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Who Is Nebraska's Surprise Player of the Year (So Far)?

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This post is sponsored by Sonic, ala the heading. The sponsored posts can be fun because they give us a theme around which to delve into a topic. For this one, we were encouraged to write something about stand-outs, and that aptly describes the 2010 team.

The most attractive thing about college football is that you never know what's going to happen when the season starts - who knows how a group of 18-21 year old young men is going to respond when they step on the field together?

Exhibit A, where is Texas? Exhibit B - Baylor leads the Big 12 South.

Exhibit C - Nebraska has one of the most explosive offenses in the nation. After a season in which the Huskers couldn't buy a point, we have an offense that can score in so many ways it's unstoppable. You could point to Taylor Martinez being the catalyst, but I believe you'd be as wrong as you would if you blamed Zac Lee for all of the problems the offense had last season.

Now, before you just check off Taylor Martinez (because we can't yet hide our polls after the jump), read the rest of the article and listen to what I have to say about some other players on this team.

Taylor Martinez

"Who Will Be Nebraska's Starting Quarterback?" was THE question coming into this season. A lot of Husker fans (okay, me) thought the story line was a bunch of hooey, and that Zac Lee would be the starter because of his experience. No way would Cody Green or Taylor Martinez be ready to lead the offense, right?

Talk about being wrong. You'd have to have been married 20 years to be this wrong. (Who, me?)

Martinez' play has been indescribable. He's set a number of school records already this season, and became the school's only quarterback to have 100 yards rushing and 300 yards passing in a game.

Nebraska Freshman Records Held by Taylor Martinez


  • Rushing Yards in a Game-241 at Kansas State
  • Rushing TDs by a Freshman QB-4 at Kansas State
  • Season Rushing Yards by a Freshman QB-886
  • Longest TD Run by a Freshman-80 vs. Washington and KSU
  • Most 100-Yd. Rushing Games by a Freshman-5 (tied)


  • Passing Yards in a Game-323 at Oklahoma State
  • Passing TDs in a Game-5 at Oklahoma State
  • Passing Yards in a Season-1,161
  • Passing TDs in a Season-9

Total Offense

  • Total Offense Yards in a Game-435 at Oklahoma State
  • Total Offense Yards in a Season-2,047

Martinez is 200 yards away from breaking the school's freshman rushing record held by Ahman Green (1995 - 1,086 yards). Two TDs away from breaking the school's freshman rushing TD record of 14 held by DeAngelo Evans (1996) and Calvin Jones (1991).

It'd be easy enough to vote for Martinez as this year's surprise player of the year.... but I have another candidate I'd like you to consider.

Lavonte David

How many Husker fans knew this guy's name before the season started? How many of you looked at it the first time you saw it, and thought "They got that backwards, I'm sure it should be David Lavonte."

Before you automatically check the vote for Martinez, I want to make the case for David. First of all, Martinez had the advantage of being around the Husker program for a full year before he took charge of the offense.

Put yourself in his position. You get a new engineering job in another city. When you walk in your first day of work, you're told that the two other lead engineers have already left the job, and you're going to be the lead engineer on the big project when you thought you'd be at least third in the pecking order.

You not only have to worry about finding your way around, moving into new digs, but you have to learn a whole new way of doing things, learn how your new company handles project management, the technology you're going to work with and how to deal with your new boss.

How do you do? You kick ass. You do better than other guys who have already been with the company a couple years. In fact, you do so well that you're one of the best in the nation at your job.

That's Lavonte David. David has 86 total tackles this season, 43 solo, 43 assisted. He's 20th nationally in total tackles, and 11th in tackles per game with 10.75. David has been everywhere on the field. In run support, he's the equivalent of Martinez, with closing speed to match. In pass support, he covers middle routes as well as his defensive secondary counterparts cover the rest of the field.

Again, this is a guy who's learning on the job, and he's not just learning how to mop floors. He's learning Bo Pelini's complex defense - as he goes. Amazing.

David has racked up some pretty impressive honors already this season:

  • Big 12 Defensive Player of the Week vs. Kansas State
  • Mid-Season All-American
  • Mid-Season First-Team All-American
  • Phil Steele Mid-Season Third-Team All-American
  • College Football News Second-Team Mid-Season All-American

Roy Helu

Does Roy Helu Jr. belong here? He's not exactly a surprise, having been a 1,000 yard rusher last season.

What's surprising about Roy Helu is that this season he appears to be a Helu reborn. He hasn't shown any sign of problems due to injuries, in fact, he hasn't suffered any injuries at all. He had one major mistake this season - fumbling early against Texas - but it wasn't rationalized away by coaches talking about a chronic shoulder problem, and he came back against a top-ranked Missouri team last weekend to set the school's single-game record for rushing with 307 yards.

That's pretty darned impressive, especially if you're one of those guys who thought that Rex Burkhead might take over the number one running back position.

The Defensive Secondary

Okay, so I'm cheating. It's a unit, but it deserves mention, not just because of Prince Amukamara and Alfonzo Dennard, but because of everyone that plays in the secondary. Put it this way - last week against a good Missouri team, Dennard got injured early in the game. Ciante Evans replaced him, then he got injured. There was no drop off in the level of play.

That has to be worth a consideration, doesn't it?

Ciante Evans. P.J. Smith. Rickey Thenarse. Dejon Gomes. Eric Hagg. Courtney "Head Smasher" Osborne. Austin Cassidy. Anthony West.

Can you think of another time in Husker history when a single unit had so many guys this capable? It's no wonder the Blackshirts are the #1 pass efficiency defense in the nation.

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