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Tate Martell Puts Miami Ahead of Schedule

By Dave Holcomb
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This week, the NCAA ruled Ohio State transfer quarterback Tate Martell will be immediately eligible to play at Miami in 2019.

This week, the NCAA ruled Ohio State transfer quarterback Tate Martell will be immediately eligible to play at Miami in 2019. The decision sent shockwaves around the sport Tuesday evening, and rightfully so because it could potentially change the college football landscape.

Perhaps it will, but one thing is definitely for sure -- Martell is already practicing for the Hurricanes, and his presence raises the expectations in Miami significantly.

Martell, who arrived at Ohio State in the 2017 recruiting class as a 4-star recruit and the No. 2 dual-threat signal caller in the class, was expected to become the Buckeyes starter this fall. Incumbent starter Dwayne Haskins is off to the NFL and could be an early first-round pick next month.

But then Ohio State had its own victory in the transfer portal -- the Buckeyes landed former 5-star and the No. 1 overall player in the 2018 recruiting class Justin Fields in December. Without Urban Meyer, the coach who recruited Martell, most believed the decision to land Fields meant the Buckeyes didn’t have their hearts set on starting Martell. At the very least, it meant he would face significant spring and summer competition.

At Miami, though, the Hurricanes are struggling to find an answer at quarterback. The Malik Rosier era ended horribly, and N’Kosi Perry -- although still young -- isn’t off to the best of starts. Perry completed only 50.8 percent of his passes and averaged 5.7 yards per attempt as a redshirt freshman last year.

With that uncertainty at quarterback, it was hard to gauge what to expect from the Hurricanes this season. The Coastal division is still wide open for the taking, but in a year where the best overall regular-season record in the division was 7-5, Miami ended the season with a 4-4 ACC record.

Miami’s defense is an elite group, but another second or third place finish was probably the best bet this fall because of concerns at the sport’s most important position. Then Tate would emerge on the scene in 2020 and perhaps make the Hurricanes the favorite in the Coastal.

However, his immediate eligibility places Miami one year ahead of schedule. Without a true favorite in the division, the Hurricanes now look the part of an early frontrunner.

Not only that, but Tate’s personality also seems to be a perfect fit for his new home.

“Tate, he’s a character, dude,” Hurricanes tight end Brevin Jordan told the Miami Herald. “He’s a 5-foot-11, little white dude with tattoos, running around with high energy. Cocky. Just loves the swag. His swag is so Miami.

“Tate, he’s going to fit in. He’s elite. Elite. Just simple as that. Elite.”

Just think about what an elite signal caller can do for a defense with these totals from last season:

Rankings in the ACC
-1st in Tackles for Loss per game
-1st in Third-Down Defense
-1st in Passing Defense
-2nd in Scoring Defense
-2nd in Opponent’s Red-Zone Touchdown Percentage
-3rd in Sacks
-3rd in Takeaways
-3rd in Rushing Defense

When the Hurricanes won 10 games in 2017, they posted a plus-13 turnover margin. To do that, the defense forced 31 takeaways, which was tied for the third-most in the country that year.

Last season, the Miami defense didn’t have quite as many takeaways, but the Hurricanes still recorded 25, which was third-most in the ACC. But because of quarterback issues, they posted 26 giveaways and a minus-1 margin.

Now, the Hurricanes won’t have back all aspects of their defense, but with Manny Diaz back in the fold, it’s expected to be another strong group. Give Diaz a quality quarterback -- one that fits his team’s personality and swagger -- and it just might put Miami back into the ACC title game.

As I discussed in my Willie Taggart column this week, high expectations can be dangerous, but Tate playing in 2019 could also move the Hurricanes ahead of schedule with their rookie head coach.