Published Friday, September 6, 2013 at 12:00 am / Updated at 2:28 pm
football
Getting in tune with Taylor

LINCOLN — Just before Nebraska scored its first touchdown against Wyoming last week, receiver Jamal Turner clapped his hands to get Taylor Martinez's attention and pointed toward the safety lined up across from him.

Single coverage.

The Cowboys had eight men at the line of scrimmage, threatening to send them all since Nebraska needed nine yards on a third down in the first quarter.

A new play came in from the sideline. Martinez motioned toward Turner and then signaled for the snap.

The result was a 17-yard touchdown, where Turner easily navigated around the defender assigned to him and corralled the pass in the end zone.

It was a product of the offense's adaptability, which comes when a receiver knows the system and the quarterback's preferred audibles.

That's the challenge for all the young receivers working behind Nebraska's veteran trio of Turner, junior Kenny Bell and senior Quincy Enunwa.

There would appear to be plenty of opportunities for reserves to earn playing time in a fast-paced offense. Being prepared for Martinez's adjustments remains the biggest challenge for those still developing an on-field relationship with the senior quarterback.

“You're not always going to run what's exactly in the book,” Enunwa said. “You're going to have to change it up a couple times. And when we have a QB who's been in the offense as long as he has, some things are going to be a little different than you think they're going to be.”

At least for one game, Martinez seemed most comfortable with his top-line guys. All but four of his 22 pass attempts against Wyoming were intended for either Enunwa, Bell or Turner.

Enunwa and Bell were in for every single play in the first half of that 37-34 win. Redshirt freshman Jordan Westerkamp, subbing for Turner in a three-receiver formation, was the only reserve to earn an offensive snap before halftime. Westerkamp was in for two plays.

And Martinez mentioned earlier this week that the interception he threw in the fourth quarter, intended for sophomore Sam Burtch, was a result of miscommunication.

“I thought he was going to break a lot shorter than what he did break,” Martinez said.

The way Nebraska practices, the first- and second-team offenses work separately from one another for most of the sessions. It's to ensure that the amount of reps are pretty even. And receivers coach Rich Fisher said the staff makes it a priority to get all the receivers some time with the first-string offense during preseason camp.

Fisher said the plan going forward is to play “multiple guys.” Just like last season.

Martinez completed a pass to six wide receivers in the 2012 opener against Southern Miss, throwing for 354 yards. And as the season progressed, the Huskers regularly substituted during drives.

But NU wasn't rotating as frequently against Wyoming. The offense struggled to find a rhythm early. It never seemed to operate under its highest tempo, either.

Junior Tyler Wullenwaber and redshirt freshman Alonzo Moore were each in for a couple plays. Fisher said redshirt freshman Brandon Reilly was close to entering, too.

The veterans think it's only a matter of time before the inexperienced receivers start getting comfortable on game day, though. Enunwa said he's always telling them to stay alert, even when they're getting breaks in practice.

Said Enunwa: “If they're kind of watching us and seeing what we do, they can get an understanding of what Taylor likes to do.”

And when they get their chance, all they have to do is showcase their ability, according to Turner.

“If you're making good catches and you're running routes, full speed, and laying out for balls, and Taylor sees that — he'll get comfortable throwing you the ball,” Turner said.

* * *

Video: Pelini talks after Thursday's practice:

Contact the writer: Jon Nyatawa

jon.nyatawa@owh.com    |   402-473-9585    |  

Jon Nyatawa has covered local sports, primarily Nebraska football and baseball, for The Omaha World-Herald since 2008.

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