LINCOLN — Nebraska quarterback Taylor Martinez didn't participate in NU's full-padded practice Tuesday as he continues to suffer from a left turf toe injury.
Scheduled to speak after practice Tuesday, Martinez told a reporter he won't comment at length until he practices and was unsure whether he'd play in Saturday's game against Illinois.
Offensive coordinator Tim Beck said the same of Martinez's status.
“He's got to be 100 percent,” Beck said. “He's got to be able to do what we need him to do in a game.”
Said backup Tommy Armstrong: “Coach Beck told us to play it by ear. He doesn't know what's going to happen. Just prepare this week like we're going to play. If Taylor plays, he plays. If he doesn't, he doesn't.”
Beck said Martinez did some drills and ran around earlier in practice before being iced down. NU's been preparing Martinez for the Illinois game plan in case he does suit up and start. Beck wants Martinez to “get some live work in — or what I consider live work — in the next two days” before he plays in a game.
“If he doesn't get any work, it'd be highly unlikely,” Beck said. “Maybe as a security blanket — if we had to. If he's healthy. He's gotta be healthy. He's gotta say he's healthy, he's gotta compete like he's healthy and he's gotta play like he's healthy.”
How does Beck gauge that?
“You can tell,” Beck said. “I think all of you felt he wasn't playing the way Taylor had played last year. He wasn't doing things bad. He just wasn't being Taylor, doing some of the things he normally did. You could tell. There were some things.”
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In Martinez's absence, Armstrong — the redshirt freshman who got his first career start against South Dakota State — and fifth-year senior Ron Kellogg have continued to split reps with the No. 1 unit. Beck said he might use both if Martinez can't play Saturday. They combined for 305 passing yards and two touchdowns against SDSU.
“If it helps us win, yes,” Beck said. “I think those guys are very compatible with each other. They do a good job. And I think it doesn't really affect our team. It's a tribute to playing two huddles and running fast.”
Armstrong said he's fine with a rotation.
“It's not a challenge,” Armstrong said. “We were both ready. When our number was called, we capitalized. ... It was the same thing we did during practice. We're used to it.”
Linebacker Rose considers Scheelhaase 'like a mentor'
Nebraska linebacker Michael Rose was three classes behind Nathan Scheelhaase at Rockhurst High in Kansas City, Mo., but he was around the quarterback enough to learn some lessons.
Rose said he watched how Scheelhaase carried himself on and off the field, and always seemed to have a presence about him. He studied how Scheelhaase handled the recruiting process his senior year, including getting attention from NU, before signing with Illinois.
“I consider him kind of like a mentor to me,” Rose said.
Scheelhaase has passed for 1,162 yards and 12 touchdowns in the Illini's first four games, all while transitioning to a pro-style offense.
“He's continuously improved his passing,” Rose said. “I know that was something he always worked on. He's never really made bad decisions, but he's making better decisions now. He's definitely one of those guys that put in the work in the offseason, and you can see it on the field now.”
Rose said he talked with Scheelhaase over the weekend and they've traded texts this week. It will be all business Saturday, but Rose said he's glad to see his old friend having success this season after a tough junior year.
“I'm proud of him,” Rose said. “I'm glad he's doing what he's doing now. It's going to be fun to be out there and playing against him.”
Beck says overall body of work improving for tight ends
NU's tight ends haven't been putting up the receiving numbers that Ben Cotton and Kyler Reed did a year ago, but offensive coordinator Tim Beck praised their overall body of work Tuesday.
“I think it's getting better all the time,” Beck said.
Beck said senior Jake Long has improved and that true freshman Cethan Carter is starting to hit his stride. NU also is using redshirt freshmen Sam Cotton and Trey Foster, with Cotton returning recently after missing the first two games.
“All those guys, I think that's an area on our team from game one to game four (that) probably has improved the most,” Beck said.
Long leads the tight ends with four receptions, averaging 17.2 yards per catch. Carter has three receptions (18.3 per catch) and likely is headed for more targets in coming weeks as he continues to get more comfortable in the offense.
Moss: Kaczenski working hard to develop defensive line
Most Nebraska players can log their film work on iPads given to them by the team. Defensive end Avery Moss does some of that, but defensive line coach Rick Kaczenski still wants his unit coming to the North Stadium so he can make sure linemen put in the time needed.
“He likes the old-fashioned way,” Moss said. “Monday's supposedly our day off, so we don't technically have to come, but I guess the people that care about it, they come in and watch.”
Moss said Kaczenski has put in extra time in other places. He's looking for new ways to teach techniques to a young defensive line that needs to catch up quickly or risk struggling as it has through the first month.
“Fundamental things that we may not have developed before that we already have,” Moss said. “He's calmed down. He's been an overall better coach his second year. He used to get so bottled up over the little things, and now he's started to learn, like Coach Bo (Pelini) said, to have a little fun every now and then.”
Defensive end Randy Gregory said Kaczenski, Pelini and defensive coordinator John Papuchis have taken turns working with the defensive line since camp started.
“I think they understand that we need a lot of attention on us — especially when we have a lot of freshmen playing,” Gregory said. “It's really helping.”
Linebacker Anderson expects to play despite ankle injury
Junior linebacker Zaire Anderson said he's been taking “mental reps” during practice this week as he deals with a minor ankle injury.
It's not serious. He plans to be available Saturday. But he's been limited in practice.
And since there's a wide-open competition for starting jobs at every linebacker spot, he's motivated to get back on the field as soon as possible. Anderson said he was working with the first-team defense weakside linebacker before getting banged up.
But he's certain he'll bounce back.
“I'm at the right stage. I'm learning more. The coaches can tell. I'm just getting better,” Anderson said. “All I can do is keep learning, keep improving.”
Ľ I-back Ameer Abdullah worked for a half-hour after practice on ball security by running with the ball in a high-and-tight position for the length of the field inside Hawks Championship Center.
Ľ Safety Harvey Jackson stayed late working on coverage routes. Jackson remains in a battle to keep his starting job after a poor performance against South Dakota State.
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Video: QB Tommy Armstrong talks after practice
Video: Offensive coordinator Tim Beck after practice
Video: The Big Red Today Show, Oct. 1