Taylor evolves quickly in Callahan's system

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

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."