Last year, Nebraska occasionally split quarterbacks Taylor Martinez and Cody Green out at the slot wide receiver position.
They also took advantage of the popular wildcat formation, using running back Rex Burkhead as a quarterback. This spring, the Cornhuskers appear to be going all-out in testing their new offensive identity.
Jamal Turner, originally recruited to play quarterback, has apparently made a switch to wide receiver if only in title. Lester Ward has moved to tight end after being buried in the depth chart at running back. Ty Kildow, a wide receiver facing potential depth issues, has taken snaps at running back.
Curenski Gilleylen, a senior receiver who has been struggling with issues catching the ball, also has been receiving quarterback handoffs. Finally, Kyler Reed, who had a tremendous breakout season in 2010 leading Nebraska in receiving touchdowns, has been seeing some time at the fullback position.
Some have questioned just what this means. Does new offensive coordinator Tim Beck know what he’s doing or is he simply throwing darts at a cork board?
One thing that sticks out amongst the position moves is the speed of those involved.
Turner played at the wide receiver position during the All-American Under Armour Football Game. Ward, a junior, doesn’t have the speed of incoming running back recruits, nor likely starter Rex Burkhead, but he has the size (6’3” 230 pounds) to make a fast and effective tight end, much like Reed.
Kildow would likely see his own share of troubles versus cornerbacks, but the 5’7” 180-pounder is running behind a lot of beef on the offensive line and can bolt into opposing defensive backfields very quickly if given the holes.
While Reed won’t stop seeing time at tight end, his receiving skills would be very useful catching passes out of the backfield. He could also be used as a decoy in power sets such as the “I” or diamond formations.
The Big Ten conference is not without speed. It appears that Nebraska’s offense is counting on having an abundance to throw at defenders that are a step too slow to do anything about the Cornhusker attack.
Being able to use a talent like Turner successfully at quarterback, wide receiver or even in one of the running back spots during a zone read, for example is a distinct advantage.
Interestingly, when Beck planned the passing game for the University of Kansas, quarterback Todd Reesing threw for 3,486 yards and 33 TDs with only seven INTs.
One of his favorite targets, a quarterback turned wide receiver named Kerry Meier, hauled in 274 yards that season. He would follow by catching 1,045 and 985 yards in his junior and senior seasons, respectively. Much like Turner, Meier also wore No. 10.
Nebraska’s starting quarterback will likely find himself using his feet far more often than Reesing did in 2007, but could a fruitful passing attack be ready to hit the Big Ten as Kansas’ did the Big 12 that season?
Tim Beck holds the key to that mystery.
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