When number 18 first ran onto the field, I thought it was odd that the Hurricanes would use the third QB at that point in the game. A day after failing to be named Miami’s starting quarterback, reports surfaced that Martell had begun to work out with the wide receivers. To my dismay, the rumors were all but confirmed right before my eyes last Saturday. Tathan Martell lined up at wide receiver. I was befuddled. The next great diminutive mobile quarterbacking prodigy had chosen to change position before the season.
The common thought after the University of Miami named QB Jarren Williams their starter was that one or more of the other quarterbacks would transfer. Martell, who was granted a waiver for immediate eligibility, came over from Ohio State to compete for the UM starting QB job. Offensive coordinator Dan Enos and head coach Manny Diaz felt that Martell was not the guy for the job, in the end. The relationship between The U and Tate Martell appeared to be headed for a divorce. That was, until Martell had a change of heart.
The former four-star prospect out of Bishop Gorman High School (LV) is making the transition to wide receiver. Wearing gloves and lining up in the slot, Martell didn’t look at all out of place. In fact, there were a few times that he came out on the field to be their third receiver behind KJ Osborn and Jeff Thomas. Although Martell was not targeted — and he was wide open on one route down field — the Martell Experiment has piqued my interests.
Having lost the competition to be UM’s starting QB, Martell could have opted to seek his second transfer in less than a year. Instead of jumping back in the transfer portal, the former Elite 11 camper sought to carve out another path to playing time. Subject of infantile ridicule on social media, Martell stayed away from the team the day after Jarren Williams was named QB1. Perhaps it was to mull over his options and future at a position where he gained notoriety. The talent that had become infamous for his wizardry as a captain of offense in high school figured a position change was best for his future and the Hurricanes.The move adds more versatility to the Canes’ offense — yes, DeeJay Dallas was a former quarterback himself. Yet, the opposing defensive coordinator will honor Martell as a passing threat as well as being a great runner. His first chance to line up in the shotgun on offense resulted in a loss of a yard. As the season grows, I expect at least a couple pass attempts from the converted wideout.
My only question is: What will this trial cost the Hurricanes in the end?
The Hurricanes have a host of receivers that are more than capable of contributing in the passing game. Apart from the two mentioned earlier, Mike Harley, Mark Pope, Brian Hightower and Dee Wiggns are competent pass catchers. You have to wonder how his new peers will react to his addition, considering competition has been a buzzword since Manny Diaz was hired last December. The former QB’s positional rebirth should feed into that message. Martell, whose football IQ is reported to be off-the-charts, has a chance to turn from competing with Jarren Williams to being one of his best allies. With his experience having played the position, along with the knowledge of Enos’ system, UM will have another QB-receiver hybrid on the field when No.18 is in the huddle.
There’s obviously a lot of creativity that we can do with him. There’s things that didn’t get called in the [Florida] game. There’ll be more to that. But he’s a guy that if you’re playing defense that you want to know. If he’s on the field you’ll want to know where he’s aligned.
Coach Manny Diaz
As mentioned earlier, Martell is going to have to show that he can throw the ball when he lines up as the quarterback. A speed option isn’t always going to get the necessary yardage needed. I’m sure Coach Enos has already thought of how he’ll employ ‘Project 18’ — we’re still workshopping a name for the Martell package. As with most news, my sceptical shades blocked the rays of reports about his position change. I figured that this merely the coaching staff trying to appease the star from leaving via the transfer portal. Who knows, maybe that was the case. The offense is actively trying to find ways to get the ball into the hands of their playmakers. A year later, Dan Enos and his staff will try to turn that criticism into a strength, with Tate Martell’s development serving as proof of this new approach.
Martell’s transition is one of the more intriguing subplots of the season. There’s no lack of options in the passing or running game. Martell is the cherry on top of it all, one that could have multiple benefits as the season unfolds. I honestly don’t know if the New England Patriots have him in their scouting reports or whether draft analysts see a whole lot of Julian Edelman, Wes Welker and Braxton Berrios in his game. All I know is that No. 18 has been a playmaker at every level of the sport he’s graced. What first seemed like an oddity may be looked back on as the inception of an extraordinary second act. When asked if he was still a quarterback or a full-time receiver, Manny Diaz smiled and stated, “we classify him as Tate.”