It was tough to ignore what Adrian Martinez did in his first game in a Nebraska (practice uniform). The current wearer of the "He Should Be Getting Ready for Prom" sash completed most (10) of his 13 passes, lead all rushers (60 yards) and tallied four total touchdowns. Not bad.
Good, in fact. It was a perception-changing performance. Not that this is in any way scientific, but just for a sense of scale in our pre-spring game poll asking who fans expected to start the opener, 74 percent of respondents chose Tristan Gebbia. In a post-spring game world, the race was essentially 50-50 between Martinez and Gebbia this morning.
Even from afar, places like Sports Illustrated took note, listing Martinez among the six players who helped their case the most this spring:
First-year coach Scott Frost has a quarterback decision to make, with Martinez, the jewel of Frost’s first recruiting class, and redshirt freshman Tristan Gebbia in a two-man race now that Patrick O’Brien has decided to transfer. (Sophomore walk-on Andrew Bunch remains on the roster.) If Martinez is not the outright favorite after his strong spring, then he has certainly made a legitimate case for Frost to open with a true freshman calling the shots. Martinez threw for 114 yards, ran for 60 and accounted for four touchdowns in the spring game, a performance that came close to overshadowing the mere presence of Frost on Nebraska’s sideline.
There likely won’t be a final word on the quarterback battle until fall camp, but Martinez’s mobility should swing the coaching staff in his favor. The rest of the Cornhuskers’ quarterbacks—including UCF transfer Noah Vedral, who will sit out the season—were ineffective in the running game on Saturday, while Martinez shone with both his pocket presence and his speed.
That's a fairly by-the-numbers read on things, though not inaccurate. Not only did Martinez's numbers indicate an in-control performance (in a controlled environment), but his innate maturity seemed to come across to those that watched. I've been surprised at how many times the "it factor," that undefinable thing, has come up in casual conversations I've had with friends and football fans over the past few days. I know what they're talking about, I saw it too, while also knowing that trying to make that determination now is like trying to predict how a novel will unfold based on the first paragraph.
So here's something else to consider as it pertains to Nebraska's quarterbacks, and I should state here that I'm in the don't-forget-about-Gebbia camp. Martinez's most immediate advantage, being the youngest quarterback in the room, is that he has the least to unlearn.
Mario Verduzco's approach to quarterback play is designed to be simple and focused on the ultimate detail (producing QB play that can win games), but that approach is backed by a lifetime of intense research. He'll go as deep as you want to go on things, both physically and mentally, and some of those ideas run counter to conventional quarterback thinking. (Watch any of the NFL Draft coverage this week.)
Martinez isn't a blank slate in that regard, he's played football before, but he didn't play his senior year due to injury. Whatever his natural or learned quarterback behaviors were, they're theoretically more malleable. Compare that to Andrew Bunch, who has now had three different coaches at the college level. Or Gebbia, who enjoyed a high-level of QB coaching in California, throughout his prep years. Those are far from bad things. This isn't a demerit for either of those players, just the way things are. They've been exposed to more ideas, and that experience may help in some cases, be a hurdle in others.
Nebraska's quarterback race is going to come down to which player this staff gives the Huskers the best chance to win the next game. Big picture, it's not more complicated than that. Little picture, fine details, there are high-level mechanics being taught and in some cases, what a quarterback doesn't know at this point might be as important as what they do.
Part of a Pattern
As one of the few people who regularly reads most releases from new logo and uniform unveilings, it takes a lot to surprise me in the world of branding college athletic programs. I've feel like I've seen most of it a hundred times before, read all the "Jersey Jabber" marketing departments can write.
But then East Carolina and Adidas unveiled this yesterday:
We honor our storied past as we look to our bright future. Tonight, ECU Athletics proudly unveils our new brand pattern with our great partners at @adidas. Full release: https://t.co/ghAsGqQzdm pic.twitter.com/fbiGDYJ2vN
— ECU Athletics (@ECUAthletics) April 25, 2018
The Pirates already have a strong logo. No reason to mess with that, but if you wanted to create a little buzz around not changing a logo, creating a school-specific pattern is a great way to do it. As you can see in the video, ECU got a bunch of small secondary logos that must be used in combination, but when you do the results can be pretty cool.
They were mocking up football pants in that video with the vertical application of the pattern. Don't know if those will ever see the field, but I hope they do.
And here's how it could look on a basketball uniform.
Starting this year, our new brand pattern will begin to integrate into our uniforms. You can see here how we plan on adding to @ecubasketball and @ECUWomensHoops for next season! pic.twitter.com/RQaoa61H58
— ECU Athletics (@ECUAthletics) April 25, 2018
Nice work, ECU. (And Adidas.)
The Grab Bag
- Randy York of Huskers.com spoke with the national media members in attendance at Nebraska's spring game for their early impressions of the Frost era.
- Nebraska lost to Creighton last night, its first loss to the Jays in Lincoln since 2010.
- AD Bill Moos made some headlines yesterday by noting that Urban Meyer and Jim Harbaugh have a reason to think about Nebraska now.
- ICYMI: Greg Smith updated his Greg's Guys list as recruiting season picks up, Jacob Padilla debuted a series on reviewing Nebraska basketball's 2017-18 season and Derek Peterson shared his interview with former Nebraska receivers coach Rich Fisher, part of his larger feature on Stanley Morgan Jr. in the April issue.
Today's Song of Today
Brandon is the Managing Editor for Hail Varsity and has covered Nebraska athletics for the magazine and web since 2012, Hail Varsity’s first season on the scene. His sports writing has also been featured by Fox Sports, The Guardian and CBS Sports.