How Nebraska QB Taylor Martinez's Improved Passing Puts Him in Heisman Picture

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How Nebraska QB Taylor Martinez's Improved Passing Puts Him in Heisman Picture
Bruce Thorson-US PRESSWIRE

The talk of the town in Lincoln is "Heisman" after Taylor Martinez's 26-of-34, 354-yard, five-touchdown performance in Week 1 against Southern Miss. And by that we mean everybody is just saying the word "Heisman" over and over, like a football version of the "Malkovich" scene in Being John Malkovich.

Heisman. Heisman Heisman Heisman Heisman. Heisman? Heisman Heisman. It's quite unsettling.

And hey, look, it's fair to take notice of Martinez's performance. On the list of Big Ten players most likely to throw for more than 300 yards and five touchdowns in Week 1, Martinez was roughly 87th, right between Johnathan Hankins and Denard Robinson.

But one look at Martinez's throwing motion shows that by and large, he's still the same Taylor Martinez.

Time and time again, we see throws coming off the back foot, Martinez's front arm flailing wildly and a low arm slot that begs defensive linemen to bat the ball down. Martinez was fantastically productive in his first start of the year, but his throws still weren't overly impressive. 

There's more that goes into throwing the ball than just mechanics, though, and there Martinez excels. The fact is that Martinez is a third-year starter, and he's got the improved rapport that comes naturally from increased experience.

Sure, he was throwing to open receivers quite often, but it's no accident that he's finding them open. That comes from timing, discipline and knowledge of the offense.

As Bo Pelini mentioned in the Big Ten's weekly teleconference, Martinez was able to focus on his passing game over the offseason because this was the first summer where he had a good handle on the offense. And sure enough, funky throwing motion and all, Martinez is consistently putting the ball where it needs to be.

Eric Francis/Getty Images
Moreover, college football's history is filled with quarterbacks with "unorthodox" delivery and great success. Vince Young threw like Uncle Rico and led Texas to a national championship. Danny Wuerffel set efficiency records throwing short-arm. And Denard Robinson is the Big Ten's leading returning QB in passing efficiency, and what he does with the football might not legally qualify as "passing."

It sure doesn't hurt that Martinez is throwing to one of the best receiving corps in the Big Ten. Kenny Bell is a potential All-Big Ten wide receiver, Jamal Turner has the talent and athleticism to get there down the road as well, Kyler Reed is arguably the best receiving tight end in the conference and backup RB Ameer Abdullah is lethal out of the backfield.

That all said, Nebraska's offense is predicated first and foremost on the run, and Nebraska won't be able to throw the ball around with ease without teams having to respect that ground game. Southern Miss obviously didn't expect that aerial attack in Week 1, judging by how hapless and unprepared its secondary looked.

However, if Rex Burkhead's not around for the UCLA game, that ground game's going to look significantly less imposing for the Bruins defense, and that means Taylor Martinez throwing into a secondary that's looking for the pass. At that point, it'll probably be time for people in Lincoln to stop saying "Heisman" all the time.

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