Outside of one all-star game, Nebraska freshman quarterback Adrian Martinez hasn’t played in a competitive football game since his junior year of high school. He missed his entire senior season after undergoing shoulder surgery but graduated early from Clovis West High School and is already on campus in Lincoln.
Three practices into spring ball, Martinez isn’t showing much if any rust after all that time away from the gridiron.
“He’s doing really well,” quarterbacks coach Mario Verduzco said. “You’d never know; you really wouldn’t. You would think that he just played his senior year and away we go. He’s been fine in the meetings, he’s been fine at practice … I think for most quarterbacks at the position, it’s like riding a bike. They just have to get back on it and let’s go.”
Martinez is back on his bike in practice as the five quarterbacks on the roster — sophomores Patrick O’Brien, Noah Vedral and Andrew Bunch and freshmen Tristan Gebbia and Martinez — are splitting reps. At the moment, there is no such thing as a quarterback depth chart.
“Really in my brain, there’s no groups,” Verduzco said. “And then interestingly enough, if the first-team quarterback was working with the third-team group, moving down the line, if that were to ever happen, you have to learn how to operate when things are breaking down so that’s not necessarily a bad thing. But right now, we’ve got them all pieced together in terms of where they are and we’re rotating guys in terms of who’s got quote-unquote that first set and so on and so forth.”
Martinez is doing “very well” and has a clean bill of health according to Verduzco, but that doesn’t mean the coach isn’t paying close attention after every bit of practice.
“I’m just really conscious that when we’re going and as we’re going that I ask him ‘How’s your shoulder feel?’" Verduzco said. “There are no issues with it, but I’m just conscious of that. When we’re warming up, how we’re warming up, how does it feel during practice and then we work some drills afterwards and I want to make sure he’s doing fine. But after that, he’s like a duck in water.”
Martinez isn’t too far behind the rest of the room in terms of experience even without playing his last year of high school ball, as O’Brien is the only one eligible to play this season that has thrown a pass at the Division I level, and even he only threw 30 passes. Gebbia and Bunch (a walk-on junior college transfer) redshirted last year while Vedral has to sit out as a transfer from Central Florida.
“They’re all starting from the ground floor, so they’re all experiencing the same sorts of questions, apprehensions,” Verduzco said. “They know it but now they have to see it in terms of reps. That’s normal.”
What isn’t totally normal, at least as far as how Verduzco will run things after this year, is how much of their practice time is spent on fundamental drills as Verduzco teaches the quarterbacks what it takes to play in Scott Frost’s offense.
“Probably more than normal because they’re learning a lot of stuff and there are so many pieces to the puzzle that we’re just kind of touching on,” Verduzco said. “Some of the drills that we’re working after the practice are drills that we need to teach them that are not designed for in-season practice but for the offseason.”
Learning the offense shouldn’t be too difficult for this group of quarterbacks. In fact, Verduzco wants to make sure his players aren’t spending too much time in the playbook.
“They’re very attentive and they want to learn,” Verduzco said. “Having said that, I want to make certain that they understand that they don’t need to be up here eight hours a day; they shouldn’t have to be up here eight hours a day. If they are up here eight hours a day, there’s something wrong. We want them to enjoy their college experience.
"Obviously because we practice in the morning, they’re going to have to get their academic life taken care of and so on and so forth. That morning time is ours and I’m here early, early in the morning so come in and let’s talk and we’ll go from there.”
Jacob is in his third year with Hail Varsity covering Husker athletics. He has also written extensively for SB Nation’s Bright Side of the Sun and The Creightonian. His love of basketball can best be described as an obsession and if you need to find him, he’s probably in a gym somewhere watching, coaching or playing hoops.