Martinez Would Start Tomorrow. Duh.
This week, Nebraska Head Coach Bo Pelini went on ESPN's "College Football Live" program and discussed his team. Quarterback play was among the topics covered. Pelini indicated that Taylor Martinez would be the starter if NU played a game today. The fan and reaction to this rather obvious statement has me a bit confused. Was that ever in doubt?
Here is exactly what Pelini said.
“It’s always an ongoing competition. If we were to start a game today, Taylor Martinez would be our quarterback. We’d feel real comfortable with that.”
This is not shocking in the least when you consider Martinez's experience, the breadth and depth of spring practice and Pelini's desire for ongoing competition at all spots.
Here's the most important fact to remember about Taylor Martinez - he started 12 games last year. Few things are as important to a team's overall offensive success as game experience at quarterback. True, Pelini did not make such affirmative statements about last year's incumbent starter, Zac Lee, at this same time a year ago. But, was he ever asked the question point blank? I don't think he was. Keep in mind, Martinez's emergence really happened during the summer and during the fall camp leading up to the 2010 season.
Despite some rather ugly moments, Pelini's actions during the 2010 season showed just how willing he was to stick with Martinez, even though the injuries to his leg had made him a shadow of the explosive player fans saw early in the season. Clearly, Pelini thought Martinez gave his team the best opportunity to win. If he thought it then, during the throws of an offensive meltdown, then it's actually easier for him to think it now.
Spring Practice, Not Just Spring Game
Next, remember the Spring Game is just that, a game. It's far from a large body of work. Not only that, but it's a game where conditions are far from normal (or ideal) as they mix units, keep things rather simple and generally try not to get anybody hurt. It's a show. So, while backup quarterback Brion Carnes' numbers are fantastic (11-for-15 passing for 173 yards and a TD), they aren't entirely worth an early clamor for Carnes to be the starter this fall.
Remember that coaches see spring practice in a much different, broader perspective. They see dozens of practices and scores of meetings over the course of a month. Fans get to see one scrimmage. Coaches are considering a larger body of work by all the players.
All of that being said, the competition is not over. Remember, Pelini's answer was if the Huskers had to play today. A lot can happen between now and when the Huskers open the season on September 3. But, the notion of Carnes fighting for the job is exactly what Pelini wants.
Clearly, Pelini's number one professional value is competition. No starting job is safe. The best player will play. Period. For evidence, look no further than Martinez passing Lee and Cody Green a year ago. So, Carnes is certainly not out of the mix.
Regarding Martinez specifically, I don't know if fan perception of him is getting better or not. Is he ready to be redeemed after the very high highs and very low lows of 2010? We'll see. But, I do know this - NU coaches have spoken several times about how he as a "competition talent", that he has an almost unwavering confidence in his ability and belief in his borderline right to play. (Sounds a bit like his head coach...). So, if he's truly this freakish competitor, then Carnes' emergence is the exact right thing for him to get better. Nothing drives a fierce competitor more than putting another horse on the track with them.
Martinez would start for NU tomorrow, of course. But the season doesn't start tomorrow. Only legit competition will make both he and Carnes better in September.