Through five games Nebraska sophomore quarterback Taylor Martinez is sitting on a 50.5 percentage completion rate, with just four touchdowns to five interceptions. The criticisms of Martinez’s play are plenty and this is not about piling on him personally. What this is about is about pushing Martinez to continue to improve.
Martinez has been allowed to compete in a vacuum since the spring. There hasn’t been a strong competition for the starting quarterback spot despite a strong performance from Brion Carnes in the spring game. According to head coach Bo Pelini there is a pretty wide gap between Martinez and Carnes.
“(The gap) Is pretty wide right now. If you look at what Taylor’s done for the bulk of the season, I’m glad he’s our quarterback,” head coach Bo Pelini said.
Yes, Martinez is 4-1 through five games. The completion percentage, touchdowns and interceptions have already been noted. Consider what has happened since spring though. Jamal Turner, a highly coveted quarterback recruit, moves early in spring practices from quarterback to wide receiver. At the conclusion of the spring top backup quarterback, Cody Green, decided to transfer.
The vacuum started with the move by Turner and continued to grow with the transfer of Green. Now, I am not saying that it was in Nebraska’s best interest for Green to transfer, but you have to consider the outcome lending to the situation at quarterback and really with Martinez being the starter and the gap to the backups.
I haven’t heard how the reps have been broken out in practice, but I am assuming that very similar Callahan/Watson/NFL-like circumstances still exist giving the lion’s share of the reps during practices to Martinez while Carnes and Kellogg split somewhere in the area of 25% of the remainder of the snaps daily to continue to improve.
With those circumstances; the position change, the transfer and the lack of competition during the week with the other quarterbacks on the depth chart; the product has been…don’t mean to repeat myself… a 50.5 percentage completion, with just four touchdowns to five interceptions.
The competition at quarterback has to pick up. Martinez needs to be kicked out of the security that is being provided and he needs to be tested. I actually see a parallel to not being pushed in practice on a daily/weekly basis to not performing well when things on the field don’t go Martinez’s way.
In other words, Martinez hasn’t handled adversity correctly. On Saturday night, adversity pushed Nebraska to challenge the defense down the field as opposed to taking what the defense was giving him which could have been check down passes to the running back.
The running backs, Rex Burkhead, finished with one reception though. Burkhead actually had more tackles than receptions. The tackles, ironically, came on the heels of a Martinez interception. Both times, Burkhead appeared to be open with room to run.
Carnes may not be the answer, but pushing Martinez to keep his job might be. It’s clear that the monopolistic type of situation that appears to exist needs to be opened up not just for the good of the team, but most of all for Martinez possibly.