LINCOLN, NE - SEPTEMBER 1: Quarterback Taylor Martinez #3 of the Nebraska Cornhuskers prepares to throw the ball to fullback C.J. Zimmer #31 against the Southern Miss Golden Eagles at Memorial Stadium on September 1, 2012 in Lincoln, Nebraska. (Photo by Eric Francis/Getty Images)
So, not too long after Taylor Martinez went off for his 350 yard, five touchdown day versus Southern Miss, some national people were quick to get on the hype train for T-Mart.
From Adam Kramer of Bleacher Report to SI's Cory McCartney, a lot of people seem to want to thrust the Corona, California Redshirt Junior into the national race after one game. One game though? The bigger question I have is if he that is a really good idea after the first game of the '12 season.
The answer is yes, but proceed at your own risk...
There has been no question I have been on Taylor's backside for the better part of his career. I disagreed with Bo Pelini and Shawn Watson starting him so early in his career. However, the raw talent of his straight line speed made me realize that as an athlete, he had something. And even during the shootout win against Oklahoma State where he went for 323 yards in a 50-41 shootout win, Taylor still had over 100 yards rushing to help his cause. However, in the B12 title game versus Oklahoma, his decision making was criticized harshly as costing the Huskers a BCS game berth.
In 2011, Taylor was hampered by both a lack of a true QB coach ("QB"/OC Tim Beck was too busy installing a offense to help TM) and a nagging ankle injury. While throughout the season his decision making and game management skills did improve, his throwing technique was the poster child for ridicule anywhere and everywhere.
Fast forward to this summer, where Taylor went the way of going to noted QB coach Steve Calhoun to refine his feet and turn his arm into a weapon. Calhoun is the same man where Nebraska recruit and Elite 11 finalist Johnny Stanton has visited with for guidance. Coach Calhoun has preached footwork up and down to Taylor, and the evidence was clear come Saturday afternoon during the game. Ball velocity was fantastic, footwork was in time, and decision making (outside the near pick six on the second drive of the game) was above average.
With Rex Burkhead out, the entire offense stepped up like a true unit. Receivers came through with few drops, and running backs were able to move at will behind a offensive line that looked good. Even with the forecast for the Golden Eagles being murky for the season, there were times that Nebraska had an offense that could move at will against most FBS defenses.
However... with all that being said about how Taylor has become a better game manager to go along with better footwork, there has to be a level of cautious optimism with this.
Now, i'm not saying to be excited about the new look T-Magic. This is a pleasant surprise and a good problem to have. However, as the saying goes, it's just one game. There are (hopefully) 12 more in this season to go, and there will be as many downs as there are up's.
Southern Miss may be a great team, but they also may be a hot dumpster fire igniting on defense. UCLA's defense, as porous as it seemed to be against Rice, did pitch a shutout in the second half. Arkansas State was defeated before the soda got cold in Eugene. And Idaho St. isn't going to do much of anything.
Where am I going? Simple.. I want to see Taylor be consistent and have his floor be higher than it was last year. If TM's bad is pretty decent, Nebraska will be much better than people think. If that floor is lower, than there will be problems through the year. Joe Ganz and Tim Beck swear they will be able to help Taylor more. So will a good running game.
Also, with the national media focusing on Taylor, we all know the good and bad that comes with that. From the "why are people so upset, it's just a game" statement from the Wisconsin game, to telling Tom Shatel that the year "is going pretty well" after the Michigan game last year, Taylor has shown to not be the greatest person under the media microscope, with some of it self inflicted. It's not whether he can handle that type of distraction, it's whether he needs it right now. Rex Burkhead, when on the field, can shield him from that type of spotlight. But as we now know, Rex is day to day with a knee injury.
Do not take this as a reason NOT to get excited for Taylor. I am, and I know several others who have been critical of him. There is a great optimism that is there from what we saw even last year to 2 days ago. Heisman talk, however, should be waiting for when Martinez leads Nebraska to a 5-1 or 6-0 start. That talk can get bigger if Nebraska goes to Indianapolis, and will deservedly be at the peak if Taylor can get this team to the Rose Bowl at the bare minimum.
Cautious optimism at bay people. Get excited for the possibilities, realize the marathon, and let us all hope for the best.