June 13, 2016
COLUMBUS, Ohio — While Las Vegas filled with partygoers and tourists as one of the final few weekends of spring melted into summer, one Sin City resident set sail for Columbus, Ohio.
And by the end of the weekend—and perhaps thanks to a little bit of luck—head coach Urban Meyer found himself hitting the jackpot.
Like a blackjack player on a hot streak, Ohio State has found itself riding a wave of momentum in the recruitment of 4-star quarterback Tate Martell throughout this past spring. On Sunday evening, the Buckeyes cashed out, with the Bishop Gorman product committing to Ohio State while in the midst of a weekend visit to his now-future school.
And as a result, Meyer finds himself with a verbal pledge from a prospect unlike any other he’s landed during his four-plus years in Columbus.
Because for all of the three-time national champion head coach’s recruiting medals—including the building of a top-five class two months into the job in 2012, a national-championship-cornerstone class in 2013 and the signing of numerous 5-star prospects and future NFL talents—Meyer was yet to have signed a top-ranked quarterback since arriving at Ohio State.
Obviously, the Buckeyes have been just fine, thanks to the previous presence of Braxton Miller, accelerated development of J.T. Barrett and even the promising future of Joe Burrow. But in Martell, Meyer finds himself with the No. 1-ranked dual-threat quarterback in the 2017 class, a stature of signal-caller prospect he hasn’t landed since securing Tim Tebow at Florida a decade ago.
Although blue-chip prospects have populated Ohio State’s roster for the past four years, quarterback recruiting—much like Las Vegas—remains a world unto itself, even for a head coach who once landed Tebow and Cam Newton in consecutive classes in Gainesville.
While the additions of Barrett and perhaps even Burrow could set the Buckeyes up for nearly a decade’s worth of success, no quarterback the Buckeyes have signed under Meyer has created a buzz like Martell—something Ohio State tried to capture when it unsuccessfully chased Deshaun Watson throughout the 2014 recruiting cycle.
On the field, there’s been no noticeable effect.
Win 50 of your first 54 games, and it becomes hard for anyone to question any aspect of how you’ve run your program. And for a position unlike any other in football, Meyer seeks a set of criteria less focused on rankings-friendly freak athleticism than he does for quick-twitch defensive ends or rangy wide receivers.
“Every great quarterback—the ones that we’ve had, and we’ve had great ones—the No. 1 characteristic is competitive spirit. No. 2 is toughness. No. 3 is ability to lead. No. 4 is intelligence, and then No. 5 is to [be able to] extend the play,” Meyer said. “Notice I never said anything about arm strength, delivery.”
Martell checks off all those boxes and then some, as evidenced not only by a 30-0 record at Bishop Gorman, but by his showing at last week’s Elite 11 camp, which landed him one of 12 coveted spots in next month’s finals of The Opening.
In addition to his dual-threat ability—Martell has rushed for a combined 1,037 yards and 14 touchdowns in his past two seasons—the 5’10 ½”, 203-pounder goes even above and beyond Meyer’s required physical expectations. While arm strength and delivery may not be requirements for a successful quarterback in Meyer’s eyes, 247Sports director of scouting Barton Simmons has noted Martell‘s ability to “make big throws with a quick release all over the field.” Simmons wrote in April:
Martell is the field general on arguably the nation’s best team. Don’t mistake that for Martell‘s success being a product of those around him, though. Bishop Gorman didn’t have any BCS signees in the 2016 class. He overtook a senior starter and Ivy League quarterback signee to take the starting job as a sophomore. Bishop Gorman‘s offense has thrived ever since.
Of course, even coming from a powerhouse program like Bishop Gorman, there’s a big difference between finding success at the high school and college levels. And before the Buckeyes can even benefit from the latter, Martell first needs to ultimately end up in Columbus, after having previously decommitted from Washington and Texas A&M in his recruitment.
But each previous pledge the San Diego native has made has been accompanied by extenuating circumstances, including his premature commitment to the Huskies coming in eighth grade and the current unrest that exists on the Aggies staff leading to his May decommitment. Meanwhile in Columbus, Meyer’s on-field track record speaks for itself, and Martell‘s recent commitment has only furthered Ohio State’s stranglehold on the nation’s top-ranked 2017 class.
“It’s a great program, and everyone understands how successful Urban Meyer has been, especially with his offense,” Martell told Bleacher Report’s Tyler Donohue at Elite 11. “There’s a lot to like about Ohio State.”
For the Buckeyes, the feeling is mutual, with Martell being the rare prospect who can add something to an Ohio State recruiting haul that it still hasn’t seen under Meyer.
Perhaps it involved some luck for Martell to even be available at this point, with Texas A&M’s reaction to his decommitment eliminating the Aggies from contention for his services moving forward. But to land a prize as coveted as Martell, it takes plenty of skill as well, and when it comes to Meyer’s on the recruiting trail, no one is better at playing his cards.
This isn’t Las Vegas, but the rich are only getting richer in Columbus. And with Martell now in the fold, Meyer’s hot streak isn’t showing signs of cooling down anytime soon.
Ben Axelrod is Bleacher Report’s Big Ten lead writer. You can follow him on Twitter @BenAxelrod. Unless noted otherwise, all quotes were obtained firsthand. Recruiting class rankings courtesy of 247Sports‘ composite.
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