In his third year, Taylor Martinez should be more comfortable and confident.
By Randy York
Take it straight from a Heisman Trophy winner: The jump from your sophomore season to your junior season is probably the most dramatic, especially when you’ve just spent your second year learning a new offense with a first-year offensive coordinator. At the same time, you’re trying to compensate for injuries in the offensive line in front of you, not to mention performance-related injuries of your own. With all of that as the backdrop, Eric Crouch is predicting a break-out season for two critical catalysts in Nebraska’s offense: 1) Taylor Martinez, the Huskers’ fourth-year junior in his third year as the Huskers’ starting quarterback; and 2) Tim Beck, NU’s fifth-year assistant coach beginning his second year as offensive coordinator.
“Going from your second year to your third year, there’s a big difference in your comfort level and the confidence factor,” Crouch told Jeff Culhane on Huskers’ Sports Nightly. “Each year you feel more confident because you have new players and you’re able to build stronger bonds and relationships with your team and your coaches. You just know each other 365 days more you did. I think those times you spend together on the field, in the meeting room and even outside of football makes you feel like friends, teammates and family. There’s a comfort level and a confidence level that settles in. You become a better leader, a better captain, a better teammate and just a better person. A lot of that stems from confidence. It really does.”
The pressure, of course, also rises when a quarterback and an offensive coordinator are in sync and prepare for a second season together. “We have to go out and produce now,” Crouch said. “We have to score points, sustain long drives. We have to make big plays, and we’re going to do it the way we want to. Tim Beck is an offensive coordinator who likes to have a lot of different things in his repertoire and in his playbook. That way, at any time, his players should be able to execute. Being in his second year and having a quarterback going into his third year as a starter should be beneficial for both of them. Expectations are going to be high to be better than you were the year before, and there are no excuses.”
Now a color analyst for Fox Sports with a full slate of national games in the Big 12, Pac-12 and Conference USA, Crouch has learned to be blunt in his comments. “Because Taylor has run two different offenses in three years, I think he’s going to have much stronger games this year than he did coming into last year with a new system,” Crouch said. “The option is a small piece of what Coach Beck likes to do. I think most fans out there are expecting them to be better than last year. They expect great things from a Nebraska offense that can make big plays because this is Year 2 having an athletic quarterback that can make big plays and a running back who’s the same type of player. You want to get the ball in his hands in an almost every play kind basis. Nebraska’s offense has some good weapons, and I think they’ll be a lot better this year.”
According to Crouch, it’s not exactly fair to view Martinez as a junior because he’s played in two different offensive systems for two coordinators. “When you run the option, those guys are going to hit you and hurt you,” he said. “Your job is to use up that defensive end or use up that pitch man because if you let the guy that you’re pitching off of make the play, then the option game doesn’t work very well.”
Crouch admits he’s as eager as anyone to see Martinez in his third season as a starter.”I really haven’t seen that much (physicality) from last year, and I kind of understand why,” he said. “I don’t think we felt our backup quarterback situation was ready.” In large measure, Crouch attributes that fact to Year 1 of the Beck era as coordinator. With Year 2 bringing more comfort and confidence in terms of both coaching and players, Crouch offers up a piece of advice whenever Martinez decides to run the option: “Make sure your mouthpiece fits,” he said, “because it’s a physical game.”
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