In terms of stone-cold locks at starting QBs, there may be no tougher coaching task in major college football than turning Taylor Martinez into a skilled thrower. T-Magic is the man in Lincoln, no doubt about it, but at least once a game, he'll uncork a pass that's...that's just...let's just go to the tape.
So, yes, Mr. Martinez is a work in progress—though, to be fair, the "progress" part of that phrase is actually occurring. Anyone who watched Martinez go through the Big Ten slate in 2011 saw a marked improvement in Martinez's accuracy and his overall consistency. And the architect of that positive progress is Nebraska quarterbacks coach (and offensive coordinator) Tim Beck.
Beck joined Bo Pelini's staff at Nebraska in 2008 after spending three years as the receivers coach at Kansas—the last of which he was also the passing game coordinator—and KU was an absolute dynamo on offense in that span. In particular, the '07 KU team (led by QB Todd Reesing, who was not exactly NFL material) racked up nearly 43 points per game en route to a 12-1 record and an Orange Bowl victory over Virginia Tech.
Does Taylor Martinez have it in him to be a good QB?
Moreover, that '07 Kansas squad put an all-time historic beatdown on Nebraska, racking up 76 points in a home victory, the most points ever scored against the Huskers in one game to this day. Reesing threw for a record six touchdown passes.
Bo Pelini was hired to take over the Nebraska program one month after that game. A month after that, after KU finished off its season, Pelini made the call to Lawrence and brought Beck into town as the Huskers' new running backs coach, a position where Beck spent the next three seasons. That seems like an unnatural transition from passing game coordinator, but Beck's nine years of experience as a high school head coach mean there's really no aspect of coaching that he's not equipped to handle. Beck transitioned to his current role as offensive coordinator and QB coach before the 2011 season.
Nebraska has flourished under Pelini and Beck, although it hasn't been sunshine and rainbows every week. Nebraska averaged about 29 points per game in 2011 en route to a 9-4 record—that's good! In conference and bowl play, though, that average dipped to 23 points per game and a 5-4 record—that's bad!
Taylor Martinez completed 59 percent of his throws for 7.1 yards per attempt against conference and bowl opponents—that's good! He didn't rush for a single touchdown in the last seven games of the year—that's bad! And so on, and so on.
Martinez will be a junior in 2012, and if he still has bad habits all over the place, they're extremely unlikely to be coached out of him before graduation. That's just the nature of coaching and habit development.
Without a ton of options at quarterback behind him, it's critical to Nebraska's conference title aspirations that Martinez does transition into a legitimately good thrower in 2012. We know T-Magic can run. He's a gazelle in a field without cheetahs once he gets a second-level block on a keeper. But Martinez cannot revert to 2010 or early-2011 mode as an upperclassman, or Nebraska is doomed to the upper middle class of the Big Ten.
That's Tim Beck's task for 2012. No pressure!