Quick hits from Monday’s practice as Nebraska prepares for Minnesota:
>> Running back Rex Burkhead was in pads Monday and involved in some of NU’s workout
>> Minnesota’s defense is “much improved” from last year, especially in pass defense, where the Gophers rank seventh in the nation.
“They’re very athletic in the back end,” Beck said. “Great speed. They have good man-to-man cover skills. Guys aren’t open by very much. Quarterback has to be very accurate in throwing the ball to guys. And they get good pass rush.”
Remember that, last year, Beck countered Minnesota’s aggressive play with reverses, tunnel screens and deep passes that quarterback Taylor Martinez wasn’t able to hit. Nebraska won 41-14 and racked up more than 500 total yards, but its offense had to convert three fourth downs and hit a bunch of big plays to get humming.
Beck said the Gophers’ defense is more complex than it was a year ago.
>> Martinez is running more confidently in 2012 than he did in 2011, in part because he understands the offense better.
“He’s seeing things easier and better, he’s making more good decisions,” Beck said. “We’re able to use him more. He’s running better…his productivity as a thrower helps us. His accuracy, his efficiency.”
>> Nebraska safety Daimion Stafford offered his take on the sideline chat he and coach Bo Pelini had during Saturday game, which occurred after Penn State had scored a touchdown.
“That’s just people making something out of nothing,” Stafford said. “Me and Bo, we know what’s going on. We know we’re good. That’s all that really matters.”
Columnist Tom Shatel will have more on the subject from Pelini in Tuesday’s First Downs, Second Guesses column. Look for it.
>> After the win Saturday, running back Ameer Abdullah suggested that his teammate, Braylon Heard, had earned more carries when he said “a 100 percent Braylon is better than a 92 percent Ameer.”
On Monday, running backs coach Ron Brown said that if Abdullah’s at 92 percent, he can tap his helmet to get a breather.
“Otherwise, I’m going to assume he’s at 100 percent,” Brown said. Abdullah had 31 carries Saturday; Heard had three.
Beck’s response: “Braylon did a nice job for us in the ballgame, he really did…you trust Coach Brown. When I was coaching running backs, a lot of times if a guy has something going on — kinda feels like a rhythm — you stay with them. Toward the end, maybe Ameer had some of that. Some tough yards, seeing the toss a little bit, finding a way to keep moving the chains for us a little bit. What he meant by (the 92 percent statement), I don’t know.”
Lobbying for more carries for Heard?
“I don’t know. Could be.”
Heard is averaging 7.4 yards per carry.
>> Funny comments today from Martinez and his roommate/best friend on the team, defensive end Eric Martin. Clearly on the opposite ends of the spectrum as personalities, they get along, Martin said, because they’ve been through so much together.
“I’ve been with him through the most,” Martin said. “I think he’s a real good dude and has a bright, bright future ahead of it.”
Said Martinez: “Opposites make the right fitting.”
Martin is the only player about whom Martinez is willing to crack the slightest joke.
“He’s obnoxious and I’m not really,” Martinez said at his press conference Monday.
Martin laughed and said he’d get Martinez back for the comment in the locker room.
“We’re very different,” Martin said. “He likes country music; I like rap. We can’t sit in the same room together listening to music. He likes to watch Disney Channel, I like to watch Family Guy and Comedy Central, so we definitely can’t be in the same room. He snores at night, and I don’t. So it’s kind of a love-hate relationship.”
Martin said Martinez likes to watch “That’s So Raven” and “Kim Possible.” These shows, while real, may be part of Martin’s way of getting back at Martinez for calling him obnoxious.