Nebraska Football: Assessing Quarterback Taylor Martinez Through Spring Ball

Brandon CavanaughCorrespondent IApril 7, 2011

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The Nebraska Cornhuskers have been working diligently for over a month installing a new base offense and with only a handful of practices to do it. After a tumultuous 2010 campaign, Taylor Martinez supposedly has a fresh start.

With Nebraska offensive coordinator Tim Beck working with him over the spring, while growing pains are to be expected, surely the Cornhuskers’ most dynamic signal-caller would persevere, right?

That would be the logical conclusion, but Martinez seems to defy logic in both positive and negative ways.

Much of his spring progress won’t be seen by many outside of practice aside from the occasional YouTube clips that showcase his still-slightly-odd passing mechanics.

His speed hasn’t been much of a focus during these glimpses inside Nebraska’s camp. In fact, while still hot and cold with his passes, junior Cody Green appears most comfortable on the run from what these short snippets show.

How can one without a sideline pass for a Cornhusker practice possibly determine whether or not Martinez is grasping the new concepts laid out before him thus far?

Quite simply: They can’t.

Until Nebraska’s annual Spring Game takes place on April 16, most who keep up with the Cornhuskers are in the dark unless they examine the one piece of evidence that Martinez has offered to the public regarding his maturation.

He spoke with the media for the first time in four months at the end of March. For approximately 10 minutes, he stood in a pocket of media members, stared into a crowd of cameras and took questions.

Martinez engaged those prompting him looking them straight in the eye and gave answers far more confidently than he did following Nebraska’s season-opening win versus Western Kentucky in 2010.

A year’s experience helps in a number of ways.

On occasion, he would juke a question much like he did defenders early last season. When asked about his relationship with the other quarterbacks, Martinez replied, “Really good. We’re all pretty close.”

Simple and to the point, next question, please.

A very probing question popped up early in the interview. Taylor was asked about his reaction to heavy criticism that’s stemmed from fans and media since he became the number one topic of discussion.

“I don’t really go home and watch TV or listen to stuff that you guys write or that other people write. I’ve heard (criticism) from some players, from some coaches and other people around town that they don’t like me. I really don’t care what other people think about me.”

Well now, if that isn’t a little eyebrow-raising.

If true, Martinez has learned a key element about college football quarterbacking. It isn’t all fun and games, especially in a fishbowl like Lincoln, Neb. The god-like status that Cornhusker football players get does come at a price: Everyone wants a piece of your time and there are only 24 hours in a day.

Also, much like Martinez’s interview, any shred of audio or video that a player gives the press after months of avoidance is going to get broken down like scientific research by the labs on campus.

Taylor’s interview was the first step towards getting “T-Magic” back. He did pepper his statements with the word “like” and the occasional “um,” but no one expects the sophomore to be an expert on public speaking at this point in his career.

For the time being, all Nebraska fans will be more than content with a solid showing on April 16 when a packed house will watch all of the Cornhusker quarterbacks take their first snaps in front of tens of thousands.

Martinez told USAToday, 'll start “Italking to the media more often now. Last year I wasn't really ready. I was just a freshman last year."

We won’t see the finished on-the-field product for a while now, but when it comes to media interaction, “T-Magic” appears to have stepped his game up.

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