One of the Bearcat football players using this spring to make a move up the depth chart is Jared Martin. At Clyde High School in Green Springs, Ohio, Martin proved to be an excellent athlete. He was an all-state football player, a state qualifier in wrestling, and a state runner-up in the 300 meter hurdles. He was such a good athlete the Bearcat coaching staff couldn‘t figure out where to play him last year. Jared played both quarterback and defensive back for his father at Clyde so he got August auditions at UC to play both cornerback and receiver. An injury ended those auditions, and Martin was ultimately redshirted. However, this spring he looks to have found a permanent home at receiver. He's my personal choice as "Offensive Sleeper of the Year."
When a competitor like Jared is forced to sit out a season, it‘s never easy as he explained. "Coming out of high school, I was used to playing. It was really frustrating standing on the sidelines and going to most of the games and really wanting to get in. I just had to take my time on the bench and learn the offense."
Since receiver is a relatively new position for Jared, would he be more comfortable as a defensive back? "I like receiver a lot. I definitely enjoy it more than defensive back. I think I'm a better fit for it and play it better. Plus, I like making big plays when I get the opportunity."
As I've watched Jared making plays this spring, he's reminded me of Fred Biletnikoff, whose namesake award goes to the top college receiver each year. Don't get me wrong. I'm not saying Jared's ready to go into the NFL Hall of Fame, but he looks and even acts a lot like the old Oakland Raider. Biletnikoff's bio describes him as "a 6-1, 190-pounder with excellent hands and deceptive speed." Martin is 6' 1"/182 pounds and is capable of running a 4.4 forty or even faster. Martin also has the relatively long, straight blonde hair like Biletnikoff. I asked Jared if he'd ever heard of Fred Biletnikoff and told him of my comparison. "Yes, I have actually heard of Fred Biletnikoff. I read about that in your article."
Photo NFL Hall of Fame
Many fans thought the Bearcats lacked speed at the receiver position last year. Martin could help in that department. Jared ran a 4.48 forty at the conclusion of winter workouts, and Coach Swanger (strength coach) told me Jared was obviously distressed after posting that very respectable time. I asked Jared about it. "I was very upset with that time. I was expecting a mid to high 4.3. I just didn't have it that day." Derrick Stewart, another Bearcat speedster who's sitting out this year, told me earlier in the week that Jared is one of the fastest guys he's run against in track. Jared even beat Stewart in the state championship 300 meter hurdles, but Jared was equally respectful of Stewart's speed. "Yeah, I beat him, but I'm not sure I could beat him in the forty. He might have me there."
As a new player at his position, Martin knows he still needs work. "I need to learn the offense better. I need to know what I'm doing and grow into this offense. I don't want to be timid running the offensive plays."
One of Jared's strengths is how he positions his body on receptions. He agreed, "Some of it is natural, but Coach Tread(well) teaches us a lot of drills about that, and those have helped me a lot too."
Dustin Grutza is righthanded, and Nick Davila is lefthanded. However, Jared doesn't seem to care who wins the quarterback job. "No, both bring something different, but I have confidence in both of them."
I have confidence in Jared Martin, and as other Bearcat football fans watch him play throughout his career, they may also be reminded of another receiver who's bust is in Canton, Ohio.