Most fans probably think Adrian Martinez has been in college for a decade and honestly they are not far off (I blame Taylor Martinez). Martinez spent that past four seasons at Nebraska before deciding to use his final season of eligibility by transferring to Kansas State. The former Cornhusker was the starting quarterback in each of his four seasons playing under Scott Frost. His tenure at Nebraska could be be described as inconsistent. Martinez was looking for a fresh start and his chance to lead Kansas State could be exactly what he needed. Martinez taking the reigns at Kansas State is the subject of today’s 99 Things.
Martinez owns a career 45 to 30 touchdown to interception ratio. To his credit, he has thrown more touchdowns than interceptions in each of his four seasons. The biggest question for Martinez is his ability to win games. He went 15-29 at Nebraska and never won more than five games in a season. Nebraska never made a bowl game while Martinez was the quarterback. Now this is not always the fault of the quarterback but the attention gets pointed at the player under center. The roster has 85 players on scholarship and every loss cannot be attributed the quarterback. Nebraska’s defense kept them in every game last season but the offense finished 71st in points per game. The Cornhuskers lost nine games last season with every game being decided by nine points or less.
Untimely turnovers and mistakes have followed Martinez his entire tenure at Nebraska. The game against Purdue last season is a perfect example. The Cornhuskers were leading 17-14 at halftime over the Boilermakers. Purdue would take a 28-17 lead due to a few Nebraska errors. Before the final Nebraska drive of the game Martinez had the same amount of interceptions as he did completions. Martinez threw three second half interceptions and only completed three passes for 43 yards up to that point in the half. One of the interceptions in the game was a blatant error on Martinez. He began to feel the pass rush and panicked. He attempted to backhand shovel pass the ball to a receiver but the Purdue defender stole it away. Martinez should have taken the sack but attempted to still make a play even after the defender had his hands on Martinez.
Kansas State will be replacing longtime starter Skylar Thompson this fall. Similar to Martinez, Thompson was a four year starter for the Wildcats. Offensive coordinator Collin Klien is looking to run an up-tempo offense which should be a good match for the skillset of Martinez. He accounted for 35 rushing touchdowns while at Nebraska including 13 last season. Martinez totaled 2,301 rushing yards during his time as a Cornhusker. Klien will attempt to play to the strengths of Martinez which includes using his legs more. A running quarterback can be vital to the success of a program.
One of the main reasons for an up-tempo offense is because of their running back. Deuce Vaughn is the best playmaker Martinez has had on his team. Vaughn is one of the best running backs in the entire country. He is only 5’6″ but his versatility is unmatched in college football. Vaughn currently ranks second among active players in career all-purpose yards per game at 134 yards per game. He was also named a first team All-American by the Associated Press after last season. Vaughn was one of only three players in the nation with 1,000 rushing yards and 400 receiving yards. He is a dynamic running back but also an asset in the passing game. Martinez will not feel the need to make every play when he has a player of Vaughn’s caliber lining up next to him every play.
Watching Martinez in games is confusing. Sometimes he shows good arm strength to stretch the field but other times he puts too much air under the ball. Too much air on a throw allows the defender to get into position and either knock the ball away or intercept the ball. Martinez has good velocity on his throws to put the ball in tight windows but sometimes the windows are not there and he throws it anyways rather than running or throwing the ball away. His decision making is questionable at times where he tries to be the hero. Reading defenses is going to be critical to his success this season. He has missed pre-snap reads which resulted in him being under pressure at times. Martinez has a skillset to make an NFL training camp but putting it all together consistently to show scouts is the biggest mystery.
Martinez has his best chance to play in a bowl game since entering college this season. Non-conference games against South Dakota, Missouri and Tulane all have the potential to be wins. The Big 12 schedule is a major question mark due to turnover and uncertainty with programs. The Wildcats will travel to Oklahoma, Baylor, West Virginia, Iowa State and TCU while Kansas, Texas, Oklahoma State and Texas Tech will come to Manhattan. Winning at least three conference games should be in the cards provided Martinez improves in a new offense. Martinez will never be a top tier quarterback but can he help the Wildcats be a threat in the Big 12 and catch the attention of NFL scouts?