I’m a believer in Adrian Martinez. I think the majority of Husker Nation still is. I have to constantly remind myself the vocal minority on social media is, in fact, the minority. If anything was clear at Scott Frost’s signing day press conference this past Wednesday, it’s that the Husker head coach is still also very much a believer in Adrian Martinez. That guy is his guy. There will be a quarterback competition this offseason in the way there’s a “competition” at every spot every offseason. Martinez is Frost’s guy.
And he’ll probably take some flack for that nationally. The ones that don’t pay attention to Nebraska week-to-week in the way necessary to understand all the nuance of the situation will question why Frost would tie himself to a guy who regressed. After a 25:14 touchdown-to-turnover ratio and 6.7 yards per play as a freshman, Martinez’s decision-making took a step back in his sophomore campaign and he posted a 17:13 score-to-giveaway ratio and 6.5 yards per play.
In all fairness and transparency, there were isolated moments this past season where I questioned whether Martinez should take a seat on the bench. Not in any permanent manner, rather to allow him a minute to catch his breath, regain his composure or see the game from a different perspective.
Even as someone firmly a believer in the quarterback, there were times this past year where it was hard to see the forest through the trees.
But my views don't matter much (at all) in the grand scheme of building. Frost kept saying in postgame sessions the people who mattered internally could see where Nebraska was heading. Martinez’s game is a perfect encapsulation of that conversation. You can either see the direction through the struggles, or you just see the struggles.
You know who else still believes in Martinez? Who else still saw the glow around the soon-to-be junior quarterback?
Four-star wide receiver Omar Manning.
And 4-star wide receiver Zavier Betts.
And 4-star wide receiver Marcus Fleming.
And 4-star wide receiver Alante Brown.
And 4-star running back Sevion Morrison.
And 4-star offensive tackle Turner Corcoran.
Six of the nine 4-stars Nebraska signed in the 2020 class were on the offensive side of the ball.
That doesn’t happen if those guys are at all curious who’s throwing them or handing them the ball. (Or, in Corcoran’s case… I don’t know… asking for protection, maybe?)
One of the biggest storylines of December, I thought after Nate Duncan’s kick knifed through that Black Friday air and he had the intestinal fortitude to tell Frost what’s up, was how the Huskers were going to close on the trail. What was Nebraska going to sell? Progress? Technically one win is progress but… you know… not much. What about early playing time? The non-Wan’Dale Robinson freshmen last season don’t help that argument. Nor do the non-Martinez freshmen from 2018.
Turns out none of that mattered.
The ones who mattered externally saw the progress. They saw the forest through the trees. The growth through the mistakes.
“It was awesome for me to go around to all those places and have people tell me, ‘Man coach, we can see it coming, you’re close, a couple pieces and you guys are there,’” Frost said. “That wasn’t us saying those things. That was coaches and players in other places recognizing it when they’re watching games. If we were a few pieces short or just coming up short in some games this year, hopefully we got most of those pieces in this class. It’s important that if we want the program everyone here wants that we keep stacking recruiting classes like this and making sure we have talent and depth at every position.”
Nebraska may have just stacked two of its best recruiting classes since recruiting services started tracking such things. And it did it with nine wins in 24 games. If you look at the teams around Nebraska on the 247 Composite team rankings, the Huskers are recruiting neck and neck with teams averaging eight, nine and 10 wins in the last three seasons.
I don’t need to tell you what Nebraska is at.
Maybe that fact moves the needle for you in terms of your outlook for 2020. Maybe it doesn’t. Honestly, I would advise against the Kool-Aid this offseason. We need to see tangible improvement in pass protection and pass rush and run defense and coverage reading before anyone goes near those “Big Ten West winner” predictions we were all at a year ago.
But the fact this class exists is testament to the growth Frost says is happening.
“I don’t have any different opinion where this program is headed than I did when I took the job,” Frost said. “We knew it was going to be a lot of work. We knew it wasn’t in the best place. There were a lot of things we were going to have to do to make the program look like we wanted it to look. You never know how fast those results are going to come, and that’s why when you guys ask me questions I say that I want to be better than I was yesterday, and we want to be better than we were yesterday.
Frost called the 2020 class of commits and signees a group the Huskers can win “a lot of games” with.
“You say it’s our third recruiting class, the hard part about the first recruiting class is that we had about three weeks to recruit it,” Frost started. “I think we did well in some areas and missed on some other things. We did the best we could in the short amount of time. This is really the second class we’ve had where we had a full year to work and make sure we’re getting the right guys and make sure we get people that fit us. I think between guys we got in that first class and these last two classes we put together, it's starting to look like it needs to look from a talent perspective.”
Frost kept telling us all to chill. Kinda felt like this past week was the perfect opportunity for him to get up behind that podium, look out into the cameras, and say, “Told you so.”
But he doesn’t even need to do that. Frost believes in Martinez. He believes things are going in the right direction. And he believes the ones he needs to try and convince of that singular fact are willing to listen.
We know now they believe, too.
Derek is a newbie on the Hail Varsity staff covering Husker athletics. In college, he was best known as ‘that guy from Twitter.’ He has covered a Sugar Bowl, a tennis national championship and almost everything in between (except an NCAA men’s basketball tournament game… *tears*). In his spare time, he can be found arguing with literally anyone about sports.