Two days before the Rose Bowl, Tate Martell was resolute.
With conviction in his voice, the redshirt freshman said that he would be the starting quarterback for Ohio State in 2019 if Heisman Trophy finalist Dwayne Haskins Jr. chose to enter the NFL draft. Haskins did.
Martell was undaunted by the rumors that Georgia quarterback Justin Fields, the second-ranked prospect nationally in the 2018 recruiting class, would transfer to Ohio State. Martell insisted that he wouldn’t transfer out of Ohio State if that happened.Join the conversation at Facebook.com/BuckeyeXtra and connect with us on Twitter @BuckeyeXtra
Fields did become a Buckeye. He enrolled Monday.
And now Martell is looking to leave. On Thursday, he placed his name in the NCAA transfer portal, which allows other schools to pursue him.
It’s just another twist in a quarterback saga that has had plenty of them since Ryan Day was named coach.
Martell’s decision leaves the quarterback situation even murkier than it was. Fields was considered the front-runner to win the job based on his talent, but Martell believed his competitiveness and knowledge of the offense would allow him to prevail.
He said at Rose Bowl media day on Dec. 30 that Day’s offense was too complex for a newcomer to learn well enough to start in his first year.
“If somebody thinks they’re going to walk in and start, it’s probably not going to happen,” Martell said in Pasadena, California. “The offense that coach Day has set for us is an NFL-type offense. It’s difficult to learn. It takes awhile to get it down.”
He said that he would not transfer if Fields did come.
“Why would I leave for somebody that hasn’t put a single second into this program yet?” Martell said. “I’ve put two years of literally working my ass off into something I’ve been working for, and a dream I’ve had my whole life.
“To just run away from somebody that hasn’t even put a single second into winter workouts and doesn’t know what the program is all about, there’s not a chance.”
Well, now there is. Martell placing his name in the transfer portal doesn’t mean he definitely will transfer, though that seems likely.
The timing of a departure raises more questions. He is believed to be on track to graduate in May, which would enable him to go to another program and be eligible immediately. That’s the path that Joe Burrow took in transferring to LSU after competing with Haskins last spring.
But that would entail Martell remaining at Ohio State through spring practice, which would be awkward if he is determined to leave. He could remain in school and not participate in spring practice.
Another option would be to leave before then and seek a waiver, as Fields is doing, from the requirement that forces a player to wait a year with his new school before playing. The NCAA has been increasingly lenient in granting those waivers.
Attorney Tom Mars, who is working with Ohio State in handling Fields’ transfer waiver request and has been successful in other transfer cases, won’t do the same for Martell.
“I’m not representing Tate Martell, and I have no intention of doing anything on his behalf,” Mars told The Dispatch.
An NCAA ruling on Fields’ transfer is likely to take several weeks.
Martell completed 23 of 28 passes for 269 yards and one touchdown last year. The dual-threat quarterback also ran 22 times for 128 yards and two touchdowns.
If he leaves, that leaves no quarterback on the roster who has thrown a pass in an Ohio State game.
Fields would compete with Matthew Baldwin, who redshirted as a true freshman while rehabbing from a torn knee ligament. Baldwin was Day’s handpicked choice for the 2018 recruiting class out of powerhouse Lake Travis High School near Austin, Texas. He impressed teammates in bowl practice as his limitations were eased.
The Buckeyes also have graduate transfer Chris Chugunov, who came from West Virginia.
Ohio State’s quarterback commitment for the 2019 recruiting class, Dwan Mathis, ended up signing with Georgia.
In this month of quarterback musical chairs, well, of course he did.