Hot Reads: A Unique Tale of Two Freshman Quarterbacks
Photo Credit: Eric Francis

Hot Reads: A Unique Tale of Two Freshman Quarterbacks

February 13, 2019

Scott Frost was recently in Kansas City to discuss the Huskers' 2019 recruiting haul. This is the time of year for such things. College football coaches don't have a lot of windows for down time on a calendar that seems to continually fill up to a greater and greater degree, but the week right after February's signing day is one such window for a short breather.

Or a quick barnstorming tour to fire up the fan base.

Blair Kerkhoff recapped Frost's comments from his stop in Missouri for the Kansas City Star. It's mostly what you'd expect, talk of the progress made last year, a mention of being "miles ahead" this year, standard offseason stuff.

But then Frost went there. He decided to mention Clemson's star freshman quarterback, Trevor Lawrence, and Nebraska's star freshman quarterback, Adrian Martinez, in the same sentence.

“It’s hard to make any arguments against (Lawrence), but I felt like we had one of the top if not the top freshman quarterback in the country,” Frost said.
The Football Writers Association of America agreed and chose both players to the organization’s freshman All-America team.

Now, that might not seem crazy to those who wear red every day. It's probably not crazy from a more objective point of view either. If you want to do a deep statistical dive and really break down how good Lawrence and Martinez were––spoiler: they were both great––have at it.

But most people won't do that. Zoom out from the intensely partisan pockets that make college football fandom great and consider the whole, the entire group of people who follow this sport the most closely. If you polled that group I'm guessing not a lot of people would put Martinez in the same conversation as Lawrence. (In the purple-and-orange pocket, I’m sure it’s viewed as ludicrous.) That's not a reflection of the value or ability of either player, just perception. But for the randomly selected college football fan, I'm guessing they know that Lawrence was great on a great team that went 15-0 and won a national title.

And Martinez was great on a 4-8 team that played eight games at the often die-hards-only time of 11 a.m. The general college football fan's exposure to the greatness of Lawrence was much greater than his or her exposure to the greatness of Martinez. That, as much as any statistical differences, is why, as Frost said, it's hard to make any arguments against Lawrence. He wins the QB Q-rating contest in a landslide due to Clemson's higher profile in 2018.

I'm not that interested in debating who's better at this point. What I am interested in at this point is that co-QB nod on the Football Writers Association of America Freshman All-America team.

I didn't think much of it when that team was announced the day of the Clemson-Alabama national title game. Lawrence got his own paragraph in the release, Martinez was just on the list.

Kerkhoff's mention of it, however, made me go back to it. It was a savvy insertion into the story, a quick way to say, "Look, it's not just Frost saying this."

I didn't think of it that way back in January, but it now looks like I should have.

The FWAA Freshman All-America team started in 2001. It has put two quarterbacks on the team one time––this time.

The list of quarterbacks in this group includes some pretty big names, of course. Ben Roethlisberger was the first FWAA freshman All-American at quarterback. Colt McCoy, Sam Bradford, the two freshman Heisman-winners Johnny Manziel and Jameis Winston, JT Barrett, Sam Darnold and Jake Fromm have all earned the honor.

There are also some head-scratchers with the benefit of knowing how the rest of the story unfolded. Raise your hand if you remember Tom Savage (Rutgers) or Danny O'Brien (Maryland). Savage, the 2009 honoree, finished his career at Pittsburgh, and O'Brien, the guy in 2010, transferred to Wisconsin, lost that job right away and then finished his career at Catawba College. Husker fans are familiar with Sean Mannion thanks to Mike Riley. He was the quarterback on the 2011 team, capping a somewhat unconventional three-year stretch for the best freshman QB in college football.

For the most part, however, the list is a who's who of promising quarterbacks. For 17 years, there was always "a guy." In the 18th year, there were two.

It was the only freshman All-America team (of many) where Martinez made it. We’ll see how the rest of this story plays out, but that’s a pretty bold pick when you stop and think about it.

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