Taylor evolves quickly in Callahan's system

Updated: December 22, 2005, 3:42 PM ET
Associated Press

LINCOLN, Neb. -- Zac Taylor's evolution has been so rapid that Nebraska coach Bill Callahan says the junior quarterback barely resembles the player he saw early in the season, let alone in the spring.

"The way that he talks the game and sees the game is much different from what we saw when he first came here in the spring," Callahan said. "When he first got here last spring to where he is at now is night and day, in my opinion."

Taylor is coming off his best all-around performance heading into the resurgent Cornhuskers' Dec. 28 Alamo Bowl game against No. 20 Michigan.

As Taylor has gone, so have the Huskers (7-4) in their bounce-back from last year's 5-6 campaign.

"I think that I have come a long way personally, just in how I approach football and view football," Taylor said. "Being around this coaching staff, I have learned more in the past 12 months than I have pretty much my entire life playing football."

Taylor, who transferred from Butler County (Kan.) Community College, beat out incumbent Joe Dailey in the spring and held off heralded freshman Harrison Beck through the fall.

After completing 42 percent of his passes in nonconference play, Taylor boosted that number to 59 percent in the Big 12. He averaged 261 yards against conference opponents, second only to Texas Tech's Cody Hodges.

Taylor had a school-record 431 yards passing against Iowa State, then completed 63 percent for 392 yards in a 30-3 rout at Colorado on Nov. 25.

The Colorado performance lifted spirits around a Nebraska program that had been down after three straight losses and a closer-than-expected win over struggling Kansas State.

"I think that people are very happy not only that we beat (Colorado), but that we beat them the way that we did," Taylor said. "I think people around here like seeing Colorado not have a whole lot of success, so when we contribute to that, people are happy. So I have seen the mood change a little over the past couple of weeks. People are a lot more upbeat."

Taylor had four touchdowns and no interceptions in the last two games. He has a streak of 76 pass attempts without an interception.

"I think that we have a lot of momentum," Taylor said. "We have won the last two games, and we feel really confident right now. We know that we are about to face a very tough team, and we will need to do everything that we can to win that game."

The Huskers will get a different look going against a Michigan front seven that features players who stand 6-foot-8, 6-6, 6-5, 6-4 and 6-4.

Callahan joked that he was going to have linemen holding up rakes while rushing Taylor in practice.

"It makes you get the ball up quicker," Taylor said. "As soon as they see you pop that ball up and get ready to go, they get their hands up and make it tough for you. We have been working in practice on getting rid of the ball faster so that they have less time to react."

Callahan said he has gotten more than he bargained for out of Taylor.

In particular, Callahan has been impressed with Taylor's ability to operate inside or outside of the pocket. Taylor, not known for his foot speed, has shown a knack for scrambling effectively when protection breaks down.

"I knew he had some mobility, but not to the extent to where I see him run with the ball and make the decisions that he makes in the pocket," Callahan said. "You couldn't have a better guy than that at the helm."

Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press