'); date_ob.setTime(date_ob.getTime()+43200000); dc.cookie='he=llo; path=/; expires='+ date_ob.toGMTString(); } // -->
LINCOLN - Stan Weber's eyes grew wide. This was going to be good.
Weber is the color analyst for Kansas State football and basketball. He's a former Wildcat quarterback (1983-84). Whenever we meet, we talk pigskin. Nebraska. K-State. Big 12.
I hadn't seen Weber since the Nebraska-KSU football game last November. When I saw him two weeks ago, at the Big 12 tournament, we had some catching up to do. He was ready.
"I've got to tell you my Zac Taylor story," Weber said.
Weber began by telling how, after NU's dramatic come-from-behind win, he stopped by the Huskers' locker room. He wanted to meet Taylor. Weber chatted with Taylor's parents. Soon, the NU quarterback came up. Weber introduced himself.
"Zac, I know you had a concussion and you may not remember everything," Weber said. "But I've got to ask you a question."
Weber recalled a second-quarter touchdown pass from Taylor to Nate Swift. It was a post route that Taylor threaded over the head of Kansas State strong safety Marcus Watts.
"I couldn't believe he threw the pass," Weber said. "It made no sense. Watts is K-State's top defender. He's sitting back in a cover three, waiting for the route. You don't make that throw. I thought for sure, it was intercepted. When it went for a score, I thought it was lucky.
"I had to know. I asked him: Why did you throw that pass?"
Taylor had brushed out the cobwebs by then. His answer blew Weber's mind.
"I saw the safety's feet," Taylor told Weber. "He was flat-footed. He was turned one way. I knew there was no way he could recover in time to help on the receiver."
Three months later, Weber still shook his head.
"That is absolutely incredible," Weber said. "For him to be in the pocket and have the vision to see a defender's feet that far away and, in a split second, have the presence of mind to know which way he's going and know he can't recover, that's perfect. Absolutely perfect.
"That's what you want in a quarterback. The game slows down for the great ones, and they can lock in on a Polaroid of the play, a Polaroid only they see. That one play told me a lot about Zac Taylor. I was very, very impressed."
That snapshot is Exhibit A why Taylor returns this spring as not only the undisputed No. 1 quarterback at NU, but perhaps the top returning quarterback in the Big 12.
Taylor doesn't have the most imposing physique (though that's changed), the biggest cannon for an arm or the gaudiest numbers. But he's blessed with an asset that gives him a decided edge: the light bulb over his head. It clicked on.
"Before K-State, I was feeling good," Taylor said. "But it was during that game things started to slow down. I could feel things started to click. Now, I feel things are starting to fall in place."
Of course, it could be argued that things slowed down for Taylor when he had to be scraped off the field after suffering the concussion. But you could see it at Colorado and in the Alamo Bowl. Taylor was a new man. Decisive. Confident. The engines were in overdrive. We have liftoff.
The transformation of a young quarterback was such that Taylor changed the dynamic of 2006. NU now looks like the favorite to win the Big 12 North. Taylor is getting All-Big 12 buzz.
That's for later. This spring, Taylor and coach Bill Callahan are looking for improvement. This spring is all about subtleties and nuances. The things that only people who see light bulbs can see.
"He needs to take the next step," Callahan said. "He will have to take on a new role, go to the line, establish the fronts, the blocking schemes, identify the coverages. I believe he can get to that point, make the next step, be a great communicator, put people in the right places.
"I'm anxious to watch him make the next step, make plays off what he sees. It's tough, but the great ones can do that."
Taylor is working on his footwork, studying Seattle quarterback Matt Hasselbeck. He's trying to accelerate his reads. He's trying to stay on the same page as Callahan, who works in the fast lane.
Meanwhile, he's up eight pounds, to 208, with a goal of 215 by next fall. Zac Taylor never looked like Opie Taylor. But he wants to beef up. Maybe to absorb all of those blitzes. Maybe because this is what great ones do when the light bulb comes on.
How focused is Taylor? Someone asked him how he felt about the phenom, sophomore Harrison Beck, taking reps this spring to get experience. Taylor snapped, "I'm going to get mine, too."
Just then, he got steely-eyed. This is going to be good.
Contact the Omaha World-Herald newsroom
Copyright ©2006 Omaha World-Herald®. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, displayed or distributed for any purpose without permission from the Omaha World-Herald.