If you’re going to spend your spring break throwing footballs, there are worse guys to throw to than Robert Woods.
The former USC wide receiver and potential first round pick in this year’s NFL draft was just one member of the talented group of NFL and college wide receivers and quarterbacks Taylor Martinez worked out with last week in California at Steve Calhoun’s Armed and Dangerous football camp.
Martinez started working with the noted quarterback guru last year and saw his completion percentage climb from 56.3-percent in 2011 (eighth in the Big Ten) to 62.0 percent in 2012 (second in the Big Ten). The Huskers’ senior quarterback said this session with Calhoun was maybe his best yet “because of the speed” on the field.
“Sometimes when I go down there I don’t (get) to throw to guys like that,” he said.
The additional reps may prove to be particularly valuable this spring. With Martinez entering his fourth season as a starter and his third season under offensive coordinator Tim Beck, the Nebraska coaches have imposed some pretty strict limits on the live snaps Martinez sees this spring. When the Huskers held a 100-play scrimmage the day before the players left for spring break, Martinez didn’t take any of the snaps.
He hopes that won’t be the case in next Saturday’s spring game but the reasons for caution are pretty clear: 1) Reduce the risk of injury, and 2) Give the back-ups — Ron Kellogg III, Tyson Broekemeier, Tommy Armstrong, Ryker Fyfe, and Evan Williams — some much needed snaps. That group has appeared in a total of four games collectively.
So what is Martinez working on this spring?
“Keep learning the defense, knowing where to go with the ball and where to check, when I audible making sure it’s the correct audible and not put us in a bad situation,” Martinez said.
The lack of live work hasn’t hindered Martinez’s ability to reach his two primary spring goals — improved mechanics and a better understanding of the offense. Head coach Bo Pelini said the back-to-basics approach has already proven valuable.
“Taylor is very confident and he is playing at a very high level; his ball placement has been phenomenal,” Pelini said on Wednesday. “He threw a couple interceptions in the first or second practice and I don’t think he has thrown one since.”
Reducing turnovers has been one of the points of emphasis for Martinez this March. His streak of interception-free practices has come against a defensive unit the quarterback says is rapidly improving. The upgrade in athleticism over last year has been particularly noticeable.
“They’re coming along really well,” Martinez said of a defense that could have as many as eight or nine new starters next fall. “They’re learning the plays, they’re quick, they’re talented. You see them maybe not lining up in the right spot, but they’re flying to the ball.”
Nebraska is expected to scrimmage for parts of its two remaining practices this week. Martinez — ever confident, ever the optimist — was hopeful he’d get to take part but he may have to wait until the Red-White game.
Getting to take part in that would be a welcome change for the senior.
“We feel it coming,” Martinez said. “We’re all really excited for the spring game and can’t wait to go out there and show what we’ve done so far.”