Rarely in the recent history of Ohio State has the team not started a mobile quarterback under center.
A program that takes Woody Hayes’ iconic quote, “Three yards and a cloud of dust” to heart, Ohio State historically won national titles on the shoulders of running backs, but has since relied on mobile quarterbacks as another option to run the ball and pass only when needed.
Dwayne Haskins is not that type of quarterback. Tate Martell is.
Martell was listed as the No. 2 dual-threat quarterback in the 2017 recruiting class, having flashed a powerful enough arm to complete passes downfield while also demonstrating an elusive running style that is more similar to the style of Braxton Miller rather than J.T. Barrett.
Coaches have spoken of Martell with nothing but praise, acknowledging the progress he has made both in maturity and skill set since stepping foot on campus in the spring 2017. Martell embraced his role as scout team quarterback last season, helping the defense prepare while also working to improve his game during practice.
The knock on Martell is that he lacks the experience of both Haskins and redshirt junior Joe Burrow. Haskins appeared in several games in 2017, including carrying the team in its win against Michigan.
Martell has never appeared in a collegiate game, but that has not stopped quarterbacks in the past. Barrett began the 2014 season as the starting quarterback lacking college experience, admittedly filling in for the injured Miller. His predecessor started games in his true freshman campaign, taking over under center in just the fourth game of the 2011 season.
Experience should be a factor, but it shouldn’t always be the deciding factor when examining how to maximize a team. Head coach Urban Meyer has leaned on mobile quarterbacks throughout his coaching career, ranging from Alex Smith to Tim Tebow to Miller to Barrett. The only time he had a pocket-passing quarterback at Ohio State was when Cardale Jones began the 2015 season as the starting quarterback, replaced later in the year by Barrett.
Martell offers the Buckeyes an explosive runner who can make things happen even when the pocket collapses around him. If no one is available downfield, Martell has the ability to move. And while Martell might not be able to connect on as many deep passes as a quarterback like Haskins, he should still be effective enough passing to keep teams wary of his throwing ability.
Martell is not viewed as the favorite to win the job and his legs give him the option to play other positions. But in a typical Ohio State offense, there is no better fit than a player like Martell.