Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Can Martinez get off on the right foot?

Much of the talk coming out of Nebraska spring football practice has focused on Husker quarterback Taylor Martinez working on his mechanics, specifically his footwork.

In fact, Gerry DiNardo of the Big Ten Network did a one-on-one interview with Nebraska offensive coordinator Tim Beck. Within that interview, Beck was showing footage of Martinez last season versus spring practice this season.

Martinez spent an extended period of time with quarterback instructor Steve Calhoun. Will it make a difference in October and November? Who knows one of Calhoun’s former proteges is Cam Newton, who was the 2010 Heisman trophy winner and led Auburn to a national championship. Newton had a Pro-Bowl season as an NFL rookie this past year with the Carolina Panthers. Newton was a 50% passer in limited duty at Florida before completing 66% of his passes at Auburn (after spending time with Calhoun). If the transformation for Martinez is anything close to that, then that could mean big things for Nebraska the next two seasons.

Martinez is already a threat as a runner. Rex Burkhead helps sell play action and several of Martinez’s best moments as a passer come when the defense bites on the run and Martinez gets to comfortably deliver the ball to an open receiver. However, better mechanics will help him make better throws under pressure when the windows are tighter and the margin for error smaller. His feet will be something to watch both in the Spring game and then as the season begins in September. If the days of back foot throws are over for Martinez, then maybe also we’ll see the end of four-loss seasons at Nebraska.

How much it helps remains to be seen but I’m glad to see Martinez and Beck are at least trying to address the problem. If Martinez stops shifting most of his weight to his back foot, we
should see fewer of the awkward lobs that we’ve seen the past couple of seasons. Translation, we could see his weight transfer so much more smoothly, correct front foot placement was such an eyesore before. Even though the ball will more than likely still come out like a shot put, he
will still be extremely more accurate just by being able to plant that front foot towards his target.

What I like most was the fact that he spent his entire Spring Break with Calhoun. The youngster
obviously wants to do well and seems to be working his tail off to become a better quarterback.

Improved footwork coupled with another year in Beck’s system will too. Martinez had a lot going against him. Keep in mind, injuries beset him for the second half of the 2010 season followed by having to learn a new offense last year.

We’ll have to see how Martinez’s mechanics have improved during the Spring Game.  

If Martinez gets a deeper drop in the pocket, it will decrease the chances for happy feet and poor decisions, with that little extra cushion away from the pass rush. If that's the idea here, good idea.

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