In pondering USA Today writer Paul Myerberg's list of the top 10 contenders for the 2019 Heisman Trophy, it occurs to me that Nebraska quarterback Adrian Martinez fits well at No. 7 and actually could be a notch or two higher.
This is not the local columnist showing favoritism or being provincial. This is not hyperbole. This is simply recognizing that the Husker sophomore is a rare talent and should be recognized as such.
This is recognizing his strong numbers this season — 2,617 passing yards with 17 touchdowns as well as 629 rushing yards — while understanding he pushed through a knee injury suffered early in the season while also remembering he was a true freshman helping the program navigate a transition year.
This is recognizing that on Nov. 3, when Nebraska dropped a 36-31 decision against 10th-ranked Ohio State, Martinez looked like the best player on the field. That's significant because No. 2 in USA Today's ranking is Buckeyes quarterback Dwayne Haskins. A redshirt sophomore, Haskins seems likely to opt for the NFL instead of returning to OSU and new head coach Ryan Day.
To be clear, I'm not suggesting Martinez belongs in the No. 2 slot. But if Haskins were to jump to the NFL, Martinez obviously would move up in the pecking order. Even if Haskins stays in school, one could make a case for Martinez being a couple of slots higher in the ranking. You be the judge:
1. Tua Tagovailoa, Alabama QB
2. Haskins, Ohio State QB
3. Trevor Lawrence, Clemson QB
4. Jonathan Taylor, Wisconsin RB
5. Travis Etienne, Clemson RB
6. Georgia's starting quarterback ... Writes Myerberg: "Georgia could flip its offensive mindset and go with sophomore-to-be Justin Fields (over Jake Fromm) in an effort to be more dynamic under center."
7. Martinez, Nebraska QB
8. Justin Herbert, Oregon QB
9. Rondale Moore, Purdue WR
10. McKenzie Milton, UCF QB
With due respect to the ranking, I find it easy to rank Martinez ahead of Jake Fromm (or Fields) because the indefinite nature of Georgia's situation at the position could feasibly affect their playing time and/or performance.
Of course, Martinez becoming a serious contender is dependent on Nebraska making a major turnaround as far as wins and losses. That almost goes without saying.
Bottom line, I agree with the top four. Taylor has to be the No. 1 running back on the list considering he has 1,989 rushing yards (7.1 per carry) this season after hammering out 1,977 a year ago. But let's be clear that quarterback is the most important position in sports, so give me Martinez and his extreme athleticism over Etienne.
As for this year's Heisman winner, Oklahoma quarterback Kyler Murray has made it pretty clear he intends to join the Oakland Athletics at the end of the football season.
If you're a Nebraska fan, you have to enjoy seeing Martinez on this type of list, especially since it's deserved.
2. Ron Brown has strong opinions on a lot of topics. Which is why I asked him what he appreciates about Scott Frost as a recruiter.
Brown, a longtime Nebraska assistant coach who now serves as director of player development, emphasized Frost's extensive background in the coaching business -- which includes a stint as a graduate assistant at Kansas State (2006) under Ron Prince as well as a season as defensive coordinator/linebackers coach at Northern Iowa (2008). Of course, Frost's career ascended rapidly after Chip Kelly hired him as a receivers coach at Oregon in 2009.
"Boy, when you talk about a guy in his early 40s and just the overall capacity to have experienced a number of different things and served in a variety of roles, there just aren't many people who would even come close to that pedigree," Brown said. "Coach Frost does a great job of using all of those experiences and combining some new, creative thinking with some of the old-school foundational traditions that still make sense."
What's more, Frost is an excellent communicator. I especially like that he's economical with his words -- meaning he doesn't need to say all that much to get his points across. He's direct. And he's genuine. Recruits surely like those traits.
3. When 67-year-old Mack Brown recently took over as head coach at North Carolina, it sparked memories of teams pursuing Tom Osborne in the years immediately after his retirement as Nebraska's head coach following the 1997 season.
Houston and Michigan State came calling.
"Michigan State offered me a job," Osborne said last week. "And I went down to Houston because Chris Bahl (a former Nebraska administrator) was down there and he wanted me to help him select a coach. I went down and told them what I thought they needed to look for, and all of a sudden they were talking to me about the job."
Seems a sound strategy: Get the retired legend on your campus in an advisory role, then try to court him for the job.
"I really missed coaching at the time, but I just couldn't see myself coaching somewhere else beside Nebraska, even Michigan State," Osborne said. "I just couldn't see myself in a green uniform."
Michigan State was trying to replace Nick Saban at the time. Sparty ended up hiring Bobby Williams. You surely remember Williams.
OK, maybe not.
4. So, Kansas State went with North Dakota State's Chris Klieman as the coach to succeed legendary Bill Snyder, and it's getting mixed reactions in the Wildcat fan base. No surprise there.
My guess is the reactions are strong ones. Writes Sam Mellinger of the Kansas City Star:
"The first reactions of a coaching hire are among the biggest lies in sports. That’s worth remembering now, as Kansas State makes its most important personnel hire in a decade and large chunks of the fan base respond with ... that’s it? THIS is the best we can do?"
Mellinger points out that Ron Prince in 2006 was a splashy hire at K-State. But he was 17-20 in three seasons (9-15 Big 12). Remind me to ask Frost what it was like working under Prince.
5. My partner in crime on "Early Break" (93.7 FM), Jake Sorensen, raised an interesting question Tuesday morning: Did you ever think you'd see a day at Nebraska where it's basketball that has the most heated rivalry of any of the school's sports?
No question, Creighton-Nebraska on the hardwood has gotten hot and even a bit nasty. No other rivalry in the Husker realm elicits as much energy, much of it visceral in nature. Tell me you're not already looking forward to next season's game.
One of the casualties of Nebraska's move to the Big Ten was football rivalries dating to the Big Six days going by the wayside. Give it time, though.
Meanwhile, the Nebraska-Penn State rivalry in women's volleyball captivates plenty of Husker fans. We heard from several of them. Thanks for that.