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Miami Hurricanes 2020 Player Profile: Tate Martell

The enigmatic former Elite 11 QB has one year left to prove he was worth the QB1 hype

Hurricanes football practice 8/8/2019 David Santiago/Miami Herald/TNS via Getty Images

Tate Martell arrived in Coral Gables, FL via the transfer portal in Coach Diaz’s first off-season of Portal Kombat. Martell was cleared immediately for 2019 because new Ohio State coach Ryan Day was not interested in keeping Martell on scholarship. This opened the door for Martell to play right away but he was subsequently beaten out for the starting job by Jarren Williams and the back up role by N’Kosi Perry.

Much like at OSU, one QB (Williams ala Joe Burrow) has transferred and a new transfer has leapt through the portal (D’Eriq King ala Justin Fields) to give Martell competition. It’s an eerily familiar situation to Martell, the former star of the documentary QB1. Since graduating from Bishop Gorman in Las Vegas, NV, Martell has thrown 29 passes and one touchdown, while running for 135 yards and two touchdowns in his career. Now a redshirt junior, Martell will have to beat out D’Eriq King and N’Kosi Perry, as well as Tyler Van Dyke and Peyton Matocha, too.

The five-foot-eleven, 198 pound Martell looks more like a slot wide receiver for the New England Patriots than a Power 5 QB, but Rhett Lashlee has worked with diminutive passers before, and King can’t be all but five-ten, either. Martell will benefit from the new offensive coordinator, as Lashlee’s scheme is more similar to what Martell ran at Gorman and OSU than Dan Enos scheme was at Miami in ‘19. Keeping Martell in the shotgun rather than under center will play to his strengths, and playing to a player’s strength is a Lashlee forte.

The real question is, did this many people miss on the Tate Martell evaluation? I’ve told you “What college coaches look for in a quarterback prospect,” they’re looking for enough size to play the position at their level, the ability to make every throw in your playbook, and accuracy. If a QB has a big arm but can’t hit a barn well you can keep your 48% completion percentage and I’ll take a kid who can put the ball where it needs to go 10-15 yards at a time.

Martell obviously doesn’t have the size factors or growth in his frame that many schools are looking for. Now that hasn’t stopped Drew Brees, Kyler Murray or D’Eriq King- but Brees and Murray have uncanny accuracy, and Murray and King are mobile athletes, like Martell. Martell completed only 60% of his passes at Gorman which could throw up a red flag. Murray completed 64% of his passes, while King completed 66% of his. UNC’s Sam Howell also completed only 60% of his passes his senior year.

Can Martell make every throw in the offense? Look at this deep ball, above, from his senior year tape. Even a fade gets loose on its spiral and starts to wobble like a Ken Dorsey floater. The difference between Dorsey and Martell is six inches of height, leadership and being surrounded by the greatest team ever assembled.

Most of his highlight tape consists of fades and scrambles. Your deep ball is only as good as your WR’s and scrambling at the P5 level isn’t quit what it is at the high school level, regardless of your schedule (and hey, Gorman used to play some great teams). Looking through some Elite 11 film, I see a good but not great QB. Martell lacks power behind his throws, his base is too wide at times in his throwing motion, he sprays the ball around causing guys to have to leave their feet or slow down on his deeper throws.

2020 Projection

The question is: is Tate Martell the Elite 11, Gatorade Player of the Year, four-star that signed with Ohio State; or is he a 3rd string quarterback at a bad ACC school? Who was right in their evaluation between Trent Dilfer and Ryan Day?

I think Ryan Day had the right evaluation. He had the chance to see Martell not only during games, but on the practice field and in the meeting room. Coach Day knew Martell’s ability, and whether he would serve as a back up QB that would improve the room via competition, work ethic, and leadership or hold the room down- and Day chose to let the young man move on.

Remember, a quarterback is different from a passer is different from a thrower. A quarterback is a leader of not only their position room but the entire offense and hopefully team. It’s the star player per the media and fans, but also in the locker room. The QB has to show leadership, work ethic, and accountability. A quarterback has the intangibles, and a passer has the physical tools such as: ability to make throws, accuracy and mobility. A thrower is a guy with a deep ball arm who can’t hit a barn nor lead.

My projection on Martell is that he will perform better under Lashlee’s offense, rather than Enos’, as will the entire offense. However, I can’t see Martell beating out King, nor standing in the way of Van Dyke. Hopefully his physical tools haven’t diminished as much as they seemed to have on tape regarding his mobility. I hope that Coach Feeley can drop the 300’s and 110’s and improve the football speed, agility, and cognitive and visual abilities of his players. Miami needs to develop with the blue chip ratio dipping below 50% for 2020.

Prediction: Martell is still 3rd string in 2020, transfers for 2021.