Nebraska Football: What To Expect from the Cornhusker Offense in 2011

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Nebraska Football: What To Expect from the Cornhusker Offense in 2011
Eric Francis/Getty Images

Nebraska offensive coordinator Tim Beck has been relatively cryptic in describing the new Husker offensive scheme.  It's his first year on the job, and of course he doesn't want to drop any hints or clues for future opponents to study up on. 

It also helps that his boss is a big fan of using adjectives and hyperbole to sidestep questions.

But what can we expect from the 2011 Nebraska offense?

To get a better grasp on what Husker fans might expect from Beck's new offense, let's take a look at what Beck has done in his career, what points of emphasis he has noted and how that translates to the current Husker squad.

 

Starting from scratch

It has been widely pronounced that the 2011 version of the Nebraska offense will be completely new.  Beck has mentioned again and again that you shouldn't be afraid of starting over.  Does this mean the spread is completely out?  Can you really go back to page one and hope to drastically improve and compete in a new conference?

Regardless of the fact that Beck is a relatively unknown commodity, he has had success at every stop in his coaching career.  That being said, he has moved around quite a bit and has started from scratch at multiple stops along the way.

He has coached high school teams to state championships and has been the mastermind behind some ridiculously good offenses.  In 1998 he was the offensive coordinator for a Missouri State team that racked up over 4,500 total yards of offense—in his one and only year as OC.

Donald Miralle/Getty Images
Tim Beck will call plays from the press box in 2011

What this means for the Huskers:  Beck isn't afraid to start from scratch, bring in his own offensive philosophy and expect a quick turnaround.  Nebraska loses two obvious playmakers from the 2010 squad in Roy Helu Jr. and Niles Paul, but there is more than enough ammo at the skill positions to step in.

And the more you look at it, there is substantial talent across the board.  Quarterback Taylor Martinez is one player who should be extremely happy with the change.

 

"Attacking" Offense

Whether it was Beck himself, or Bo Pelini, or any assortment of offensive players—the term "attacking" has been thrown around all spring in describing the new offense.

This is an offense that will be focused on exploiting the weaknesses in the opposing defense.  Beck seems more interested in playing a chess match with the defensive coordinator than employing a system-based offense.

You get the idea that this offense will be fast, physical and disciplined—at least that is the hope.  In a sense, the term "attacking" brings back memories of the old triple option days of coach Tom Osborne.  Osborne would probe and probe until weaknesses were determined and would systematically gut opposing defenses.

When Beck was the pass game coordinator (this can't be made up) at Kansas in 2007, the Jayhawks became one of the most potent offenses in college football.  That year, Kansas average nearly 43 points a game and even put up 76 points on the Huskers.  This was a lightning quick offense that didn't have any true "stars," but certainly employed Beck's attacking vision.

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What this means for the Huskers: Beck has the playmakers at his disposal—Taylor Martinez, Rex Burkhead, Brandon Kinnie, Kyler Reed, Jamal Turner and many more—to become an attacking offense. 

Even without Helu Jr. and Paul, there is a very talented crop of running backs and receivers.  Except for Burkhead and Kinnie, none have played a significant role just yet.  This may actually play to Beck's advantage.  With so many hungry players looking to make a contribution, the quick pace of this offense and rotation of players at the skill position may provide a punch in the gut to opposing defenses.

In 2007, Beck's Jayhawk offense produced four receivers with over 40 receptions.

 

Quarterback Leadership

Tim Beck loves a strong leader at quarterback.  While at Kansas, he had the scrappy Todd Reesing under center who was a phenomenal field general.  This will be an immediate area of concern within Beck's offensive philosophy in 2011.

In order to operate a fast-paced, attacking offense the Huskers will need a quarterback who can think on his feet, play intelligently and control the attack.

What this means for the Huskers: Taylor Martinez's leadership has been questioned quite a bit.  Everyone knows how talented the young quarterback is, but it seems to be up in the air about just how commanding a presence he has in the huddle.

It is a bit unfair to pick on Martinez, who is only entering his sophomore season, because without his stellar play at the beginning of last year, the Huskers would have fared a bit worse.  But Martinez will have to have command of the offense this season.  He will be facing new defenses while operating this new offensive scheme.

Martinez will likely continue to mature, and with that will come stronger leadership.  He is talking to press a bit, which is a great start.

 

Playing to strengths

Coinciding with the "attacking" mode of this offense, Beck will look to play to the strengths of his players, rather than attempt to mold them into a system.

This will be an adaptive offense, much like the defense learns, reads and adapts as the game goes on. 

While at Kansas, Beck took a 5'11" quarterback and helped him turn out not only gaudy passing numbers, but extremely efficient ones.  Total passing yards are not nearly as impressive as a 33/7 touchdown to interception ratio.

What this means for the Huskers: Beck knows that Martinez's strength, for now, is in his running ability, so there will be some pistol formation, some I formation and the zone-read.  He will allow Martinez the opportunity to run if a play breaks down, or if he reads something in the defense.

Eric Francis/Getty Images
WR Brandon Kinnie will be a valuable part of the Husker offense once again.
The running backs are largely untested, but are oozing with talent and speed.  All of this will complement Martinez, and there should be a heavy dose of counters and misdirection runs.  The running game will set up the passing game.

The receiving corp, much like the backs, has one experienced player in Brandon Kinnie and a bunch of green, but fleet-footed players.  Martinez will likely execute quick, short throws to his targets in an effort to gain five to 10 yards a clip.

This will minimize interceptions and allow for a quicker paced offense. 

Additionally, the receivers are given routes to run, but they are not married to them—meaning, they have room to improvise if they are blanketed by a defensive back or linebacker and move to an area where they can get open.  This will again help Martinez play freely and allow for his natural talents to take over.

We won't see the final product of the 2011 Husker offense for another several months, but from the very early and perhaps naively optimistic perception, there is a lot to be excited about starting from scratch.

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