Nebraska Football: 6 Biggest Challenges for Tim Beck
Nebraska football’s offensive coordinator, Tim Beck, would look to be in the catbird’s seat coming in to the 2013 season. In his second year at the helm of Nebraska’s offense, he has generated a yard-gaining and point-scoring juggernaut the likes of which NU fans have not seen in recent years.
But that doesn’t mean Beck will have a stress-free offseason. Here are six of the things that will be keeping Beck up at night as the new season draws near.
Hold on to the Ball
By now, the statistics are pretty well known (but thanks to our friends at cfbstats.com and teamrankings.com for continuing to dish ‘em out). Last year, Nebraska was No. 108 nationally in turnover margin, averaging -0.86 per game.
In 2011 and 2012, Taylor Martinez led the nation in fumbles. In 2012, Ameer Abdullah was No. 17 nationally in fumbles, meaning Nebraska had two players in the top 20 nationally in terms of total fumbles. The only other school with two top-20-fumbling players was Army—and the Black Knights ended their season at 2-10.
So whatever wizardry Tim Beck draws up with his whiteboard pens will not add up to much if Nebraska can’t stop giving the ball away.
Keep It Fresh
In his first two seasons, Tim Beck has assembled an impressive offensive scheme, enough to take the focus away from Bo Pelini’s defensive prowess (which has not been quite so impressive the last two years). So it is easy to remember that Beck is only entering year three of his career as a play-caller.
B1G opponents, particularly in the Legends Division, will have had a number of opportunities to review Beck’s play-calling and diagnose weaknesses. To continue his growth as an offensive coordinator, Beck will need to demonstrate an ability to adapt and advance his offensive philosophies.
Find Some Tackles
Nebraska is good with offensive guards. Stocked, even. But offensive tackle—a more challenging and more important position—has been a struggle. While Brent Qvale, Andrew Rodriguez and Jeremiah Sirles will be returning, they have not yet had standout performances. Sophomore Zach Sterup will likely see playing time, and junior college transfer Matt Finnin looks to slot in immediately when he arrives.
So while all the skill players and the flashy plays are very important, Tim Beck's biggest concern this offseason may be ensuring that the offensive line is solid.
Stop the Ball Hogs
One of the things that has been said about Nebraska over the last couple of years is what an impressive array of offensive talent the Cornhuskers have amassed in Lincoln. Unfortunately, you can’t really tell that from the statistics. Taylor Martinez and Ameer Abdullah accounted for 63.6 percent of all of Nebraska’s rushes last year, and Martinez accounted for 97.4 percent (!) of all of Nebraska’s pass attempts.
Sure, having the ball in your best playmaker's hands is a wise strategy. But if you have all of these offensive weapons, not using them doesn’t do any good, and doesn’t get them experience when they need to step up and take the reins.
In 2013, Beck will need to find a way to diversify Nebraska’s attack.
Keep the Kids on the Farm
Cody Green. Aaron Green. Braylon Heard. Tyler Moore. Ryan Klachko. Brion Carnes.
That’s a list of the blue-chip offensive recruits that have transferred out of the Nebraska program in the last two years. Sure, transfers happen at all schools. But Nebraska has seen an alarming exodus of top-flight offensive talent recently.
I know to many fans, particularly to the old-school ones, this should not be a worry for an offensive coordinator. The kids are getting a privilege to pull on the scarlet and cream shirts, and should be shown the door if they can’t stand a little competition.
Sounds great, doesn’t it? But the reality is that modern players are much more aware of their options, and much more willing to pull the trigger on a transfer if they feel their individual goals are not being met at a school.
Once again, Nebraska will have an influx of talented running backs coming in, with true freshmen Terrell Newby and Adam Taylor arriving to compete with sophomore Imani Cross, redshirt freshman King Frazier and junior Ameer Abdullah for playing time. While Tim Beck’s most important job in the micro is to gain yards and score points, in the macro he can’t help but worry how his play-calling and utilization of personnel will affect Nebraska’s retention (and, ultimately, recruiting) of talent.
Nebraska May Need the Points
Nebraska assembled some impressive offensive statistics in 2012. The Cornhuskers were first in the conference in rushing offense, second in scoring offense and first in total offense. With a senior starting quarterback, an experienced returning I-back and tons of talent and experience at wideout, Nebraska’s offensive future in 2013 looks even brighter.
Unfortunately, it might have to be for Nebraska to be successful. Last year, Nebraska was ninth in the conference in scoring defense, behind Iowa and Minnesota. Let that sink in for a moment. Iowa and Minnesota had better scoring defenses—in Iowa’s case, almost five points a game better—than Nebraska did last season. And Nebraska only has four defensive starters returning, meaning the Blackshirts will be learning on the job as the 2013 campaign begins.
So, yeah, Tim Beck’s offense might be one of the best in the nation. But unless the Blackshirts get better in a hurry, it might have to score on darn near every possession for Nebraska to win games.
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