October 14, 2010

Thursday notebook: Martinez avoids the spotlight

For as much as Nebraska redshirt freshman quarterback Taylor Martinez does on the field, he leaves much to be desired in the way of doing media interviews and emerging as the face of the team.

While it may be a thorn in the side of reporters around the state, that personality trait sits just fine with the Husker coaching staff.

Because of his exceptional play through his first five collegiate games, Martinez has elevated himself into one of the most talked about players in college football and even entered his name in the Heisman Trophy discussion.

However, his coaches say his handling of all the attention - or lack thereof for that matter - speaks volumes about his focus on achieving his ultimate goals.

"That dude has major blinders on," offensive coordinator Shawn Watson said. "You guys (media) know he runs from you. He doesn't want to talk to you because he doesn't want any distractions. It's easy with him. He knows what he has to do. I've said it and I know it sounds kind of boring, but he just wants the ball and wants to play.

"He's focused on the task at hand and what he needs to do."

Martinez's even-keeled approach to every game, no matter the hype surrounding it, has been a positive for the entire team, Watson said.

Though everyone questioned how the Corona, Calif., native would respond to each of his many firsts this season - his first start, his first road game, his first Big 12 Conference game - he continues to take the same approach and produce the same staggering performances nearly every week.

"He is just one cool customer," Watson said. "He loves to show up in big games. For me, it has a calming effect on our whole offense. It does for all the coaches also. He'll show up in big games. The bigger the lights, the more he is ready."

As of Thursday, Martinez has done a total of five interviews with media this season, one after each game.

It may make for a frustrating post-game recap for reporters, but as long as Martinez continues to pile up the yards and the touchdowns and make Nebraska one of the nation's elite offenses, Husker fans will surely find ways to get by without a few extra quotes or sound bites this season.

"I don't know if that's his focus or he just doesn't like to talk," head coach Bo Pelini said. "He doesn't say much. He's a quiet guy. He's quiet around us. That's just who he is. Whatever works for a guy. You don't want to make him do anything he doesn't feel comfortable doing.

"I think the more he grows into the situation he's in, I think he'll open up and be more inclined to talk to the media. I think all those things happen in time."

- Robin Washut

Thursday practice takes
Crick, David get midseason honors: Rivals.com came out with its Midseason All-American Team on Wednesday, and two Nebraska defenders were among the 26 players named to the team. Junior defensive tackle Jared Crick and junior linebacker Lavonte David were both selected to the defensive team and were among the five total players named from the Big 12 Conference. Through five games, Crick ranks fourth on the team with 23 tackles to go along with a team-high five tackles for loss and 2.5 sacks. David leads the Big 12 with 60 total tackles, and his 12 tackles per game ranks seventh in the country.

AP picks NU for title game: The Associated Press came out with its midseason review on Thursday, and as it turned its attention to the second half of the season, Nebraska was front and center. The author, Ralph D. Russo, not only predicted that Nebraska and Oklahoma would both be undefeated going into the Big 12 Championship game, he also picked the Huskers to win the conference title. But wait, it gets better. Russo went on to predict Nebraska would face Oregon in the BCS National Championship. It seems the expectations for this team just keep getting bigger by the week.

Injury report: Sophomore linebacker Will Compton (foot) could see his first playing time of the season on Saturday, Pelini said. Also, junior right tackle Marcel Jones (back) will also be available to play if needed.

What's on tap next: The Nebraska football team wrapped up its final full practice of the week in full pads inside the Hawks Championship Center and the fields north of Memorial Stadium on Thursday. The Huskers will hold a brief walk-thru session on Friday before getting ready for Saturday's much-anticipated 2:30 p.m. kickoff against Texas.

Compton could play

Sophomore linebacker Will Compton returned to practice Monday after missing the past six weeks with a foot injury, and if all goes well, there's a chance he could see the field for the first time this season on Saturday.

Pelini said Compton performed as well as could be expected in his first week back, and depending on how the game plays out he could be in the mix against the Longhorns.

"Yeah, he's available," Pelini said. "He had a good week of practice. He's feeling good."

When/if he eventually returns to the starting lineup, Compton, who started eight games last year as a redshirt freshman, would relieve sophomores Alonzo Whaley and Eric Martin at the Mike linebacker and be paired up with junior Will linebacker Lavonte David, the Big 12's leading tackler.

- Robin Washut

Defense fine with quick strike offense

There aren't many negatives to having an offense capable of scoring at any point from any distance on the field, which just so happens to be Nebraska's situation this season.

The only real downside could be that the defense doesn't have nearly the amount of time catch its breath on the sideline as it used to.

While the first five games have definitely been a test for the Blackshirts' endurance, it's a small price to pay in the grand scheme of things.

"As long as they score points, we couldn't care less," junior defensive tackle Jared Crick said. "We have a lot of depth on defense to where if someone is exhausted, we can put someone else in. As long as they are scoring points, whether it's one play or a 13-play drive, who cares as long as they're putting points on the board.

"I don't really care if they are out there longer so we get rest. It's not about that, it's about scoring points."

Pelini said that just because his offense is as potent as it's been in nearly a decade doesn't mean he's changed up his approach to calling the defense.

Whereas some could justify either calling off the dogs and playing a more conservative defense or turning up the aggressiveness and dialing up more blitzes, Pelini said he's maintained the same philosophy he's used the past two seasons with a far less effective offense.

"You never know what's going to happen," Pelini said. "You have to be prepared defensively on any given day to do what it takes. You don't know what the offense is going to do. You don't know if they are going to put up 50 (points) or seven. You can't change your approach defensively."

The Blackshirts have taken on the same mentality, as even though they're often playing with the luxury of a big lead on their side, they still play each snap as if it's a tie game.

"We have to go out and execute our job every snap," Crick said. "If the offense is great that helps us out that much more, helps the team out. That's great, we hope they do well every play. We have to do our job regardless because the offense should only have to score a field goal to win the game.

"That is our mindset, just shutting people out and doing our job every single play. Whenever the offense can put up a large amount of points, that is great, nevertheless, we have to go out and do our job."

- Robin Washut

Quick hits

***With seven confirmed uncommitted visitors and five verbal commits all coming into town for Saturday's game, Pelini said he hoped the atmosphere in Memorial Stadium would be as good as ever.

"Obviously, that's secondary," Pelini said. "The first thing is obviously the game. It's just kind of the way the schedule set up and everything, so it lends to us having a few more visitors here. Hopefully we'll see the type of atmosphere we're used to.

"It's always good here. It's nice to play at home"

***Pelini said senior D.J. Jones would once again start at right tackle, but junior Marcel Jones would be available to play if needed.

***With all the hype that has been building up around this game since last December, Pelini was asked if he was just ready to get the game underway already.

"I don't care about the hype," he said. "I'm looking forward to getting a little bit of rest between now and then. Like I said, the hype doesn't bother me."

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