As Nebraska's preseason camp approaches, Husker Extra is counting down the 30 most intriguing players on the roster.
A couple of notes: This isn’t best player or most important. As a list based on intrigue, it skews a bit toward youth and new players, but there will be plenty of established contributors, too.
The only scholarship player not considered for the list is defensive lineman Jahkeem Green, because at the outset of our countdown he is still in junior college and is only verbally committed to Nebraska.
No. 3: Adrian Martinez, QB, sophomore
Adrian Martinez has been intriguing from the moment he came onto Nebraska football fans’ radar screens. He was the first player Scott Frost’s coaching staff offered a scholarship to after Frost officially left UCF for Lincoln in December 2017. Then Frost said when Martinez signed with NU later that month that the Fresno, California, native was his favorite quarterback recruit in the country. Then Martinez ran for three touchdowns in the spring game. Then he won the starting job. Then he ripped off a 41-yard scoring run against Colorado for his first career touchdown and the first of 25 he’d score over 11 games that put him squarely in the conversation of the most promising young signal-callers in the country.
So, really, the question for Martinez as 2019 approaches is what’s next? And how far can he lead the Huskers?
When a sophomore is considered a potential Heisman Trophy candidate, there’s plenty of intrigue. There are countless angles and areas to explore, some that’s already happened in recent months and more to come over the course of preseason camp and the fall. For now, let’s take a look at one particular area in which Martinez has room to improve and which can help his efficiency in 2019: Turnovers.
The 6-foot-2, 225-pounder was charged with 14 in 11 games as a freshman (eight interceptions and six lost fumbles). Overall, according to NU’s box scores, Martinez put the ball on the ground 12 times total (NU got half of them back), including at least once in seven of the 11 games he played.
A handful jump out based on time and score: An interception with six minutes remaining against CU while NU nursed a one-point lead, a third-quarter interception while up six against Northwestern, a fourth-quarter interception having recently cut Iowa’s lead to eight and a second-quarter red zone fumble on a broken play at Ohio State on first-and-goal from the 10.
Martinez was asked at Big Ten Media Days about that game against the Buckeyes and whether a narrow loss in Columbus gave NU confidence going forward. Instead of feeding that line, Martinez said it showed how narrow the margin between winning and losing can be.
“You can’t have silly turnovers like the one I had in the red zone," he said. "You can’t punt the ball six straight times, which I think it might have been. You just can’t have those mistakes. Then you come away losing by five points and realizing that a play here, a play there could have made a huge difference.”
Martinez is typically like that, not much for moral victories and more about getting better. How much better in 2019? It’s one of the most intriguing storylines of the fall.