Redshirt Review: Cameron Martinez
A series of profiles on members of the Buckeyes’ 2020 recruiting class who redshirted their true freshman seasons, including a look back at how their first year went, and an evaluation of where they stand in the program ahead of 2021.
Perhaps the Ohio State unit with the most questions of all to answer in 2021 is Matt Barnes’ secondary –– and for obvious reasons.
The aforementioned former special teams coordinator was promoted to a new role as secondary coach following several disappointing performances from Kerry Coombs’ corps of defensive backs in his first year back with the program in 2020, and most of the same personnel returns in 2021.
One of those returning pieces, although far from a starter for last year’s group, is Michigan native and former No. 4-rated athlete prospect in the country Cameron Martinez, whose role in the 2021 secondary is something of a question mark in itself.
We know that positionally, the award-winning high school quarterback’s options have been whittled down to two spots, as Coombs described back in April.
“I thought he had a great spring, had the opportunity mostly to play in that cover safety spot. Played some corner as well,” Coombs said. “I think that the transition from being a great quarterback in high school to being a defensive back takes time, I think that his time has been really well spent.”
As far as the spring game was concerned, both those positions placed Martinez –– listed at 5-foot-10, 192 pounds –– close to the line of scrimmage, where he shadowed slot receivers like true freshman Emeka Egbuka during the exhibition.
The problem for Martinez, who didn’t log a single snap at defensive back last season, is that things aren’t exactly wide open at that spot.
Senior Josh Proctor, who began the season at cover safety, eventually moved back to start at deep safety for Ohio State following issues with Marcus Hooker in that position. This year, Proctor should be the starter at high safety from the jump, but Hooker remains in the program as well despite being suspended during the offseason.
Sophomore safety Lathan Ransom was a bright spot in the role as a true freshman, playing 62 snaps during his first year, and if the spring game is any indication, Martinez may rotate in back and forth with him unless there is a significant disparity in quality of play come the fall.
Fifth-year senior slot corner Marcus Williamson, whose role often morphed into that of a second safety last season, returns in 2021 as well though, which could also bite into the possible snaps that Ransom and Martinez could see.
One must also take into consideration the potential schematic changes the Buckeye defense has teased this spring, with players like Ronnie Hickman and Craig Young entering the lineup in the bullet position as a hybrid safety-linebacker. In taking a third traditional linebacker off the field to drop a bullet back a bit further, the distinction between a slot corner and a slot safety may be muddled even more so.
The Buckeyes will have more time to experiment in 2021 though, and that alone should guarantee Martinez a chance to prove that his transition from QB to DB will pay major dividends in due time.