Could Tate Martell Be Buckeyes’ Answer in the Red Zone?

Ohio State football quarterback Tate Martell touchdown run

Scoring touchdowns in the red zone is usually the pay off for a long, sustained drive. When teams don’t capitalize in the red zone, however, it makes all of the work they did to get there essentially worthless.

Last Saturday night at Purdue, despite outgaining the Boilermakers 546 yards to 539 yards, the difference was in the red zone, where the Buckeyes failed to score a touchdown on any of their five visits. Purdue, meanwhile, scored touchdowns on all three of their trips.

The week before that, the Ohio State offense failed to reach the end zone on each of their three visits against Minnesota, meaning that the Buckeyes have failed to score touchdowns in eight consecutive trips to the red zone. In those eight visits, Ohio State scored just 12 points.

The struggles are not new this season. Against Penn State and TCU, the Buckeyes converted just two of six trips into touchdowns. All told, against OSU’s four toughest opponents this season, the Ohio State offense has converted just two of 14 red-zone trips into touchdowns. In the other four games — against Indiana, Tulane, Rutgers, and Oregon State — they have scored touchdowns on 19 of 23 visits.

Red-zone difficulties against Ohio State’s better opponents, especially of late, has caused the coaching staff to examine ways to fix what is a quickly-growing concern.

In 2015, they attempted to solve the issues with a more mobile quarterback. The same thing may have to happen this season as well.

“Running Dwayne down there really isn’t as much of an option as it used to be with J.T. [Barrett],” OSU offensive coordinator Ryan Day said this week. “Really uncovering everything. Whether it’s the quarterback run with someone like Tate [Martell] coming into the game, a wildcat package, different personnel, all those things that we’re evaluating right now.”

Not withstanding that the red-zone issues could have been less problematic last week with a couple of better throws, the idea of getting Martell into the game is one that could breathe new life into an offense that needs it.

Because of the close scores in each of the last four games, however, Martell hasn’t seen the field since the Tulane game over a month ago. His ability to run the ball would give the Buckeyes the numbers equality that Urban Meyer covets, but the offensive coaches have shown no desire to take the football out of the hands of Dwayne Haskins.

But they also can’t continue failing to score touchdowns in the red zone. During the off week they are looking at the reasons for why they have failed. If it turns out a quarterback change is needed, they will look at that, but there are drawbacks to that as well.

“That’s one of the other things,” Day explained. “Again, part of identifying what the problem is, do we change our personnel? We’re constantly looking at that. Sometimes when you make those personnel changes, you can slow down the flow of the game. But if it’s giving us a better opportunity, then we really need to look hard into that. And so we are, we’re looking into that.”

Martell will get more snaps in practice this week simply because there is time for it. But he will also get more looks in the red zone drills as well. How he performs in comparison to Haskins could land him on the field when it counts next week against Nebraska.

As mentioned earlier, it wouldn’t be the first time the Buckeyes have had to do this. When Cardale Jones won the job in 2015 and the Ohio State red zone struggled, they inserted J.T. Barrett into the lineup once the Ohio State offense got to around the 30-yard line. It wasn’t the best fix, but it was a move that had to be made.

And the staff is revisiting that situation this week as well.

“We have. Yeah,” Day said. “We’ve gone back and watched film of some of the stuff they’ve done in the past when Cardale was in there and when J.T. was in there. So all those discussions are happening.”

Those discussions continue to involve Tate Martell. Urban Meyer has said in the past that if Tate Martell is one of the top playmakers on the team, then he needs to be on the field. He has only shown glimpses this season, but when given an opportunity, he hasn’t looked overmatched.

If the coaches can’t fix the problems with Haskins, then they will have to turn to Martell in the red zone.

They may not want to switch quarterbacks in midstream, but at least what they have seen from Martell to this point has been positive.

But has it been positive enough to see it when the games are on the line? That’s probably the better question here.

19 Responses

  1. It’s to late the linebackers and secondary stink and the O-line is bad!Salvage your season Urban and enjoy The Outback bowl

  2. Haskins is not mobile and slow and afraid to get hit.

  3. Freaking amazing…. Just fix the blocking scheme and all will fall into place..could run or pass…get DH under center…..lets not try to reinvent the wheel..If line would get push and stay engaged, we could run any play we wanted to call….trying to add new wrinkles to a flawed scheme WILL NOT work….JUST FIX THE LINE……end of problem

  4. Im no genuis but how about using the tight end.

  5. It’d be shocking if they tried martell after 8 weeks. But it is myer’s wheelhouse, a running qb. It’d also be refreshing to see a new approach. This line can’t block, so it won’t matter who is qb. This is a passing team, just pass the ball in the red zone, pass, pass, pass, kick. Be what you are!

  6. An old adage says…The definition of INSANE is trying the same thing over and over and expecting a different outcome…

  7. Many have been saying this for a while, but until the OL begins to block our red zone trips may be limited especially when we play more competent D’s. As suggested before, he may also be useful on any possessions and if he can frequently hit his short pass routes, he will become very dangerous and so will teh O everywhere. Until the line improves, he’s a short term solution.

  8. Give Haskins the first 80-90 yards. If he gets us in the end zone, great. He is certainly capable of that. The last 10-20 yards give it to the Tater. He can run it, throw it, run the option, or the RPO and it gives opposing defenses something extra to have to prepare for. It also gives Tate some experience for down the road, maybe as soon as next year, when Haskins leaves for the NFL. Win/Win.

  9. This doesn’t seem to be a personnel issue, but a coaching issue. Ohio State has consistently ranked in the top 20 for recruiting under Meyer, and has failed to produce more than the previous coach who rarely (if ever) had a top 20 recruiting class, but had more BCS games than any other coach in the era. It’s one thing to be called a coach of great players, but it’s different to be a great coach of players. The previous coach was able to win using a ragtag of misfits. Meyer is given 5-stars and has issues like this…how can that happen? Now you hear “if Tate is a top playmaker, then he needs to be on the field”, if it’s the top playmaker, how did he not make starter? How did our second stringer transfer and look like Joe Freakin’ Montana? Ever year, it seems as if we’re talking more and more of coaching issues and mistakes, because it’s simply not the 5-star players. Unless they weren’t 5-star…then it’s coaching/recruiting again.

    1. Your wrong about recruits Tressel versus Meyer. Yes Meyer’s number are better but Tressel’s 2002 class was ranked number on Rivals and 2009 was number 3. Every year except 2010 ans 2003 was top 15. 2003 was 46th because they only had 16 people sign and 2010 was 25th. Every other class was top 15.

  10. All of this mention of changing personnel to make the red zone work still stinks of the head coach not wanting to change from scheme. Couldn’t score without a running qb in 2015/2018, let’s insert a running qb into those situations. People in this post are still talking triple option and this that or the other. If the scheme is broken, what does a personnel change accomplish for the other 80 yards of the field where we also cannot run? Fix the scheme Coach! Change the scheme. Don’t be like Chip Kelly in the NFL. Don’t be like Rich Rodriguez. Don’t refuse to believe for one moment that your steadfast desire to run YOUR scheme no matter the fits won’t cost us more games. Quit trying to fit square pegs into round holes. Let Kevin Wilson do what he’s best at: adapting scheme to FIT personnel. Get over your ego and get into the guts of WHY your SCHEME is NOT WORKING.

    1. Michael Jennings- yours is my nominee for comment of the season. It is utterly accurate. The HC is a guy who can’t overcome his own ego, the team should NOT be an RPO team. Well done!

      Bonus comment- the nonsense about it “being too late in season to change” is a lie borne out of the same ego and laziness.

  11. Martell may help in the red zone, but the O-line still has to block effectively no matter who carries the ball.

  12. Why not try the triple option with Tate, Dobbins and Weber?

  13. Put Tate in. He can throw too. Run the option to Dobbins. Defenses can’t assume Tate will just run the ball himself.

  14. I think somebody said this on the “Accost the Field” podcast the other day–but at this point, I think people just want to see different things being tried. Even if they don’t work, let’s not continue to do the same thing and expect different results. 8 consecutive trips to the red zone with zero touchdowns looks pretty consistent…what we are doing isn’t working. I can understand not wanting to take Haskins off the field–but isn’t winning games more important?

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