LINCOLN — Nebraska's Taylor Martinez doesn't relish being reminded of the weaknesses in his game, but he won't be completely tuning out the critics this offseason.
Martinez, admittedly, might just seek out the negative chatter at times (he has in the past) — because, like any competitor training to master his craft, his competitive fire can be stoked by skeptics.
The senior quarterback's individual goals for the next seven months, which includes four weeks of spring practices, are similar to those that pushed him through last year's offseason stretches: Emphasize mechanics and footwork, make better decisions, stand out as a leader.
“You never can be perfect, but you can try to be perfect,” Martinez said after Nebraska's practice Saturday. “Just keep on working.”
That's the Martinez mindset between now and Aug. 31 concerning his senior season. He will monitor the dialogue when he needs to, all while trying to make sure his approach stays on task.
And he'll also keep himself aware of the positives, too.
Martinez said he gets recognized around Lincoln now more than ever, a celebrity-like role that doesn't exactly mesh with his reserved public persona.
But after three years in the Husker spotlight, where few players have elicited a more polarizing response from the fan base, Martinez said he's finally adjusted.
Actually, he's having fun.
“It's coming to a point where I'm about to leave and you've just got to enjoy it while it's here,” Martinez said.
Seeing the hard work pay off would make his final year that much more enjoyable.
Martinez still intends to reconnect with the same private quarterback coach, Steve Calhoun, who he worked with on two separate occasions a year ago. Offensive coordinator Tim Beck told The World-Herald last week that he would encourage such a move.
Martinez completed 62 percent of his passes in 2012 (his career average before that was 57.4). But there were instances when he reverted back to old mistakes. Even on Saturday, during the first practice of the spring which was open to local reporters, Martinez's accuracy was shaky at times.
He'll also be working on dramatically reducing the 20 turnovers last season (12 interceptions and eight fumbles lost) that contributed in the hamstringing of a lethal NU offense. Nebraska had 35 giveaways as a team, ranking second-to-last nationally.
“The turnovers ... really killed us,” Martinez said.
Martinez said most of those costly mistakes were a result of forcing the issue, often because he believed at that time there was no other choice. Eight of his interceptions and five of his fumbles came when Nebraska was trailing.
“Just make smarter decisions,” Martinez said.
That is, arguably, the most important aspect of Martinez's development going forward.
Coach Bo Pelini characterized it as “efficiency” after practice Saturday.
“He's just got to let the offense keep working for him, and continue on the path that he's on,” Pelini said. “Because he's played at a high level, and I think there's another level out there for him.”
Martinez believes that, too.
But he's also assuming that a good portion of the fans and reporters who follow the Huskers aren't predicting substantial improvement, perhaps even questioning the quarterback's ability to make the plays necessary for Nebraska to reach its goals.
And that is why Martinez will be working a tad harder this offseason.
“I think there's a lot more out there for me to prove,” Martinez said. “That's what I'm all about. A lot of people doubt me. I just come out there and just prove myself every time.”
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