Official Husker Locker Blog
2011 Mar 28
SPRING FOOTBALL: Martinez Speaks
After all, they'd grown accustomed to No. 3 walking silently past them to the locker room.
But as he stood near some bleachers of Hawks Championship Center, answering rapid-fire questions with equally quick, staccato answers, the crowd of inquiring minds swelled around him.
He dodged a few questions. He stiff-armed a few more. When asked, for example, how he had developed as a leader following the tumultuous end of his freshman season, he answered simply: “I was a leader last year. Maybe you guys didn't think I was, but I was.”
For roughly 12 minutes, however, Martinez hung in this pocket of oncoming rushers and didn't leave until the last question had been posed. Highlights:
*Despite reports to the contrary, Martinez said didn't consider leaving during or after last season, even though he released a statement to ESPN in early January affirming his commitment to return.
“I never was going to leave,” he said. “All this 'me leaving' stuff, that was all rumors. I'm letting you guys know that – it was all rumors.”
*Martinez shut out fan and media criticism of his play and leadership style - “I don't really go up and slap on the butt” - and doesn't care how naysayers perceive him now.
“Not at all,” Martinez said. “I didn't go home and watch TV or listen to what you guys write or other people write. I got some criticism. I heard (about) it from some players and some coaches and other people around town saying some people don't like me. I really don't care what other people think about me.”
His best friend on the team, defensive end Eric Martin, said Martinez “blanks out” criticism.
“That's what a true athlete does,” he said “You look past all the negativity, and you look past all the positivity and you don't let it get to you. That's where Taylor is. He's not the type to fall in between that stuff."
*Martinez said he spoke rarely to the media last year because, as a freshman, he didn't want do it before a “big game.” He'll talk more in 2011.
*His injured ankle – sprained severely in the Missouri game – won't be 100 percent until summer. He still feels pain on certain moves. He blamed the injury for his sharp decline in play; he missed two whole games after it happened and chunks of three others.
“Everything went downhill from there,” he said. “I probably re-injured my ankle about five or six times during the season. It was tough on me. I couldn't really run or do what I wanted to do.”
*Nebraska's new offense is similar to that of Martinez's high school team, Corona (Calif.) Centennial, where he won a state championship and the Los Angeles Times' Glenn Davis Award. Martinez and other Huskers billed it as a no-huddle, shotgun-heavy balanced attack that relies on hand signals for play calls, and allows Martinez the ability to audible in and out of plays.
“This year I can make the play what I want,” he said. “Last year I didn't have the freedom to do that. If the play was called, I had to run it.”
Through four practices, Martinez said Beck hadn't installed very many plays; rather, the emphasis is on the offense finding a rhythm.
Although “you guys won't see much of a difference,” Martinez said his reads on passing plays are “quicker” and easier to make than they were in Shawn Watson's hybrid spread/West Coast Offense attack. The 12-day spring break between practices – NU resumed its workouts Monday – allowed Martinez to go home and study his playbook.
Martinez said he wanted to improve his passing most - both where the ball should go and how efficiently it gets there.
Tight end Kyler Reed – one of Martinez's top targets in 2010 – has noticed.
“He's making a lot reads now,” Reed said. “He grown a lot over the winter – pretty much up there with Coach Beck learning. He's leading real well, but the biggest thing is that he's attempting to make those reads. And he's making a lot them correctly.”
While Beck's offense could better fit Martinez, the quarterback was still “shocked” and disappointed to see Watson leave and eventually land at Louisville.
At the time of Martinez's ankle injury, Watson had just enjoyed perhaps the best 15 minutes of his career as an offensive coordinator, a 24-point, 256-yard first quarter output against Missouri's “Fist” defense. Roy Helu would run for a school-record 307 yards in a 31-17 win as NU gained control of the north.
Two months later, Watson was directing an out-of-sorts offense featuring an hobbled Martinez in an ugly 19-7 loss to Washington in the Holiday Bowl.
Monday, Martinez said he was driven to erase that frustrating end to his season and the Huskers' 2010 campaign.
“I want to come back a lot stronger for the team and the whole Nebraska fan base,” said Martinez, in one of his few nods to the Husker faithful. “Hopefully we can win a national championship.”
See also: Practice Report 3/28: Offense Going No Huddle?
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