When Nebraska senior quarterback Taylor Martinez mentioned the NFL to ESPN.com's Brian Bennett that he sees himself as a "future NFL quarterback", numerous Husker fans probably sprained their eyeballs as they rolled uncontrollably in their head. Some may have even have sprained their back after falling off their chairs laughing. That reaction isn't completely unwarranted; the Taylor Martinez we saw as a freshman in 2010 wasn't a future NFL quarterback. The sophomore version from 2011 wasn't either.
The junior version we saw in 2012 probably wasn't either, but at least it was a little closer. So why even bring the idea up?
"I believe in setting your goals high," he told ESPN.com. "Because even if you fall a little short, you'll still be in good shape."
And that's where the laughing should stop. Maybe it's a really stretch goal for Martinez to attain, but Martinez is working hard to make it happen. Once again, he spent his spring break with Steve Calhoun at his "Armed & Dangerous" camp, trying to work on the things that Martinez has been rightly criticized for.
Trying to improve is nothing to ridicule him about. In fact, that's something to praise him for. Having high goals is a good thing, especially if you are striving to accomplish them.
Taylor Martinez once again says his goal is to complete 70% of his passes this season. He started out well in that respect last season, but some bad performances late against UCLA and Michigan State put that goal out of reach. Still, completing 62% of his passes was an improvement.
So where does Martinez need to improve further?
Touch and form. Martinez doesn't have great fundamentals, but they are much better now than in 2011. The "armpunt" is a thing of the past. It's something he needs to continue to work on.
Reading defenses. Sometimes Martinez locks onto a receiver and throws it there, thinking he can get that completion, much like Roy McAvoy in "Tin Cup". Or in real life, Phil Mickelson. Sometimes it works; it helps that Kenny Bell is frequently the target. Sometimes it doesn't, like that goal-line interception by Michigan State's Darquez Dennard. Sometimes the best throws are the ones you don't make.
Better ball security. Martinez's best asset remains his legs, and tucking the ball away and running for daylight. Not taking a hit (and risking a fumble) or throwing the ball away awkwardly can only help Martinez's stats. Remember that unbelievable run against Wisconsin?
Sometimes the best throw you make is the one you don't.
I don't know if Martinez can fix all of his flaws. I don't know if he can improve his game enough to make it to the NFL. I wouldn't put it past him, though. I didn't see an NFL prospect in Colin Kaepernick when he was at Nevada either. Martinez isn't a Kaepernick either, though. So we'll see.
And for Husker fans in 2013, it's something we hope we can see.