Will Emphasis on Footwork Pay Off for Martinez?
The news for Husker fans coming out of the off week is that quarterback Taylor Martinez spent his Spring Break honing his game. In particular, it's been his footwork when he throws the football that he was working on. That seems to address one of the key criticisms that many have about Martinez - that he too often throws off of his back foot. If he spends the next five months or so working on this aspect of his game. What is the payoff likely to be?
There are a couple of schools of thought on throwing mechanics. One is that a player cannot succeed without proper mechanics and thus they must be perfected. You hear this line of reasoning among detractors of New York Jet quarterback Tim Tebow. Others think that by the time a player is an upperclassman in college, it's probably too late to change mechanics in a meaningful way. If anything, playing with them could actually harm a quarterback. This might be analogous to golfer Tiger Woods going through swing changes even as he was dominating the PGA. Plenty of quarterbacks have enjoyed success without textbook mechanics. Bernie Kosar won a national championship with an unorthodox sidearm throwing motion then went on to reach the Pro-Bowl and some NFC Championship games as a professional. Former Husker signal caller Scott Frost was known for his shotput-style throws, but still he led Nebraska to a national title.
One argument in favor of Steve Calhoun, the quarterback instructor working with Martinez is that one of his former proteges is Cam Newton. In addition to a Heisman trophy and a national championship, Newton had a Pro-Bowl season as an NFL rookie this past year. While Calhoun may or may not deserve credit for Newton's success, it certainly doesn't appear that he hindered Newton in any way. 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 in the coming seasons.
Martinez is already a threat to run the ball. Rex Burkhead similarly helps sell play action. Many of the best moments for Martinez have come when the defense bites on the run and Taylor gets to comfortably deliver the ball to an open receiver. But perhaps 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 backfoot throws are over for Martinez, then maybe also we'll see the end of four-loss seasons at Nebraska.