Regardless of what role Ohio State’s coaches ask him to play for the Buckeyes this year, Cameron Martinez is confident he’ll be ready.
Through his first two years at Ohio State, Martinez hasn’t yet had a consistent role for the Buckeyes. A high school quarterback who came to Ohio State with visions of playing both wide receiver and defensive back, Martinez started his Buckeye career at cornerback and appeared in just one game as a true freshman. As a redshirt freshman last year, Martinez climbed the depth chart early in the season and started two games at cover safety but ended up playing six defensive snaps or fewer in five of the Buckeyes’ final seven games.
Going into his third season as a Buckeye, it remains uncertain how much playing time Martinez will see. He’s positioned to be on the two-deep at nickel safety, but Oklahoma State transfer Tanner McCalister is the frontrunner to start at that spot after following new Ohio State defensive coordinator Jim Knowles from Stillwater to Columbus.
That said, Martinez flashed coverage ability and playmaking during his 197 defensive snaps in 2021, most notably when he returned an interception 61 yards for a touchdown against Tulsa. His versatility could improve his chances of earning more playing time this year; while he’s expected to play most of his snaps in the slot, he’s also spent time at free safety and cornerback over the past two years and is a candidate to return punts this season.
Martinez will be happy to take the field wherever Ohio State believes he can make an impact.
“I feel like I can move around a lot,” Martinez said during the Special Skills Football Invitational last month. “I played multiple positions, I’ve done that the past couple of years here. So whatever the coaching staff wants me to do, and also punt returns and things like that as well, I’ll be ready.”
After a couple of down years for Ohio State’s defense in his first two seasons as a Buckeye, Martinez is feeling optimistic about the direction of the Buckeyes’ defense under the leadership of Knowles and new secondary coaches Perry Eliano and Tim Walton. He’s likewise optimistic he’ll be able to play a part in helping the defense improve.
“It’s unfinished business last year, so we know what we need to do, and that’s what motivates us this whole summer,” Martinez said. “I feel like I’m in the best shape of my life, and I feel really good about this year. I’m just really excited, and we just have to come out and get the ball rolling.”
Now that he’s been at Ohio State and focusing solely on playing defense for the past two years, Martinez – who recently switched to No. 13, the jersey number he wore as a quarterback at Muskegon High School – has become fully comfortable as a defensive back and feels ready to capitalize upon his potential.
“I feel like I’m in my true DB form and kind of the player that I've always wanted to be,” said Martinez, who is listed at 5-foot-10 and 190 pounds. “I feel really good about things that I worked on and improved on … I feel like my body’s developed well, too. So like I said, feeling really excited for fall camp and like I said, best shape of my life.”
Fellow Ohio State safety Ronnie Hickman is among those who have seen improvement from Martinez going into his redshirt sophomore year. Hickman attributes Martinez’s development to his work ethic.
“The sky's the limit for Cam,” Hickman said at Big Ten Media Days. “I'm with him pretty much every day. Cam is one of the most detailed guys I know when it comes to taking notes, watching film, how he corrects himself, how he watches himself. So Cam knows what he's going to do, and I'm excited for him, and the other guys know as well.”
“I feel like I’m in the best shape of my life, and I feel really good about this year.”– Cameron Martinez
On a roster that’s deep with veteran safeties, Martinez says his teammates around him have helped push him to put in that hard work.
“Accountability has been a big thing for us, just holding each other accountable,” Martinez said. “Just knowing what we needed to do last year and working on it to get better. We’re kind of just taking that day by day, and we’re motivated more than ever as well. So I think we’ve got a really good group that's hungry as well and ready to compete.”
Martinez remains mostly unproven as a Buckeye, and he still faces plenty of competition in Ohio State’s secondary to earn more playing time this season. But he has no shortage of belief in his own ability to get the job done when called upon.
“I know what I can do. The coaching staff knows what I can do. And now it's just kind of time to put it all together Week 1 and just show the world what I have to offer, what I can do,” Martinez said. “So that’s kind of what’s motivated me every day. It's been on my mind. I'm ready to go.”