Ohio State freshman Cameron Martinez was a dynamic quarterback in high school and now Kerry Coombs is going to try to turn him into a dynamic cornerback in college.
Martinez was twice named the MLive.com Michigan Player of the Year, becoming the first player to achieve the honor more than once. And based on his production, there’s no argument that he deserved it.
As a senior, Martinez passed for 1,258 yards and rushed for 2,124 yards, accumulating 47 total touchdowns in the process. He set the state record with 2,526 yards rushing as a junior. All told, Martinez rushed for 6,954 yards in high school, which is good for 11th-most in state history.
Martinez went 26-2 as the starting quarterback at Muskegon High School, leading his team to three state title games, and winning one.
So what is Ohio State going to do with all of this offensive production?
Likely start him out on defense, of course.
Early this year, OSU defensive coordinator and secondary coach Kerry Coombs said that he would “fight like crazy” to keep Martinez on the defensive side of the ball.
Listed at 5-foot-11 and 183 pounds, there was some thought that Martinez would be perfect at slot receiver for the Buckeyes. On signing day, head coach Ryan Day even said running back was a possibility.
But if Coombs has his way — and as the defensive coordinator he probably will, the young freshman from the state up north will begin his career on defense.
“He’s going to start off at outside corner because that’s the place to start him off, and then we figure it out from there,” Coombs said. “So when guys come in here, if they can play on the outside, that’s where we start them. Then we work them in, move them to safety, do whatever. But he’s going to start off at outside corner.”
Martinez won’t be the first offensive star in high school to become a defensive star at Ohio State.
He wouldn’t even be a first for Coombs.
Marshon Lattimore was a star on both offense and defense for Glenville in the early part of the last decade. As a senior, he caught 40 passes for 911 yards and 16 touchdowns.
Of course, Lattimore was also the Division II Defensive Player of the Year as a senior, so it’s not like he didn’t play that side of the ball.
Denzel Ward and Gareon Conley are two more examples of players who could have excelled on either side of the ball.
Even in Ohio State’s current secondary, junior cornerback Cameron Brown was a 4-star wide receiver who posted nearly 2,000 yards receiving in his final two years of high school.
For Coombs, there was also one who got away.
“I recruited Parris Campbell and I thought Parris Campbell was going to be a first-round corner,” he said. “I told him from the beginning of his recruitment, and I said, ‘Man, Parris, you’re going to be first-round.’ I walked by his locker for three years saying ‘Parris, come on. Come in my room. You’re going to be a first-round corner.’ He never did. He was a great wide receiver.”
While Coombs was still the head coach at Cincinnati Colerain, Ohio State also had a decision to make about a freshman named Ted Ginn.
Ginn was the No. 1 cornerback prospect in the nation, but he ended up on offense for the Buckeyes and he’s now still in the NFL as a 35-year old wide receiver.
Even though the coaches go into this kind of thing with an idea of where a versatile player is going to line up, the certainty doesn’t come in until the practicing is well underway.
“Now, here’s what I’ll tell you: We’ve been down this road, right, with a lot of really good players,” Coombs said.
“Gareon Conley played wide receiver in high school. Bradley Roby played wide receiver, was committed to Vanderbilt as a wide receiver. You get them here and they start to see and they start to feel comfortable doing one or the other and their career takes off.”
As it regards Cameron Martinez, Coombs said a while back that he expects to see him on defense, but added the caveat that if Ryan Day wants him on offense, that would be a positive for the Buckeyes as well.
“I watched a nine-minute highlight film of Cam Martinez and every time he touched the ball he scored or he threw the ball to somebody who scored,” Coombs said. “Well, if Ryan Day says he’s going to be dynamic on our offense, I’m all in because scoring points is really good for the defense.
“If he comes in here and he says, ‘Coach, I want to play defense.’ I’m all in. I’m going to fight like crazy to have him because we want to have great players in our room. But I also think a player and a kid plays the best when he’s happiest and he’s doing the thing that he’s most passionate about.”