ARLINGTON, Texas — With a quarterback competition coming up this spring, Tate Martell will have a chance to be Ohio State’s next starting quarterback.
As he succinctly put it after the Cotton Bowl, it’s an opportunity he’s ready to embrace.
“What else would I want?” he asked. “I didn’t come here to sit on the bench.”
He has a daunting task ahead of him, though, in terms of competing for the starting role. Dwayne Haskins is a year older with more experience. He also put his potential on tape, leading Ohio State to a come-from-behind win at Michigan this year when J.T. Barrett exited with an injury. In postgame interviews after the Cotton Bowl, Haskins said he’s approaching spring practice with the mindset of a starter. That’s fair, since it would be an upset if he doesn’t take the first offensive snap of the 2018 season.
The good news for Martell, though, is that losing a depth chart battle doesn’t preclude him from having a role in this offense. He’s a different player than Haskins, much more elusive and inclined to use his legs to make plays as necessary. And at a spot where only one person plays, the best thing someone can do to get on the field is be different. A backup with a similar style would never take meaningful snaps from a starter. Only someone who has something else to offer — especially situationally — could do that.
That’s Martell’s path to the field if he doesn’t win the starting job, and he seems to know it.
“I think regardless that I’ll be doing something on the field, where it’s quarterback or who knows what position,” he said. “I played a lot of them this year on scout. I’m definitely going to do my thing and try to stay with quarterback.”
That probably wasn’t as big a bombshell as it sounds because Martell isn’t someone Ohio State would permanently move to a different position (nor would he be someone who’d want that). It’s a dicey situation, because he needs to be a quarterback first and above all while he continues developing, but he might have something to offer to the team this season either situationally at quarterback or in the backfield alongside Haskins.
Just look at what some teammates and coaches have said about him at various points this season in regard to his exploits on the practice field.
- Offensive coordinator Kevin Wilson at the Cotton Bowl: “He really took off midpoint of this season and he used to play tailback for us and receiver, and he’s been a phenomenal quarterback.
“Based on the look, there were weeks we thought we needed him at tailback and he went and played tailback because he’s a nice athlete. But for a freshman and as a quarterback, he has grown a lot. He’s still young but he has grown up being a good teammate. That’s hard at quarterback because at quarterback, you’re always ‘the guy.’ And because of that, he’s earned a lot of respect from a lot of peers on this team. And he sets up well.”
- Defensive end Sam Hubbard at the Cotton Bowl: “Tate Martell has been doing an awesome job as our scout team quarterback. Every day he brings his all to try to give us a look. He’s having fun out there. He just loves the game of football. Sometimes he outruns us or does some crazy stuff that makes you say wow.”
- Coach Urban Meyer after the Army game: “We won the game because of (Martell’s work simulating Army’s triple option). There were over 700 reps that went into this, [defensive coordinator Greg] Schiano was telling me. We started this in March. He’ll do anything to help this team win a game. Those are the guys whose careers take off.”
- Safety Damon Webb in fall practice: “Nobody got a good hit on him. He’s definitely a run threat. We do the option and he’s real good at that. He’s real shifty. You can’t really tackle him in open space. He’s going to be good.”
Even if Martell isn’t able to unseat Haskins for the starting job, all signs indicate that Ohio State will find a way to get him on the field in 2018.