It was a little over a week ago during a portion of 7-on-7 during an Ohio State football practice that fourth-year junior nickel back Cam Martinez had All-American wide receiver Marvin Harrison lined up across from him in the slot.
There won’t be a more dangerous red zone threat in the nation this year than Harrison, but Martinez stepped up to the challenge. The quarterback’s throw was purposely low — to where only Harrison could catch it — but not low enough to keep Martinez from reaching around Harrison and knocking the pass to the ground.
This is the kind of work that Cam Martinez is getting as a fourth-year junior looking to win a spot vacated by the graduated Tanner McCalister. It’s also the kind of work that has been impressing Ohio State defensive coordinator Jim Knowles.
“Man, he’s got great feet. Cam has excellent feet,” Knowles said. “Reminds me of a guy I had at Duke, Michael Carter, who’s in the NFL. Doesn’t have to be big. He’s got great feet. With Cam it’s just all about confidence, right? It’s establishing that confidence. Playing against Marv in the slot sometimes, that’s great for Cam, you know? He just has to establish confidence. He’s got all the tools, but his feet are great.”
Confidence has been a daily grind for the former high school quarterback, but the more reps he has received, the better he’s gotten.
“Yeah, I mean, anytime you’re going against the best receiver in the country and you’re able to stop them and make plays on them, that boosts your confidence more than anything, for sure,” Martinez said. “But it’s mainly just reps. You know, I’m still fairly new at this position. I would say this is my fourth year going into it. I feel like each year has definitely progressed for me a lot. Like I said, spring ball really helps. Being able to come here practice one, not really feeling like I had to have training wheels on or anything like that. It was mainly just like a continuation for me from bowl practice.”
Like every other returning Buckeye on defense, there is now a full year of familiarity that each player is using to put their best foot forward this spring. For Martinez, he is able to show the benefits of that experience, and he’s also able to do it while being healthy for a change.
“Yeah, I mean, so there’s a lot of ups and downs,” Martinez said of his 2022 season. “Week three, I had a sprained ankle, and it was kind of lingering for a few weeks, and I kind of reaggravated it again towards the end of the season too. Never really felt 100%. When I was playing, I never felt the best. And I think that was something that caught up to me towards the end as well.”
This spring has been big for Martinez because he’s been among the leaders defensively. The Buckeyes went into the portal and landed Syracuse safety Ja’Had Carter to compete for the open nickel spot, so the pressure is clear. Of course, competition isn’t new for anybody who suits up in the Scarlet and Gray.
Competition is everywhere, whether it’s in your own position room, or lined up across from you in the red zone.
The key for Cam Martinez remains simple, and so far that key has put some receivers in lockdown.
“I think the main thing for me is just consistency, and just knowing the confidence I have for myself too,” Martinez said. “I feel like I’ve been building that. I built that last year. Building that again, with a second year under my belt in the defense. Tanner was a really good mentor for me as well. And I’ve been healthy this year, too, as well. So just putting all those things together, all the little things together, and just taking each day, day by day. I feel like that’s really the biggest thing I need to work on this offseason.”