Photo by Jordyn Senstock/Nebraska Communications
It’s been a rough first two seasons for head coach Scott Frost in Lincoln. Nebraska is a combined 9-15 over the last two seasons.
The Cornhuskers’ success in 2020 will hinge largely on quarterback Adrian Martinez.The drop-off from 2018 to 2019 was shocking for college football fans from around the country. Martinez might possibly be the most confusing, yet interesting player in the entire college football landscape.
From his freshman to his sophomore season, Martinez’s performance took a 180-degree turn. In 2018, he was marvelous with a 65 percent completion rate, 2,617 passing yards, and 17 passing touchdowns. He threw eight picks, but the efficiency and understanding of Frost’s offense gave Nebraska fans hope.
In the final part of a 3-part series, we break down the film.
As we break down some film briefly, notice a few things about Martinez’s demeanor. All the film is out there, but here are two examples of the good and bad for the young Husker quarterback. First, let’s start with the bad.
At this point in the contest, Nebraska finds itself down 17-0 to Ohio State in a nationally-televised prime time game. Martinez already has two picks and has been all over the place with his accuracy throwing the football.
Notice the defensive set here with seven in the box against 11 personnel (one running back, one tight end, three wide receivers) from the Cornhuskers. This along with off coverage on the outside shows what will most likely be a zone coverage look. In some situations, it could be soft man coverage, but with Ohio State having two first-round cornerbacks and All-American Chase Young at defensive end, that would be unlikely.
Notice in the next shot, both outside defensive backs drop deep. One is behind the scoreboard — seven yards in front of the receiver at the bottom. A single high safety will handle the deep middle between the hash marks. Four defenders in the intermediate levels are spread across six zones to keep the ball in front of them.
In the next shot, one can tell that the two inside receivers open up Mike Williams for a quick 5- to 8-yard hitch. Martinez has a clean pocket but continues to survey the field, because he is struggling to identify the Cover 3. As mentioned in Part II, Martinez was the Big Ten’s worst quarterback against this coverage.
Williams continues his route on the hitch-and-go, which is obviously not open, but Martinez doesn’t read the coverage right. Pair that with him trying to do too much down 17 points and with two interceptions already and you get a disaster. The high throw is a result of Martinez misfiring and the intermediate linebacker in zone pushing back in order to get Martinez to put more air on the football.
The pick shown here by is Jordan Fuller. This is just a small piece of film that shows all of Martinez’s issues in 2019, including reading the Cover 3 defense. This Ohio State game got ugly quick. The Buckeyes raced to 38-0 halftime lead in Lincoln en route to an easy 48-7 win.
The good from Martinez will be shown in this next film. The game at Colorado had its ups and downs for Martinez. Against the Buffaloes, Martinez accounted for more than 350 yards of offense and four total touchdowns. On a 2nd-and-goal, Martinez sees a stacked box at the goal line along with what appears to be man coverage.
Martinez takes the snap and looks to the two receivers to his left. Fantastic coverage by Colorado forces Martinez to improvise. These situations may be when you see the best of him on film, along with some man coverage plays.
This situation shows why Martinez can be special. Martinez looks dead in the water, especially since the cornerback blankets his back in the flat. How can he get out now? This is where Martinez shows the raw ability/upside of his game.
He is able to swerve around the defensive end to his left and win the race to the corner for a touchdown. This is an absolutely outstanding job improvising and making something out of nothing. This is why people see the ability in him.
Those are just a few examples of the good and bad from Martinez in 2019. His inconsistency and struggle to read zone coverage ate him up in the Big Ten. His sophomore season was a big disappointment, but the ability is there as shown in last season’s 34-31 overtime loss to Colorado.
When Martinez is your quarterback, any play could go the distance. Hopefully for the junior, he will make this big jump in the passing game, so we can all see a talented young man reach his full potential.
Talent doesn’t leave
His 295.1 yards per game during his true freshman season of 2018 was the third-best by any true freshman in NCAA history. He took a couple of steps back as a sophomore, but Martinez has the potential. He has the tools in the box and it’s time for him to put it together. If that happens, Nebraska could be back in the polls sooner than people think.
If you’re looking to see the best of Martinez from 2019, watch the September contests against Colorado and Illinois. For the worst, check out the Ohio State contest shown above or the 27-24 loss to Iowa in the season finale.