Football doesn’t return until August. That sucks. So let’s refuse to stop football talk. Let’s keep the anticipation flowing.
We're continuing our look at ten players that might become the most interesting men in the Huskers’ locker room.
- No. 10 — Redshirt freshman defensive tackle Damion Daniels
- No. 9 — Sophomore defensive back Dicaprio Bootle
- No. 8 — Junior outside linebacker Alex Davis
- No. 7 — lol nevermind
- No. 6 — Junior inside linebacker Will Honas
- No. 5 — Junior wide receiver Mike Williams
- No. 4 — Junior cornerback Lamar Jackson
- No. 3 — Junior running back Greg Bell
- No. 2 — Sophomore wide receiver Tyjon Lindsey
No. 1 — Freshman quarterback Adrian Martinez
Let’s start this one with an explanation. Why only one quarterback? It’s a fair question. Nebraska is currently in the midst of a quarterback competition with three legitimate options, how does only one make it into a top-10 list based on intrigue? For one, adding multiple felt like a personal cop-out.
It’s easy to talk about the two main quarterbacks, that’s why everyone does it. But when was the last time you read a story on Alex Davis? The other guys are important too and only one of the quarterbacks can start. (For what it’s worth, if we had done a top-25 list, the other two would have both been on.)
Now, about Adrian… where to start?
The 6-foot-2, 205-pound true freshman (yes, you read all that right) didn’t play his senior year at Clovis West High School in Fresno, California. The last tape of the youngster occurred during a junior season that saw him pass at a 60 percent clip (meh) with a 25-4 touchdown-to-interception ratio (oh…) and a per-attempt average of exactly 7 yards (meh). Leading man Scott Frost saw enough to fly cross-country the night he took the job to flip the kid from Tennessee to Nebraska.
For all intents and purposes, Martinez was Frost’s No. 1 draft pick. That was without a senior year. That’s not new information, but it tells an awful lot.
The injury that cost Martinez that final bit of highlight film was to his shoulder. He played in the Under Armour All-America Game but his mobility was the main takeaway there, not his arm. So how would he look in the April 21 spring game? Could he make deep throws?
He completed 10-of-13 passes but his lone touchdown was a bit of a duck floated to a wide-open Jaevon McQuitty for the score. (Whether he could have pounded the ball through traffic is a good question since there was none to be found on the play.) His high school coach said after the game he still isn’t seeing the same zip on the ball that Martinez had pre-injury.
Were you more concerned about his arm strength or excited about his running ability? It’s alright to be curious about the former while also being anxious to see more of the latter.
Martinez led the Red team in attempts (14), yards (60), and touchdowns (3). When put into the RPO — a bread-and-butter of this offense — he was sharp. If Tristan Gebbia has the quick-trigger edge in the aerial assault, Martinez might have it on the ground. Tyjon Lindsey’s big run in the first quarter? That was Martinez’s option; he made the right call. The ensuing play was an RPO Martinez recognized wasn’t going to work on the ground and flipped it to tight end Jack Stoll out right. Three plays later he did the same thing, just to the opposite side. Two plays after that he ran a triple-option keeper in for six.
But the quarterbacks weren’t live, you say? Some of his runs wouldn’t have been as successful if he was live, you say? Wrong.
“Oh my God he’s a fast man,” linebacker Mohamed Barry said after the game. “That’s what y’all seen. I’ve seen it firsthand. You can be right there and he starts bending back, he’ll cut back and go back forward and oh my God, he’s running like 4.3.”
And when Barry says that, hard not to think about this.
Deceptive athleticism helps initially when there’s not a ton for defenses to scout; it gets guys to take bad angles expecting to be able to make up the difference. It can help Martinez ease in. Then the system and the play-action passing can take over. He’s in a good spot, really.
And that athleticism makes him the wild-card of the team this season. Can it all come together in time for Nebraska to win in year one? Running counter to the sport’s core goal, that probably won’t really matter much early on to the guys who have offices in Memorial Stadium. Competing is a different story, but the Huskers’ goal will be more about developing, about building. If Martinez is the guy — and most expect him to be, if not at the beginning then at some point in 2018 — anything positive out of this year is extra sprinkles on top.
So the thing that lands him here at the top of our most-intriguing list is the fact he has the ability to give Nebraska faithful plenty of extra sprinkles on top this year.
Make smart decisions, keep defenses honest and strike when opportunities present themselves. Those are all things Martinez showed in high school, all things he showed during the spring, all things he showed during the scrimmage. He does things you don’t typically see from young guys. Go back to that McQuitty touchdown and instead of focusing on the throw itself, notice how he pulls the safety to his left, opening up that wide-open patch of green. The kid’s got game.
His rating in the Red-White scrimmage was 176; that’s pretty darn good. The third-best season mark last year was 170.6 and that belonged to Oklahoma State’s Mason Rudolph. Martinez doesn’t need to touch those numbers in 2018 but what if he did something similar to Virginia Tech’s Josh Jackson?
A 6-foot-1, 216-pound, dual-threat redshirt freshman took the reins of the Hokies, hit 60 percent of his passes, ran for six scores and led an upstart team with an up-and-coming coach behind a 135.2 quarterback rating that ranked 55th in the country. (Inhales)
Would you take that in year one? Strip away all the other variables and look at the two individuals. Does Martinez have that same ability? I think he does. I am officially intrigued.
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.