The Nebraska Cornhuskers offense is at its best when their quarterback, Taylor Martinez, is effective both passing and running the ball. Martinez was at his best rushing the ball his freshmen year, highlighted by a huge performance against Kansas State on ESPN.
Since that time, Martinez has been inefficient and inconsistent. Husker fans just never know which Martinez will show up for games. SO what can they expect this season?
Martinez, besides working on his throwing motion, has been making sure that ankle has been getting plenty of rest. That being said, Martinez has to make some improvements for this season in the running game.
Last year, he still seemed tentative running the ball. It all started against Missouri when he tweaked his ankle during his freshmen year. When he ran the zone read with either Rex Burkhead or Ameer Abdullah, defenses keyed on the running back because Martinez was not a threat to take off.
Martinez finished three games last season with over 100 yards rushing, two came against teams with less than stellar defenses (Tennessee Chattanooga and Fresno State). While Martinez also finished seven games with over a four yard per average rush, only five of his last eleven games had more than four. He also had two games under 2.3 yards per rush and four games of just 3.1 yards per rush.
This off-season, Martinez has studied film and continuing to read defenses. Tim Beck must also find a way to create opportunities for Martinez to run in non-obvious situations. At times last year, it looked like Martinez was forcing his runs, trying to create something out of nothing.
This season, the Huskers must take some chances on quarterback keepers, options, zone reads, reverses, and scrambling. While Martinez did some damage in the air last year, he also took quite a few sacks. At the same time, Martinez also did a better job of throwing the ball away when on the run, but he missed some great opportunities to run down the field.
When it comes to this season, Martinez must regain the fearlessness that one must have to take off down the field. However, he must also be smart and slide to avoid the big hits.
Clearly the Husker offense revolves around Martinez, as the team will only go so far as he can carry them. If Martinez cannot pass effectively, Burkhead will have no room to run.
Will Martinez rise to the challenge?