Martinez is Nebraska’s starter, but who’ll be his backup?
LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) — Two days after clarity came to Nebraska’s quarterback situation, things got complicated again.
True freshman Adrian Martinez will be the starter when the Cornhuskers begin the Scott Frost era against Akron on Saturday night. However, Tristan Gebbia, the man he beat out, didn’t practice Monday morning and the university registrar said in the afternoon he no longer was enrolled.
Frost said at his noon-hour news conference that Gebbia’s status with the team was to be determined. With Gebbia gone, sophomore walk-on Andrew Bunch would be the top backup.
“Our team is always going to preach team before me, take care of the brother to my right and left,” Frost said. “I want players on the team who are actually about that. Whatever kids are on the roster come the first game, those are the brothers I want to roll with.”
Martinez and Gebbia engaged in a close competition through the spring and in the preseason. Gebbia was recruited by former coach Mike Riley and ranked among the top pro-style quarterbacks coming out of high school in 2017. He redshirted his first year in the program.
Martinez said quarterbacks coach Mario Verduzco told him before Saturday’s practice he would be the starter.
“I really just spilled my guts for it. Obviously, Tristan did the same,” Martinez said. “I was confident in my ability. I believe if you don’t believe in yourself, I don’t think anyone will. I worked hard. I learned this offense the best I can. Now I’m ready to get after it.”
Martinez will be the first true freshman quarterback to start an opener in program history.
“I feel like I should have been happier than I was,” he said. “I was ecstatic. I called my dad and my family. Almost five minutes later I was already thinking about Akron. I want to win. When we win, that’s when I’ll be on cloud nine. The mission hasn’t been accomplished yet in my mind.”
Martinez hasn’t played in a game since his junior year of high school in Fresno, California. He missed his senior year because of a shoulder problem yet was ranked among the top-10 dual-threat quarterbacks for the 2018 recruiting cycle.
Frost, who got Martinez to de-commit from Tennessee to sign with Nebraska, considers him a prototype for the no-huddle spread-option offense.
“We’re going to use tempo to our advantage,” Martinez said. “We’re going to go fast. Really, in my regard, it’s being efficient, distributing the ball, knowing when you should run it, throw it, hand it off — making decisions and making them quickly.”
Frost said Martinez’s superior running ability gave him the edge over Gebbia. The coach said he knew last week that Martinez had separated himself, and the rest of the coaching staff concurred.
The game against Akron is one of the most anticipated Nebraska openers in years. Frost, who went to high school 90 minutes west of Lincoln in Wood River, will be coaching his first game for the program he quarterbacked to a share of the 1997 national title. A crowd of about 90,000 will be on hand for the NCAA-record 362nd consecutive sellout since 1962.
And the 18-year-old Martinez, the prize of Frost’s first recruiting class, will be taking the snaps.
“I try not to think about that because I want to get some sleep this week,” Martinez said. “It’s going to be fun and I can’t wait.”