Husker WR Oliver Martin feels ‘fast and explosive,’ and it’s apparent to his coaches, teammates

Nebraska’s Oliver Martin catches a punt in the second half against Illinois on Nov. 21 at Memorial Stadium.

It’s been a spring of positive reinforcement for Nebraska wide receiver Oliver Martin.

Not that he’s sought it out so much as that it’s found him in myriad ways as he and his teammates progress through the midpoint of spring ball and toward May 1’s Red-White Spring Game at Memorial Stadium.

Martin, a transfer from Iowa and an Iowa City native, impressed coaches with the way he dove in over the second half of the 2020 season once he was ruled eligible. Even with modest numbers (five catches for 63 yards), he earned four starts and essentially played without having much time to learn the offense.

Over the past couple of months, though, Martin has started to settle in and, by most accounts, stand out in what is shaping up to be a competitive wide receiver room.

“We do one-on-ones just about every day and I don’t think he’s lost a rep of that,” walk-on receiver Wyatt Liewer said of his teammate on Wednesday. “He looks really good.”

Martin, too, said he feels like things are coming more naturally to him this spring. Remember, this is his third collegiate stop already. A former U.S. Army All-America selection and four-star recruit, Martin first enrolled at Michigan in 2017, then transferred to Iowa after catching 16 passes for 153 yards and two touchdowns as a redshirt freshman in 2018. After one season with the Hawkeyes, he transferred to NU as a walk-on last summer. Martin said the concepts and schemes are relatively similar across schools, but the terminology changes quite a bit.

“I would say the biggest boost to my confidence has been just knowing the playbook really well,” he said. “So I can look at the defense a little bit more and read the defense, be able to run my route accordingly to that as opposed to last year, when I was thinking about my assignment on the play.

“That’s definitely helped me play more naturally.”

Another shot of confidence: A strong performance in the team’s winter Performance Index Testing, where head coach Scott Frost said Martin had a team-best 40-inch vertical jump and Martin said he ran 4.5 seconds in the 40-yard dash, one of the fastest marks on the team based on the team’s laser start/laser finish timing system.

“In workouts, not every day is timed, or something measured, so it’s hard to know exactly how you stack up against other guys,” Martin said. “I always knew that I was pretty fast and explosive, but testing, when you can see yourself compared to the other guys, it definitely helped my confidence, for sure.”

Martin is just one of several players in Matt Lubick’s wide receiver group hoping to make a big jump in his second year at Nebraska. That list also includes Zavier Betts, Alante Brown, Levi Falck, Omar Manning and Will Nixon.

“We’re a work in progress, but a lot of improvement,” Lubick said Wednesday. “Last year we played a ton of first-year players, so that’s a huge difference. … (Last year) there was a lot of thinking. Now those guys are getting a lot more confident, they understand the offense and they can play faster and make plays.”

All of that adds up to a productive, positive spring in Oliver Martin’s eyes.

“It’s gone really well. I feel fast, explosive, I’m really confident in my abilities right now,” he said. “And I feel like I can execute the plays that the coaches are calling, whether it’s getting open in the zone, or getting open against man coverage.

“I feel really good with where I’m at right now.”