“It Doesn't Happen Often”: Cameron Martinez Will Get Rare Shot to Play Both Sides of the Ball As Ohio State Career Begins

By Colin Hass-Hill on February 5, 2020 at 5:18 pm
Cameron Martinez
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MUSKEGON, Michigan – Cameron Martinez had to pause for a second. He needed to take a moment to wrack his brain, trying to remember whether or not he has ever played slot cornerback before.

After taking a second or two while sitting alone behind the desk of his stepfather and Muskegon High School athletic director Keith Guy, it came to him.

“Actually, my freshman year I did,” Martinez told Eleven Warriors on Wednesday. “That's where I was. I was moving around a lot. But it's been a while.”

Martinez has every reason to have forgotten about it. A lot has happened in the past couple years.

In each of his final two seasons, he led Muskegon to the Michigan state championship game, earning Michigan High School Football Player of the Year honors from MLive after they wrapped up. Martinez, who primarily played quarterback in high school, was also named Michigan’s Gatorade Player of the Year two months ago. As a senior, he rushed for 2,124 yards, passed for 1,258 yards and either ran or passed for 47 touchdowns.

Going forward, Martinez could forgo offense and end up back at the position he manned for part of his freshman season.

Maybe.

He doesn't know yet what he’ll end up playing in college. He really doesn't even know yet whether he’ll end up on the offensive or defensive side of the ball. 

All Martinez knows is what positions he’ll initially play when he enrolls at Ohio State in June and begins his college football career.

“Coach (Kerry) Coombs wants me to play corner, start me out at corner and then go to inside and be the nickel,” Martinez said. “If it all goes well, then maybe talk about some safety spots. It will all figure that out. But we're going to start out at corner just to see how that all goes. And then coach (Ryan) Day's plan is for me to start out on both sides of the ball. Just see which one I like the best, and whichever one I have success with or whatever one I feel most comfortable with, I'll just go with that.”

On offense, Martinez and Ryan Day both said he’ll begin his career as an H-back, otherwise known as a slot receiver. Day said there's also a chance Martinez could end up at running back, which Martinez also hinted at.

“Maybe get a couple handoffs,” Martinez said.

In order to ensure he gets the ball in his hands, he’ll also get a shot as a kickoff and punt returner.

“That's going to be exciting, as well,” Martinez said.

So, Martinez could end up at cornerback, nickelback, safety, wide receiver, H-back, running back or returner. Enough options for him?

“It'll be a good chance to get my feet wet and to see everything because that's something that I've always wanted, too, is just to find out what position I really like too, because I haven't had a lot of experience in both of them,” Martinez said. “So it's going to be exciting to see.”

Many athletes play on both sides of the ball in high school, and a bunch of them end up being listed as an “athlete” on recruiting services due to their versatility. Yet once the vast majority of them sign their National Letters of Intent and enroll in a college, especially one with the stature of Ohio State, they’re given a single position to learn.

Martinez, the coaches believe, deserves the uncommon opportunity to try to find a spot on both sides of the ball.

“Cam is probably an exception for the most part,” Day said.

Day described Martinez on Wednesday as “one of the most under-recruited kids in the entire country.”

“You saw what he did in his highlight film when he was a running back. He has the ability to do that,” Day said. “We'll start him at that H who can come into the backfield, like you said, and take some handoffs. And who knows, that's what's exciting about him. I think he does have the ability or he could go play nickel or go play corner. And I think that's what's exciting about Cam. We'll allow him to have a lot of feedback in this. We want him to have a bunch of say in what he likes and feels most comfortable with.”

Defensively, Martinez is somewhat raw. He spent the majority of the past couple seasons at quarterback, as Muskegon’s coaches believed it was best to unleash him mainly on offense. Yet that lack of experience didn’t stop college coaches from telling Martinez that they see him developing into an NFL nickelback, and it hasn’t quelled any of Coombs’ excitement.

The newly hired defensive coordinator said he plans to “fight like crazy” to keep Martinez on defense. 

“He’s going to start off at outside corner, because that’s the place to start him off, and then we figure it out from there,” Coombs said. “So when guys come in here, if they can play on the outside, that’s where we start them. Then we work them in, move them to safety, do whatever. But he’s going to start off at outside corner.”

If Martinez takes well to cornerback, he'll end up there. If he prefers H-back, that would be his home. And if neither are obvious, immediate fits for the incoming 5-foot-11, 183-pound athlete, he has an abundance of other options.

For now, he's content with the belief that he'll fit in somewhere after he gets the opportunity to test his skills on both sides of the ball, an opportunity he understands is rarely afforded to incoming freshmen.

“It's crazy. It doesn't happen often,” Martinez said. “But it's something that I feel comfortable doing the most, and I feel like I'm a versatile athlete enough to do what they want me to do and to try it all out. Like I said, I'm just excited for it. It just should go to show how good of a player I am.”

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