By Craig Beilfuss
COLUMBUS, OH– Former Muskegon Big Red Cameron Martinez has worked his way to the top of the depth chart for the Ohio State Buckeyes.
The senior defensive back was part of the secondary rotation a year ago, but at the present time, he’s a projected starter for one of the premier college football programs in the nation.
Martinez (5-10, 190 pounds) is academically a senior who is expected to see action at both safety and cornerback. If he chooses, he can return in 2024, which would be his final year of eligibility.
On Saturday, Martinez and his teammates participated in the annual spring game at Ohio Stadium. The game marked the conclusion of the 15 schedule spring practices. In front of more than 75,000 Buckeye fans, the Gray Team (defense) defeated the Scarlet team (offense) 40-31. The Buckeyes annually draw one of the bigger crowds in the nation for its spring game.
The game was highlighted with the return of Archie Griffin 49 years after winning the first of his two Heisman Trophies.
On Saturday, Martinez finished with three tackles, but more importantly, is looking forward to the upcoming 2023 season, which gets underway at Indiana on Sept. 2.
“I have had a vision for a long time,” said Martinez. “Sometimes that vision wasn’t very good, but I stayed the course and I have really enhanced my chances of a lot of playing time. For the first time, I’ll be a starter and so the hard work has paid off. A lot has changed for me from the end of last season. I have put in a lot of work to get to where I am today.”
During his junior season, Martinez played in all 13 games and finished the year with 15 tackles as Ohio State finished the season with a 11-2 overall record. They started out season 11-0 before falling to Michigan, 45-23, and to Georgia in the Peach Bowl, 42-41.
During his sophomore campaign the former Michigan Player of Year had 18 tackles to go along with one interception which he ran back for a TD.
That hard work has put Martinez in a position to be a marquee player in the defensive backfield, which is coached by second-year defensive coordinator Jim Knowles.
Martinez will be part of a defense that returns a number of starters from last season that started out strong, but finished not so good during the latter stages of the season.
Through the first 10 games of the 2022-2023 season, Ohio State was in the top-10 in every statistical defensive category that mattered except opponent red zone percentage. The Buckeyes ranked in the top-10 in yards per play allowed, points per game, yards per game, and third down conversion percentage.
But that all changed down the stretch.
Ohio State’s defensive issues from last year arose once more, and the secondary seemed to take steps backwards later in the season. This was exposed in the two losses to Georgia and Michigan and also against Maryland.
Knowles did a phenomenal job in turning the defense around. All the problems he was brought in to improve reappeared when it mattered most. The defense gave up big plays in the passing game, could not end drives defensively, and could not get the job done in the end. The improvement was immense under Jim Knowles in his first year.
Martinez is excited for the opportunity he’ll have to be instrumental in the Buckeyes’ defensive unit in 2023.
“I have put in a lot of time and effort to get where I am today,” Martinez said. “I would just encourage the kids back home to never give up on your dreams, keep working hard and keep your vision on what you want to accomplish.”
Martinez is a two-time OSU Scholar-Athlete and an Academic all-Big Ten Conference honoree who is majoring in psychology.
Coming out of Muskegon, Martinez was a four-star prospect and rated as the nation’s No. 14 athlete by 247Sports.com. With Muskegon coach Shane Fairfield leading the way, Martinez, who played quarterback, led the Big Reds to three state final games while winning one title.
Martinez will spend most of the off season in Columbus participating in team workouts.
“I probably won’t be back home (Muskegon) very much, if at all, this summer,” said Martinez. “I’ll be here in Columbus working out all summer getting ready for next season. The summer workouts are all very important to keep building my strength and energy.”