What a difference a season makes.
Remember when Taylor Martinez was uttered in the same breath as former Heisman Trophy winner Eric Crouch?
His amazing 80-yard touchdown runs dazzled the nation right along with Denard Robinson's fleet feet. It seemed like a game of one-upsmanship each week to see who could outrun whom.
Fast forward to the present and rumors are rampant about Martinez even being on the team at all in a few months.
That’s not the first time that it’s happened in the past few months, either.
Does “T-Magic” still walk the halls of Memorial Stadium or have larger issues arisen?
Martinez is young and cocky, but talk to a number of head coaches who've had winning quarterbacks, and ask them how many had some severe strut in their step.
Sure, the college football world loves a story about the humble superstar doing it all for the team. There seems to be another side that adores one about a brash, exciting newcomer who can back up his talk with action.
Not everyone has to like everyone else in a football locker room. It’s statistically and sociologically improbable, if not impossible.
Martinez clearly brings amazing talent to the field, but will his attitude help or hurt Nebraska in the long run?
During Nebraska’s initial bullying of Western Kentucky, Idaho and Washington in early 2010, Martinez couldn’t have been happier after bolting down the sidelines again and again. He received hugs and congratulations from teammates.
All was well.
Sports radio and ESPN lavished praise on Martinez like the concept was trending on Twitter.
Then, adversity struck.
South Dakota State made things difficult for Martinez and Nebraska, causing them to readjust. The previous week's problems seemed like a blip on the radar as Martinez would nearly dissect Kansas State’s defense all by himself, but then came the Texas Longhorns.
Texas clamped down on him and suddenly “T-Magic” reverted into plain, old Taylor Martinez and Taylor was far from happy. Martinez and the Cornhuskers would do some miraculous things over the next several weeks. He set record after record not only for a freshman at Nebraska, but in the school’s overall history.
Unfortunately, the Missouri game, in which Martinez's ankle was injured, may ultimately be his undoing.
Martinez struggled game after game, trying to make runs that he simply couldn’t any more and force throws into multiple coverage. As he came off the field, his frustration grew.
In College Station, it would erupt. Martinez’s foot was accidentally stepped on by center Mike Caputo, causing him to exit the game. He would head to the sideline and chuck his helmet to the track. He was then taken into the back and things only worsened.
He took a phone call from his father in the locker room, a big no-no, and returned to the sidelines. Once Bo Pelini heard of the offense, the night of dealing with questionable officiating combined with the audacious act by Martinez caused a public spectacle. Pelini blitzed Martinez with a verbal onslaught while his quarterback stood there apathetically.
Following the game, rumors ran rampant about Martinez quitting the team. These were quickly squashed by Pelini himself. Pelini seems to have faith in the young man as he kept Martinez in both the Big 12 Championship and the Holiday Bowl versus Washington when he was clearly struggling.
One has to wonder why Cody Green, who had performed more than admirably in Nebraska’s final regular season game versus Colorado, wasn’t given more of an opportunity than he received.
Is Cody as fast as Martinez? No.
Is he at least capable of potentially running the offense better than an obviously struggling, injured, stubborn young man trying to force something that wasn’t going to happen? Probably.
It was especially alarming to see absolutely no one congratulate Martinez following his touchdown pass to tight end Kyler Reed against Washington, a vast contrast to earlier in the season.
Pelini and Martinez have one thing in common, if nothing else: They both hate losing.
The problem is that if Martinez acts like he has on the field, on the sidelines amongst teammates, even during or even outside of practice, are his talents worth the trouble?
The situation gets even more interesting come the spring. Martinez will likely be battling Cody Green and Brion Carnes, a quarterback whose redshirt was clearly not to be pulled, for the starting role.
The battle gets even more fierce in the fall should current commitments Jamal Turner and Bubba Startling come to Lincoln. Both have expressed complete loyalty to the Cornhuskers and are about as close to a sure thing to sign letters of intent come Signing Day.
As a quarterback, you can be cocky and you can be brash. Not everyone has to like you, but everyone absolutely has to respect you. After the 2010 season, it’s a fair question to ask if Martinez’s team is behind him.
The Cornhuskers are going to find a quarterback to respect. They’re going to have a signal-caller that they fight for, that they block harder for, that they give that extra ounce of energy for.
Is Martinez that guy?
We’ll find out very soon, because competition is coming and T-Magic will either amaze once more or go “poof.”
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