Player Spotlight: Taylor Martinez

Story posted November 11, 2011 in Sports, CommRadio by Aaron Hefelfinger

Not many college football players can say they attended high school at three different places, but Nebraska quarterback Taylor Martinez is no ordinary football player.

Martinez attended high school in his hometown of Norco. He spent his freshman and sophomore seasons at Norco High, where he was coached by Toby Gerhart’s father Todd.

Considering how talented of a running back he is, Norco High unsurprisingly ran a traditional, old-school veer offense; unfortunately for Martinez, he wanted to be a quarterback. Because of these aspirations, Martinez took his talents 39 miles northeast to San Bernardino Cajon High School.

Unfortunately, complications with his mother’s pregnancy forced Martinez to transfer yet again. His final transfer was to Centennial High School in Corona for his senior year. There, he would win a state championship on the number one ranked high school team in California. He passed for over 3,000 yards, 28 touchdowns and did it all with a 61 percent pass completion. Additionally, Martinez rushed for 750 yards and 12 touchdowns.  

In the middle of Martinez’s senior year, a meeting was taking place 39 miles southeast that would change his life forever. Martinez’s old ball coach, Todd Gerhart, was talking to future Nebraska defensive coordinator Carl Pelini about different recruiting prospects in California. His brother Bo had just accepted the job at Nebraska and Carl was scouring the country for players.

Naturally, Martinez’s name came up during the meeting, and shortly thereafter, Pelini offered him a scholarship. Both Taylor and his father appreciated the discipline that the Pelini’s offered at Nebraska and decided to accept the scholarship.

At Nebraska, Martinez redshirted his freshman year and began a heated quarterback battle in the spring between himself, sophomore Cody Green, and senior Zac Lee. He eventually triumphed and started the majority of his freshman year, passing for 1631 yards and rushing for another 965. These statistics garnered him Big 12 Offensive Freshman of the Year honors. In his redshirt sophomore year, he has thrown for 1545 yards and rushed for 712 more thus far.

It’s ironic that Martinez transferred from Norco High his sophomore year because it was a rushing offense, considering that Nebraska could easily be described as the same. Nebraska is ranked 13th in rushing yards in the country and an anemic 101st in passing. Of course, these statistics are in no small part to Martinez’s credit: he is a gifted runner and has 4.5 40 yard dash speed, which is the fastest for a quarterback in the conference. Martinez has been using that 4.5 speed all year to average 79.1 yards rushing per game.

Penn State’s defense this year, while being ranked very highly in all categories, has struggled at times with mobile quarterbacks. Martinez will get yards, and likely get them in bunches that the Penn State defense will find very frustrating. Nebraska’s third-down conversion percentage is second only in the conference to Illinois; a quarterback that has the speed of Martinez will do that for a team. He can scramble around and stall until someone either is open or he can run for the first. As I said before, Penn State’s defense will certainly have its hands full Saturday.

Aaron Hefelfinger is a senior majoring in Telecommunications. To contact him, email amh5454@psu.edu.