the crowd can feel and he can feel.
“Where the play calls just roll off my tongue,” Beck said.
And so Beck “harps” on his unit to get quicker. Mentally quicker — that is, understanding how to shift into audibles and adjust to a defense before the snap without taking an inordinate amount of time to do it — and physically quicker.
Junior wide receiver Jamal Turner said the Huskers have run more than ever in the offseason to prepare for the tempo Beck truly prefers. Speed is an advantage, Turner said, that Nebraska thinks it can exploit against other Big Ten teams. The Huskers' tempo even had Georgia's NFL-talent laden defense against the ropes for three quarters.
“It can destroy a defense,” Turner said. “You can be ready to go, and they're still running back to get in their position.”
Turner said NU wants to get “2 to 3 seconds faster” between plays. When the Huskers were in what Beck called a “Mach 1” tempo last year, snaps generally occurred 15 to 18 seconds after the previous play.
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Beck doesn't give a measurement of how much faster he wants to go.
“I just want to go faster,” he said. He dangles the concept of “whistle tempo” — that the official's whistle would serve as the Huskers snap count — as a possibility, which would put Nebraska alongside Oregon as the nation's fastest offense.
“But I don't know if we could ever get to that point,” Beck said. “We do have a defensive head coach.”
Bo Pelini, Beck said, understands how tempo can stress a defense, but he — and Beck — want that tempo to come with consistency. Fewer three-and-outs. More move-the-chains plays that allow Beck to get deeper into the playbook and set the fatigue hook deeper in the defense. And, of course, fewer turnovers.
Beck said he did offseason research on why Nebraska had 35 giveaways — the second most in the nation. He traced some of it to using so many players on offense — struggles with the zone-read mesh point, for example — and some of it to the Huskers trying to do too much. Of quarterback Taylor Martinez's 12 interceptions last year, for example, eight came in losses. Only two of the 12 came when Nebraska had a lead.
As big of a jump as Martinez made in 2012, Beck said, one of the key remaining goals is to let the Huskers' quiver of arrows make their share of plays. “Don't take so many chances,” Beck said. “It's OK to punt if we have to. Don't play outside of the system. You don't have to be Superman.”
Turner said Martinez has been sharp in 7-on-7 workouts with better accuracy and velocity.
“We believe in him — that's the key,” Turner said.
Other topics reviewed by Beck:
>> With Ameer Abdullah entering his junior season, Braylon Heard set to transfer and freshmen Adam Taylor and Terrell Newby yet to arrive, Beck will put a heavy workload on sophomore Imani Cross.
“I feel like I know what I'm gonna get out of Ameer,” Beck said. “I want to see what I can get out of Imani.”
Beck and Turner said Cross has prepared well this offseason for that extended look. Beck said Cross has lost weight and appears fast. Turner — who counts Cross among his best friends — said the Georgia native has become a quick leader despite being just a sophomore.
“He's 100 percent dedicated,” Turner said. “He's the last guy in our group out of the weight room, and he'll even stay until the next group comes in.”
>> As well as NU's starting trio of wide receivers played last year, Beck said, he'd like to get them more rest during games, so they don't “wear down” because of the sheer number of snaps. So Beck said he's excited to see freshmen Jordan Westerkamp and Alonzo Moore — plus junior Tyler Evans — develop more this spring.
Sophomore Taariq Allen will miss spring practice while he rehabs a torn ACL. Beck isn't sure how much Tyler Wullenwaber, who tore his ACL in September, will participate in drills.
>> The decision to move Barney Cotton to tight ends coach and running game coordinator was largely Beck's choice, the coordinator said. The tight end position — senior Jake Long, sophomore David Sutton and redshirt freshmen Sam Cotton and Trey Foster — doesn't have much game experience, Beck said, whereas the offensive line does. Further, not having a full-time tight ends coach “hurt us in recruiting,” Beck said. Vince Marrow was a graduate assistant in the role last year and has since taken a full-time job at Kentucky.
“Barney's a sharp guy,” Beck said. “I rely on him quite a bit.”
>> Beck expects Martinez to visit a quarterbacks coach again.
“I'd recommend it to him,” Beck said.
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