Is Taylor Martinez a Heisman Candidate?

Last night’s win by Nebraska over Kansas State was quite the coming out party for Cornhusker quarterback Taylor Martinez.

Sure, he had already been playing very well so far this year, but putting up 241 rushing yards and four touchdowns on a Thursday night game when everyone is watching makes him stand out quite a bit more.

At this point, it’s a no-brainer that Martinez is the hands-down choice for national freshman of the year.  But can he challenge for the Heisman?

I think we might be getting a little ahead of ourselves in that regard.  There is a long way to go in the season and he has yet to face a defense that presents a serious challenge to Nebraska’s attack.  We know that he is capable of brilliance, but let’s not forget that he also struggled against South Dakota State.  Like most freshman, he’s likely to hit a wall at some point.

But let’s say he doesn’t. 

Assuming Nebraska makes it to the Big 12 title game, he’s currently on pace to finish the season with 1,916 rushing yards and 31 touchdowns, with another 1,700 yards and 12 touchdowns through the air.  If you factor in the bowl game, he’s on pace to break Ron Dayne’s record for single-season rushing yards by a freshman.

This is the kind of production that only Denard Robinson could look down on. 

Still, all this and a lot more would have to happen for Martinez to make a serious Heisman run.  Voters are reluctant to give much attention to freshmen since they feel there will be more chances later to place them on a ballot (if they aren’t flashes in the pan) and that upperclassmen are generally more worthy of being rewarded given their career productivity.  The rest of the field would probably have to collapse for Martinez to really have a shot.  That’s not going to happen.

That doesn’t mean Martinez can’t be a factor in the race, though.  More and more voters seem prepared to defy convention these days, as exemplified by the late surge to Ndamukong Suh last year.  The last Big 12 freshman running phenom (Adrian Peterson) finished second in the Heisman vote.  Martinez can set himself up nicely for a run in 2011 with a productive season capped by a top five finish in the balloting.  And if he ends up leading Nebraska to the BCS title game, then he’ll probably end up making it to New York, the first freshman to do so since Peterson.

The big test for Martinez come in the next three weeks, as the Huskers take on Texas, Oklahoma State and Missouri.  None of these teams have great defenses (though the Longhorns are talented and certainly capable of rising to the occasion), but if Martinez can maintain his production while navigating his team to three more wins, his Heisman hopes might start to blossom.

But this is still just speculation based on a few games.  The safe bet is that Martinez will end up having a great freshman year, but come nowhere near the Heisman….in 2010. 

Let’s face it:  He may be T-Magic, but some spells are really hard to break.

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Chris Huston, A.K.A. ‘The Heisman Pundit‘, is a Heisman voter and the creator and publisher of Heismanpundit.com, a site dedicated to analysis of the Heisman Trophy and college football. Dubbed “the foremost authority on the Heisman” by Sports Illustrated, HP is regularly quoted or cited during football season in newspapers across the country. He is also a regular contributor on sports talk radio and television.

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12 Responses to Is Taylor Martinez a Heisman Candidate?

  1. Ed Newman October 8, 2010 at 1:01 pm #

    HP,

    It seems to me that the numbers are not far from the “blow away the Heisman voters” 2000/2000 that you keep saying Shoelace will have. So really only two things need to happen:

    1. Shoelace has to get hurt or otherwise start throwing stinkers out against more worthy defenses. This is possible, maybe even probable.

    2. TMagic needs to step it up just a little against the Big 12 competition. Since Nebraska may be the only team in the North (and maybe in the league overall)with what might be considered a scary defense, this isn’t impossible. Throw in the fact he should get better as his experience grows and it isn’t so far fetched. Plus Nebraska’s schedule is far less scary than Michigan’s (at least in terms of the defenses faced) from here on out.

    Let’s say he gets to the hallowed 2000/2000 and Shoelace doesn’t. Given how much you’ve said that those numbers couldn’t be ignored by Heisman voters when talking about Robinson, wouldn’t the same be true of Martinez? Wouldn’t he HAVE to win the Heisman? No other candidate this year is going to put up historic numbers if Robinson or Martinez don’t. Then throw in the fact that Nebraska is likely undefeated (or maybe has 1 loss) under this scenario and Michigan has 2-4 losses, how much better does Martinez look?

    Please don’t fall back on the Freshman argument either. We’ve seen how the “No sophomore will ever win the Heisman” Heismandment has been bent like a pretzel after 3 straight sophomore wins. Historic numbers are historic numbers whether they come from a freshman or not, aren’t they?

  2. Kravis October 8, 2010 at 3:19 pm #

    People don’t seem to have a problem with anointing true sophomore Denard Robinson a front runner…So what’s the issue with throwing a redshirt freshman into the mix?

    Taylor’s biggest problem is not being photographed in a Heisman pose against Notre Dame.

  3. HP October 8, 2010 at 4:10 pm #

    Oh, I agree Ed. If Martinez goes for 2,000/2000, I think he’ll win and shatter that Heismandment.

    But I don’t think he will.

  4. Dave October 8, 2010 at 9:08 pm #

    Let’s see how TM does against the Texas defense first. This isn’t about stats – it’s just the size/speed physical combinations Muschamp can throw at TM. Texas is going to hit TM hard and make him distribute.

    For all that, he may look great. I just don’t often like freshmen QBs against top-tier athletes with an extra week to prepare and a chip on their shoulder.

  5. Dillon October 9, 2010 at 10:18 am #

    No doubt that it’s too early to throw the Heisman word out there. But, the kid really does shine. Never heard of him until Thursday and I have a feeling we might be hearing more of the man. On that note… Go Sooners!

  6. Al October 9, 2010 at 1:36 pm #

    As a diehard Nebraska fan even I’ll be realistic, he most likely will not win the Heisman. But going off everyone’s logic on anointing Denard the front runner, I would have to think that if the Heisman ceremony were tomorrow, Martinez would at least merit an invite. That’ll make me happy if he just gets invited. Give the kid a chance.

  7. Beano October 10, 2010 at 12:13 am #

    Martinez is probably faster than D Robinson, which is unbelievable.

    Let the season play out. I seem to recall not too long ago, Seneca Wallace of Iowa State was considered the shoe in front runner at the midway point of the season. He completely fizzled out.

    Martinez has more help on offense than D Rob, I can see him continuing his pace. D Rob might break.

    Martinez is on pace to be in the top 5, anyone in the top 5 can win.

  8. HP October 10, 2010 at 1:32 am #

    1. Martinez is definitely not faster than Robinson. He’s a good step slower.

    2. Seneca was never a front runner in the race. He had a brief boomlet in the first couple weeks, but never posed a serious threat.

    3. Robinson plays for Michigan, a traditional heisman power and his numbers are fantastic.

  9. Ed Newman October 10, 2010 at 5:26 pm #

    Is Michigan a More Traditional Heisman power than Nebraska? Why? Or were you referring to ISU?

  10. BigDeal October 10, 2010 at 6:36 pm #

    T-Magic

    YEAR TEAM ATT YDS AVG LNG TD FD FUM LOST
    2010 NEB 68 737 10.8 80 12 0 0 0

  11. HP October 11, 2010 at 8:41 am #

    ed, referring to ISU.

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