LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) — Adrian Martinez was the most productive freshman quarterback in the nation last season. He started showing up on Heisman Trophy candidate lists in the spring, and over the weekend he became the first sophomore in two decades to be voted a team captain at Nebraska.
Martinez said he is just getting started.
"I feel like I haven't even reached the surface yet," he said Monday. "There's a lot more that we as a team want to accomplish, that I want to accomplish, and I think we're going to do that."
The No. 24 Cornhuskers, who open at home against South Alabama on Saturday, are projected to be greatly improved over the team that started 0-6 and finished 4-8 in coach Scott Frost's first season. Martinez is one of the main reasons why.
He's a natural in Frost's up-tempo spread offense, having set several school records and averaging 295.1 yards per game while leading an offense ranked second in the Big Ten behind Ohio State.
"I would have guessed this is what Adrian would have accomplished, just knowing Adrian and the type of person he is and getting to know him in recruiting," Frost said. "He's considerably better right now. I hope he keeps meeting and exceeding our expectations."
Martinez is well positioned to go down among the greats to play quarterback at Nebraska, a list that includes a national champion in Frost, two-time national champion Tommie Frazier and Heisman winner Eric Crouch.
Those QBs played in ground-based offenses that featured heavy doses of the triple-option. Martinez probably could have thrived in those systems as well, but his passing abilities elevate the threat he presents.
South Alabama cornerback Jalen Thompson said he's studied video of Martinez much of the summer and called him "a real ball player."
"I can tell he's smooth. He seems calm and collected back there in the pocket," he said. "I've been seeing all the hype about him. Most of the time you see guys like that, they're overrated. He's living up to the hype."
Nebraska defensive lineman Darrion Daniels, a graduate transfer from Oklahoma State, said Martinez makes the Huskers' offense as dynamic as the famously wide-open, high-scoring units he faced in the Big 12.
"Adrian is fast. Adrian is really fast. Like really fast," Daniels said. "With Adrian, it's more like, you (as a defender) either get there or you open a seam for him to hit. Then you have to respect the pass because he can throw it. There's not many guys like him in the NCAA right now."
Martinez completed 65 percent of his passes and threw for almost 240 yards per game last season, but the numbers are only part of the story. Frost, when asked about his Martinez, raised eyebrows by referencing Patrick Mahomes.
"Adrian provides us with at least a 'wow' moment a day," Frost said. "He made a throw the other day I've never really seen before; maybe watching the Chiefs play last year. He has the talent to make about any play he needs to on the football field."
Martinez's ascent is more impressive because he hadn't played a football game in almost two years when he beat out Tristan Gebbia and Andrew Bunch for the starting job. A shoulder injury from playing basketball sidelined him his senior year at Clovis West High School in Fresno, California.
Martinez said he hasn't spent any time reflecting on what he's done so far.
"I would say one of my goals was just to start, become a leader, and I've definitely marked some of those things off my checklist," he said. "But there's a lot more. We didn't do as well as I wanted to last year, and that's something you still need to get after this year."
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