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Cameron Martinez could play anywhere, but Buckeyes need his defense

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Ohio State and Cameron Martinez will make it official next week on signing day. (Cameron Martinez/Courtesy)

Question Of The Day

Cameron Martinez could play anywhere, but Buckeyes need his defense

The speculation, debate and conversations about Ohio State never end, and Lettermen Row is always ready to dive into the discussions. All week long, senior writer Austin Ward will field topics about the Buckeyes submitted by readers and break down anything that’s on the minds of the Best Damn Fans in the Land. Have a question that needs to be tackled, like the one today about Ohio State and how best to use Cameron Martinez? Send it in right here — and check back daily for the answers.

Kerry Coombs watched the ridiculous highlight reel of touchdowns and came to the same conclusion that just about everybody has about Cameron Martinez: The kid is an underrated recruiting gem, and he can absolutely play on the offensive side of the ball at the next level.

At Ohio State, though, his dynamic athleticism is needed much more on defense. And after some initial skepticism about that, Martinez has also come around to embrace that projection for his future and is ready to let Coombs mold him in the secondary.

“[Coombs] didn’t say he needs me to do this or do that on defense,” Martinez said. “He said he could see me on either side of the ball. He was shocked I had nine minutes of just touchdowns from this year.”

Now, wide receivers coach Brian Hartline or running backs coach Tony Alford may still try to put up a fight for his services once Martinez shows up on campus. But the Buckeyes have a plan in place, and it’s been informed by the feedback they got directly from Muskegon, Mich., where the coaching staff can provide a first-hand account of just how tempting it can be to turn Martinez loose all over the field, all game long.

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Ohio State will sign Cameron Martinez next week. (Birm/Lettermen Row)

During a chat with Lettermen Row last summer, Big Red coach Shane Fairfield raved about the flawless form tackling, the nose for the football and the impact Martinez can have as a guy he thought would be the best defender in his powerhouse program. But Muskegon needed him more to lead the offense, and it couldn’t afford to risk wearing him out on the other side of the ball.

For Ohio State, the situation is going to be flipped. And while there is a bit of uncertainty at running back right now with Master Teague trying to prove he can take over the starting job and Marcus Crowley coming off an injury, the Buckeyes are highly unlikely to have Martinez start his career there in the backfield — even if there were a few exploratory discussions about it during the recruiting process. And when it comes to wide receiver, Hartline already landed one of the most impressive four-man hauls the program has ever seen, and he won’t really need to add Martinez on top of that.

Logistically, Ohio State also isn’t going to want to put too much on the plate of any true freshman, let alone one who will be essentially learning a new position without having had the benefit of going through spring practice. Projecting forward, there will still be a more pressing need in the secondary for the Buckeyes and a better chance for Martinez to make an impact as a defensive back, and that’s where his focus will need to be.

That doesn’t mean the Buckeyes won’t look for ways to get the football in his hands and let him try to add to his touchdown reel. But those chances are almost certainly going to be limited to special teams as a returner — and that might actually wind up being his quickest path to playing time at Ohio State.

No matter what, the versatility Cameron Martinez has put on display is a major reason he was such a priority for the Buckeyes. And now that they’re about to make it official next week on signing day, everybody appears fully on board with the plans for the future.

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Austin Ward

Austin Ward is Lettermen Row's senior writer covering Ohio State football and basketball. The award-winning journalist has covered the Buckeyes since 2012, spending five of those seasons working for ESPN after previous stints at the Casper Star-Tribune and Knoxville News Sentinel.