Fall Sports

2C fall SPORTS preview E-MAIL: sports.desk@theindependent.com www.theindependent.com The Grand Island Independent THURSDAY, AUGUST 29, 2019 HUSKERS: Frost, Martinez on same page Continued from page 1C Martinez went on to arguably the most produc- tive season – except forwins —ever for a quarterback at Nebraska. He set six school records for freshmen and 11 over- all. It’s hard to saywhat was his most impressive statis- tic. It might be his 64.6% passing, his 2,617 passing yards or his 295.1 total yards per game. The 4-8 record for the 2018 Huskers wasn’t a good indicator of the wayMarti- nez played. “It never seemed too fast,”Martinez said. “It just took some time forme to re- alizemaybemaking smarter plays. Towards the middle of theyear I kindof had that connection. I started play- ing better football, I started beingasmarterquarterback realizing that it’s not high school anymore. I think to- wards the end of the year I had that figured out.” He also got to know his coach better as the season went on.Martinezheard sto- ries from other players at other schools, how they found out their head coach was different thanwhen he was sitting in their living rooms trying to get them to join their programs. It wasn’t that way with Frost. “For me, Coach Frost is and was everything I thought he was, andmore,” Martinez said. “He’s just an outstanding human being and a coach with an amaz- ingknowledge of the game.” Hmm. Sounds like some- thing Frost might have said about hismentor, legendary Husker coach Tom Osborne. Frost sees in Martinez something he could never be. Frost was a tough, hard- nosed quarterback who led the Huskers to the 1997 na- tional title, but hewas never the polished performerwho could play the position in the NFL. Martinez is headed in that direction. And at 6-foot-2 and 225, he’s even bigger than Frost was in college. “I think theunique thing about Adrian is he’s going to be able to throw it as well as we’ve ever hoped for,” Frost said. “He’s got that breakaway speed that is about as good as anybody I’ve coached. “On top of all that, he weighsmore than I weighed whenI playedand I certainly wasn’t afraid to runbetween the tackles and take onsome defensive players. He has that aspect too as far as be- ing physical.” That kind of praise from his head coach means a lot to Martinez. “It means everything to me, especiallywhen it comes from a guy like Coach Frost,”Martinez said. “He’s been around some really good quarterbacks. He knowswhat it takes. Forhim to have that type of confi- dence inme, it givesme con- fidence andkind of freesme up a little bit to keep mak- ing plays.” Now the coach and quar- terback have a year of get- ting to know each other un- der their belts. That could paybigdividends during the coming season. Frost is known for his play-calling ability, but it may be just a little sharper this season now that he has hadMartinez for a full year. It’s certainly important for Martinez. “I think that’s avital part of playing the quarterback position, having that chem- istry with the play calling,” Martinez said. “You need to knowwhy they’re calling a play, their thinkingandwhat theywant you to dowith the ball kind of within the framework of your own personality.” Martinez was tremen- dously impressed with Frost’s play calling a year ago. He saw how Frost had a unique way of calling plays, how he would pair certain routes together “It takes some getting used to,” Martinez said. “I think thefirst gamewewere both kind of concerned about it. As the season pro- gressed, he got more com- fortable with my abilities and I got more comfortable with the play calling andwe were on the same page.” By Bob Hamar bob.hamar@theindependent.com Expectations are high for the 2019 Nebraska foot- ball team. They are definitely higher thanmost programs coming off back-to-back 4-8 seasons. Despite those two sub- par seasons, the Huskers checked in at No. 24 in the Associated Press presea- son poll. Husker coach Scott Frost doesn’t really care at this point. “We haven’t done any- thing yet, so I kind of feel like some of the expecta- tions are premature, but I amhappy for the guys that they have done what it takes to get them to that point,” Frost said. Frost said the Huskers will shut out the noise about who is picking the team to win or lose what games. “It helps us a little bit from a confidence stand- point that other people can see what is happening here,” Frost said. “Aside from that we are going to shut it all out and be the best team we can be.” Frost does expect the Huskers tobebetter. In fact, he’s sure they will be. Frost said the Huskers are better and deeper at prettymuch everyposition across the board this sea- son. He also expects to see a tougher football team. When things go wrong, he wants his players to show some resiliency. “I want this team to prove that it canbe tough,” Frost said. “We have some toughguys on the team, for sure. We have some other guys that I think are going to be tough. We have some young guys that still have to prove it.” The Huskers showed some toughness late last season. Thememorable 9-6 win over a toughMichigan State team in the snow at Memorial Stadiumwasone example. “I think our team showed some grit and char- acter in theMichiganState game for sure. That was a good team that we played, definitely one of the bet- ter defenses we played and our guys found a way,” Frost said. “Good teams, disciplined teams and tough teams find ways to wininsteadof findingways to lose a game. Toward the end of the year we were starting to do that.” TheBigTenConference schedule demands tough football players. The physicalness of the lines are something that have caused the Huskers problems in the last few years. “To win in this league you have to be tough and you have to be physical,” Frost said. “I think our tal- ent level, our speed, our strength, all those things are going to be consider- ably better this year, but it doesn’t matter if you don’t gohit somebody in the face on the field. “We need to block and tackle with that kind of mentality.” Junior offensive line- manMatt Farniok is ready to do just that, no matter what the outside expecta- tions are. “Honestly, it’s not that big of a deal to whatever expectations people put on us because at the end of the day you should always think you are going to be a winner,” Farniok said. “You should never go into a fight thinking you are go- ing to lose because (then) you are going to lose. “So, whatever your ex- pectations are, I always think they should be high and for me personally, it doesn’tmatterwhat theend goal is.” Farniok really isn’t thinking about an end goal right now. He’s only think- ing about South Alabama at this point. “Right now, my main goal is to win week one,” Farniok said. “It doesn’t matter if youcanwinweek 12 if you can’t win weeks 1-11. So, themain focus for me is every week just take itweekbyweek, daybyday, and just win the next day, win today and that’s it.” Thereweren’tmany ex- pectations a year agowhen Frost tookover, but youcan bet fans expected better than 4-8. But that season is over. Frost is in this thing for the long haul. “Coming back to Ne- braska, I expected to come here and coachwith expec- tations for a long time,” Frost said. “We had to get it to that point first. We are just nearing that mile marker right now of hav- ing expectations.” Tight end Jack Stoll wasn’t shy about express- ing his expectations. “I would say our expec- tations aredefinitely towin that Big Ten champion- ship,” Stoll said. “I know that was our expectation last year, but unfortunately that didn’t end up happening. “With all the work we’ve put in, seeing that tail end of the season, you can tell that’s a goal that’s veryattainable, and I know everyone has been work- ing toward it.” Stoll saidFrosthasbeen preaching to the players to embrace the expectations. “I didn’t come here to go 4-8 as I saidbefore,” Stoll said. “I came here to put a ring on my finger. I want to win the Big Ten. That’s just personally how I feel and why I came to Ne- braska. That’s howa lot of other people feel too.” The first expectation the Huskers will deal with is just to get the opening game done. A year ago, that didn’t happen when the Akron gamewascanceledbecause of a thunderstorm. “Thought we were go- ing to score a touchdown on the first play,” quarter- backAdrianMartinez said. “Felt great about it. Then had to go back into the locker room. I didn’t end up taking off my pads un- til probably 11 o’clock at night. “I was still hoping that we were going to play. The real downer about that for mewas justmy familywas there — only game that my entire family was there.” Martinez’s familyplans to be on hand again Satur- daywhen theHuskers host South Alabama. “My little brother, lit- tle sister, knock on wood, they’re coming to this game, too,”Martinez said. “Hopefully I’ll get to play in front of my brother again. “It’s been awhile. He saw me when I was a ju- nior in high school. (That) was the last time.” Expectations high for 2019 Husker team HUSKERSHQ H .com Every Minute of Every Day... Everything Husker! By Bob Hamar bob.hamar@theindependent.com The Nebraska defense wasn’t good enough a year ago. Husker coachScott Frost knows that. So does defen- sive coordinator Erik Chinander. The players know it too. The Huskers gave up 31.3 points, 195 rushing yards and433 total yards per game. Senior cornerback La- mar Jackson is taking it per- sonally, particularlyhas own lack of making plays. “I’ve got to make more plays,”Jacksonsaid. “ I can’t play that many snaps with- out more production. If I play anything close to that, I just have tomake sure my production is way higher, and that I am doing way more on the field.” As a team, the Huskers struggled to adjust to Chi- nander’s schemesayearago. Playerswere thinking about where they were supposed to be. Now, with a year un- der their belt, the players are reacting. Senior outside line- backerAlexDavis said com- municationandplayersbuy- ing in are the key for the Huskers. “That’s the main thing with me,” Davis said. “I could see in years prior it was just OK to do the bare minimumandnowjust even in the offseason, you have guys pushing the next man 100percent, like I knowwhat you’re capable of andwe’re calling each other out on it. “If it’s a guy not sprint- ing through, not going 100 percent we’re calling him out andwe’re not taking the bareminimum.Wewant full effort every play, every down.” The depth appear to be much better, especially on thedefensive line. TheHusk- ers are loaded there with twins Carlos and Khalil Da- vis, BenStille, brothersDar- rion and Damion Daniels and Deontre Thomas. “I think that’s huge,” Stille said. “Some of thefirst couple of years I was here the depthwasn’t there. Play- ing four or five guys on the D-line isn’t ideal. So hope- fully be able to elevate that to seven, eight, nine guys this year. “Get a rotation like that and hopefully be able to wear the offense downwhen their O-line’s in there every single play. For the other teamnot rotatingandus sub in and sub out and not hav- ing a drop off will be huge for us.” Darrion Daniels, who was named the starter at noseguard, said it’saunique situation the Huskers are in and credited defensive line coach Tony Tuioti with putting together different combinations up front. “We do a lot of job swaps you’ll see Khalil (Davis) at nose, Carlos (Davis) at nose, CaseyRogers at nose, might even see DaiShon (Neal) at noseyouknow,”he said. “He throws guys at nose, he throws a few guys at nose at end just to see different looks, and having the depth is actually very comforting. If anybody was to go down, anybody you know on the depth chart could fill in at nose or end.” Chinander expects the Huskers to substitute freely at every position on the de- fensive side. “I think what you guys are going to see and what everyone is going to see is a lot of guys rotating in, and I think we need that,” Chi- nander said. “Whether you are a starter or not, I would love to have 22 starters and roll that thing through and keepeveryone freshasmany reps as we play on defense. There is definitely going to be some decisions on who is out there for the first snap.” BH Media News Service Nebraska senior cornerback Lamar Jackson wants to increase his productivity this season. Husker defense expects to be better in 2019 “I could see in years prior it was just OK to do the bare minimum and now just even in the offseason, (now) you have guys pushing the next man 100 percent.” Alex Davis Husker outside linebacker