Joe Ganz marvels at the growth he's seen in Nebraska quarterback Taylor Martinez.
And it has nothing to do with Martinez's throwing mechanics.
“To see him grow and mature as a quarterback and as a leader on the team is pretty cool,'' said Ganz, the former Husker quarterback who now works with Martinez as a Nebraska graduate assistant coach.
Speaking Friday at the Big Red Breakfast at the Ramada Plaza Omaha Hotel and Convention Center, Ganz said Martinez has “earned the right to go out and play well.''
“The way he prepares now is different from two years ago or even a year ago,'' Ganz said. “I'm not saying he didn't take it seriously last year, but this year, you can tell that he's locked in.
“In the meeting room, he's asking why we're doing the things we're doing. It's encouraging to see.''
The key, Ganz told the crowd, is that Martinez has learned to trust Ganz and offensive coordinator Tim Beck.
“Trust is a big thing for Taylor,'' Ganz said. “He's a little shut off if he doesn't trust you. But once you gain his trust, he opens up to you. Once we gained his trust, we found out that we can be as hard on him as we want to be.
“One area where Taylor has really grown is in his ability to not focus on how we say something. We're coaches, and we're going to yell. But he's learned it's about what we say when we're screaming at him. He understands we want the best for him.''
Martinez opened his junior season by throwing for a career-high 354 yards and matching his high with five touchdowns in a 49-20 victory over Southern Mississippi. Ganz tried to temper the enthusiasm Martinez produced with his impressive performance.
“Before we (give) him the Heisman,'' Ganz said, “let's take a look at the film.''
Ganz then showed the crowd some video of a couple of mistakes Martinez made in his 26-of-34 passing day.
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On one play, Martinez misread the movements of the Southern Mississippi safety but still produced a positive play with a completion to Quincy Enunwa.
“He played the wrong side of the field, but he played the right guy on the wrong side,'' said Ganz, noting that Martinez probably could have thrown another touchdown with the proper read. “That's encouraging because last year, if he played the wrong side, he'd try to go to Kenny Bell because he knew Kenny Bell was fast and could get open.
“This year, he came back to the right guy.''
Other items Ganz touched on during the breakfast:
Ľ Coaches want to redshirt true freshman quarterback Tommy Armstrong but would consider playing him if something happened to Martinez. Ron Kellogg and Armstrong are listed No. 2 on the depth chart.
NU won't use Armstrong for mop-up duty at the end of lopsided games, Ganz said. “But if, God forbid, Taylor gets hurt for an extended period of time, I think Tommy and Ronnie would be battling to see who plays.''
Ľ More Armstrong: “He reminds me of an old quarterback that we had here,'' said Ganz, stopping short of comparing him to Tommie Frazier. “He studies hard and he doesn't make mistakes. He owns up to them when he does. He came in this summer, worked his tail off and didn't say a word. He's going to be a special one.''
Ľ Ganz said Nebraska is uncertain whether UCLA will try to attack Nebraska with blitzes in Saturday's game in Los Angeles. The Bruins blitzed frequently in the first half of their season-opening win over Rice, then played straight up in the final two quarters.
Ľ Nebraska will continue its up-tempo pace on offense. “That's what our guys do best,'' he said.
Ľ The Husker coaches have not lost any faith in kicker-punter Brett Maher, who missed two field goals and shanked his only punt in the opener.
“He'll be fine,'' Ganz said. “The least of my worries going into UCLA is whether Brett Maher is going to be OK.”
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