After earning playing time in three of the first four games of the season, Ohio State redshirt freshman quarterback Tate Martell failed to earn time in the next five games. It was seemingly simple. Redshirt sophomore quarterback Dwayne Haskins had become the guy for the Ohio State offense.
But Martell still brought something valuable to the offense, something Haskins had not shown in his game: a dual-threat ability, an ability to take off and run, an ability to navigate past linemen and linebackers for a potential score.
With this type of talent on the roster, Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer has had to answer one question this entire season.
What role does Martell play in the Ohio State offense?
Meyer showed what Martell’s role could be in the middle of Ohio State’s 26-6 win against Michigan State on Saturday.
As Haskins moved the Buckeyes down the field in the middle of the second quarter, Ohio State faced a 1st-and-goal from six yards out. Martell entered the game, trying to bring some life to an offense known for struggling in the red zone.
He took the ball, semi-faked the option pitch and navigated his way through the offensive line for a five-yard gain. After that play, he left. His half was over. His day was pretty much complete, handing the ball off to redshirt junior running back Mike Weber a few times in the middle of the fourth quarter, but failing to put up any more stats.
He did not score, with Haskins throwing a one-yard shovel pass to redshirt senior wide receiver Parris Campbell, but Martell’s performance was enough to convince Meyer.
“I think we are going to do more of that,” Meyer said. “When you start to get to that point in the field, it’s rugged, especially against a defense like that. So I hope to use him more.”
But the thing is, Haskins, the quarterback who has become “the guy” for Ohio State’s offense, was not too keen on leaving the game. He understands it, but it does not mean he was happy about it.
“I mean, it’s a little hard, but, you know, it’s for the betterment of the offense,” Haskins said. “It’s a certain package we have that we need to, feel like the coaches need to run, so I can’t complain about that. It’s a little frustrating.”
For the Ohio State offense, red zone success is very vital, especially with the two opponents the Buckeyes will face at the end of the regular season.
Maryland has the No. 110 red zone defense in the country, allowing opposing offenses to score 89.7 percent of the time within the 20-yard line. Despite being the No. 4 team in the country, Michigan has the No. 125 red zone defense in the country, with offenses scoring points 93.8 percent of the time.
Both teams have combined to allow 17 rushing touchdowns within the 20-yard line this year.
It’s not about how Haskins feels about it. Like he said, it is about the betterment of the offense.
Though Martell has not received much playing time, both Haskins and Meyer have voiced their praise of his competitiveness.
“Give him a five on the competitor scale,” Meyer said. “He’s an elite competitor. He’s worked his you-know-what off. And I do see that.”
Meyer said that Martell, as a competitive player, has voiced displeasure in his lack of playing time.
To Haskins, this is not something he has seen from Martell in the quarterback room.
“I didn’t feel any frustration from him as far as playing a lot or whatever he voiced to coach Meyer,” Haskins said. “But I know that when he gets into the game, he’s taking all the things he can learn from me, from J.T. [Barrett] and he’s going to try and compete out there. I’m proud of the progress he’s made.”
Martell only recorded one rush for five yards in the red zone against Michigan State. But it could be a sign of things to come for the Ohio State offense moving forward.