It’s a question that we don’t ask in college sports very much because players have a guaranteed expiration date playing for a given team, unlike professional sports, where guys like Tom Brady can somehow defy the laws of age and play forever.
But it’s an interesting question nonetheless. Oh, that’s right. The question.
Which B1G player would you choose to build a future team around?
That implies that the odds of him being on your team for at least 2 more years after this season are at least possible. That would essentially rule out all upperclassmen, and the likely early draft entries like Dwayne Haskins and Shea Patterson. And with all due respect, an offensive lineman doesn’t have a shot of being the B1G’s best building block.
You could certainly go with someone like Rondale Moore, who is as versatile and explosive of a player as there is in college football right now. Anybody would take the Purdue freshman on their team on a heartbeat. He’s a close second for this discussion.
Also in the discussion are the following B1G players:
- Tate Martell, Ohio State QB
- J.K. Dobbins, Ohio State RB
- Jonathan Taylor, Wisconsin RB
- Donovan Peoples-Jones, Michigan WR
- K.J. Hamler, Penn State WR
- A.J. Epenesa, Iowa DE
I realize that Dobbins, Taylor, Peoples-Jones and Epenesa are all sophomores who could leave for the NFL after the 2019, so perhaps that factored into my thinking with why they didn’t get the nod. And well, none of them play the game’s most important position.
There are probably a few others that I should’ve had on there that I didn’t, so my apologies for that. There is one player who I left out on purpose because, as you can tell from reading the headline, he’s the subject of this whole thing.
Adrian Martinez would be the B1G player I’d choose to build my team around.
That’s right. The true freshman quarterback of the 2-win Huskers would be my guy and not because he’s a perfect player. He’s not. At all.
I mean, that pass behind the line of scrimmage against Ohio State last week was…not good. Lord knows Martinez has had plenty of mistakes like that during his freshman season that have made Scott Frost pull his hair out.
Good. Let him get those mistakes out of the way before Nebraska starts playing in meaningful games. Based on what I’ve seen from Martinez, which I understand is still a relatively small sample size, he has the makeup to overcome those mistakes. And even if he can’t, he still brings so much to the table that the good will outweigh the bad.
Even in a game like that in which Martinez made some freshman mistakes, he earned plenty of accolades for his 338-yard, 3-touchdown effort. For the second time in 3 games, Martinez’s performance earned him co-B1G Freshman of the Week honors. He’s the first quarterback to earn multiple B1G Freshman of the Week honors since 2015.
What Martinez did to keep Nebraska close against Ohio State on the road earned him Pro Football Focus’ second-highest Week 10 grade of any B1G offensive player, and he earned 247sports Freshman of the Week. It marked the fourth consecutive start that Martinez completed 66 percent of his passes and threw for at least 200 yards.
Here’s the list of B1G quarterbacks who can claim such a streak this year:
- Dwayne Haskins
Right. That’s the list.
And don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying that Martinez is already in Haskins’ class. I don’t think Martinez will ever be quite the passer that Haskins is.
But I will say that I think Martinez has fewer limitations than a pocket passer like Haskins. The accuracy, arm strength and ability to make plays outside of the pocket are already there. If there’s a limitation with Martinez right now, it’s the decision-making. Again, that’ll improve, especially working alongside an offensive mind like Frost.
Other than that, though, what can’t he do on a football field?
— Parker Gabriel (@HuskerExtraPG) November 4, 2018
Martinez is extremely mobile for his size at 6-2, 220 pounds (he’ll probably get a little bigger, too). In 8 games this year, he has 480 rushing yards and 6 touchdowns. Trace McSorley is the only B1G quarterback who has him beat there.
You can go on and on about the numbers with Martinez, like how he ranks second nationally among all freshmen in total offense or how he’s on pace for 3,288 yards from scrimmage. But it’s not just about numbers with Martinez. It’s about the way he conducts himself.
Nebraska quarterbacks coach Mario Verduzco said that he was actually a little worried because of how calm Martinez was playing in a hostile environment at Ohio State. It says a lot that Martinez has been made regularly available to the media dating all the way back to when he was just an early enrollee. Everything about the freshman quarterback suggests he’s ready for the spotlight.
After Saturday’s 5-point loss at Ohio State, I thought he had a fitting quote that I’m sure was on the minds of many Nebraska fans.
“We can play against any team in the country, and that includes Ohio State,” Martinez said to the Associated Press, “This thing is taking off.”
It’s hard to argue with that. Martinez is the main reason why Nebraska’s future outlook is optimistic despite the program’s historically bad season. Husker fans are sleeping a little easier knowing that the freshman signal-caller has at least 2 and maybe even 3 more years left in Lincoln. His potential with some improved offensive line play and more depth at the skill positions is sky-high.
The Martinez doubters will point to the win-loss record and try to downplay the season he’s had while ignoring the fact that Nebraska has the No. 101 scoring defense in America. But my opinion of Martinez as the best B1G building block won’t change even if Nebraska drops 2 of its final 3 games, which could easily happen.
You know what else could easily happen?
Martinez dominates the B1G for years to come and is the driving force behind Nebraska’s rebuild.