One of the sad things about college football is how short the season is.
It seems like just yesterday we were looking excitedly towards Nebraska’s first year in a new conference and how a rookie offensive coordinator would handle all of the young talent as his disposal.
So now that the 2011 season has drawn to a close, let’s look back and hand out some postseason awards. This week, we’ll start with the offense.
At the start of the season, the discussion of Nebraska’s offense started and ended with Taylor Martinez.
But as the season wore on—and as Tim Beck got his legs underneath him as a play-caller—it became clear that Rex Burkhead was the guy that made Nebraska’s offense go. With a combination of power, vision, elusiveness and just enough speed to be dangerous, Burkhead became the bell cow upon which Nebraska relied to move the ball.
Taylor Martinez is one of the most polarizing figures Nebraska has seen. His attitude and off-field antics, along with his well-documented struggles throwing the ball, have earned him a place in the doghouse for many Nebraska fans.
Plus, dude, seriously. What's with the gloves?
But if you paid attention to his performance as the season wore on, you saw a player growing and maturing into his role as a quarterback. He seemed to embrace the offensive shift away from the T-Magic show, which should put to rest some of the “ballhog” claims leveled at him last year.
And he began to make better decisions, along with an ability to protect the football and keep the offense on the field.
What seemed to be sacrificed as a result of the new T-Manager role Martinez took on was the explosive playmaking that excited fans at the start of last year.
The 2012 season will be Martinez’s junior year. If he can somehow rediscover that explosiveness, while retaining the leadership and decision-making he demonstrated this year, Martinez could be in line for a very special season.
At the start of the season, true freshman Jamal Turner was Nebraska’s leading receiver and seemed well on his way to establishing himself as NU’s big-play threat. Then, something happened that kept him off the field, and Kenny Bell emerged as NU’s home run option.
Making plays as a receiver and a running back, He of the Hair electrified Nebraska fans and tormented opposing defenses.
There’s still plenty of room for improvement for Bell and all the wide receivers, primarily in the area of securing the ball when Taylor Martinez gets it to them. But Bell’s emergence as a freshman should portend exciting things to come.
One of the exciting things for Nebraska fans in 2012 was how young Nebraska’s offense was in 2011, and how many starters will be returning for 2012.
But losing a senior at center is always difficult, and Mike Caputo was an anchor in the middle of an offensive line that, at times, seemed to be patchwork and makeshift. NU has a ton of unproven talent on the offensive line coming through the ranks, but breaking in a new center is always a risky proposition.
Brandon Kinnie is one of the most likable players Nebraska has seen in many years.
But, unfortunately, his 2011 campaign did not have the kind of on-the-field production that many had hoped for from the senior. While he did improve towards the end of the year, and while all reports were that his leadership of the wide receiver corps was excellent, the simple fact is that his dropped passes and lack of performance did not rise to the level that many expected at the start of the year.
His energy and leadership in the locker room (as well as his incredibly-awesome Twitter feed @bkinnie84) will be sorely missed next season, though.
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