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Hot Reads: Pat Fitzgerald on Adrian Martinez –– ‘He’s a Magician’

October 09, 2018

Nebraska football coach Scott Frost didn't technically take the bait when asked Monday if true freshman quarterback Adrian Martinez reminded him of any of his past quarterbacks.

"I told you guys I’m always careful about making comparisons but he’s doing some things like quite a few of the special guys I’ve been around," Frost said. "There’s no way I would have been ready to do what he’s doing right now as an 18 year-old. It says a lot about who he is as a person."

Everyone knows, however, the "special guys" on Frost's resume. Mariota and Milton are the headliners. More on them in a minute.

Northwestern football coach Pat Fitzgerald didn't offer a direct comparison for Martinez either when asked, though he did give him "human check down" status and was quick to offer praise.

"Adrian Martinez is going to be, I mean he already is, but he's going to be an outstanding football player," Fitzgerald said. "He's a magician right now. He makes a lot of things happen. He's very talented with his arm. He's obviously athletic and makes a lot of guys miss. He's impressive to watch."

That's seems to be the consensus among "football guys" when it comes to Martinez. From game-week press conferences to in-game broadcasts, the praise has been effusive for what he is now and what it likely means he will be going forward.

It's the latter part there that might be the key question for Nebraska. The Huskers have had strong freshman outings from guys in the recent past and, for a variety of different reasons, the presumed development didn't progress on a linear path. Will it with Martinez?

I don't know, but I think back to a conversation with quarterbacks coach Mario Verduzco in the spring. "These guys’ development will be no more or less remarkable than KZ’s (Milton)," he said. He was talking about all of Nebraska's quarterbacks at that point, and while the room has only shrunk by one (Tristan Gebbia), it seems clear now that Martinez will be the one whose development matters most for the Huskers' immediate future.

And you could argue that Martinez might already be ahead of where Milton was at in the same stage of his career. These kind of comparisons can be more dangerous than useful given that each situation is different (sometimes drastically so) and constantly shifting, but they're also somewhat impossible to resist, too. We'll proceed cautiously, but proceed nonetheless.

Right now Martinez ranks ninth among freshman starters in passing efficiency (133.14). His line of 59.7 percent completions, 7.7 yards per attempt, five touchdowns and three interceptions compares favorably to what Milton managed as a true freshman in 2016. UCF's current Heisman contender posted a 57.7/5.9/10/7/112.97 line in his first year on the job.

Mariota, the other great pillar supporting Frost's QB-picking prowess, was on a different plane his first season, as was Oregon. The eventual Heisman-winner's first season looked like this: 68.5/8.0/32/6/163.23. Mariota had the advantage of a redshirt season and inherited a Ducks team that started the season at No. 5 in the AP poll.

Is Martinez in that class? We don't know right now. All we know is that people keep hinting that he is. Particularly opposing coaches.

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