This season, we might get a chance to see who – if anyone – was right. A two-star fullback prospect who was a late addition to the OSU class of 2008, Martin went through a redshirt freshman season while toiling as a scout team fullback for the Buckeyes.
With the departure of Chris Wells to the NFL and the fact that expected bruiser Carlos Hyde did not qualify academically and will not join the Buckeyes this season, the decision was made to move the 6-0, 227-pound Martin from fullback to tailback.
Now the question is what sort of role he might be able to carve out for himself this season. Common sense dictates that it might be that of a short-yardage back who can pick up a few tough yards when absolutely necessary.
"I think when it comes time for the defenses that we're going against to be worn down, I think that that's my time to shine," he said. "That's where I can do the most work at."
The Buckeyes are not short of options at the running back position. Dan Herron led the way behind Wells last season and rushed for 439 yards and six touchdowns and a healthy Brandon Saine had a positive impact on the team's offense during the 2007 season. Adding to that picture is freshman Jaamal Berry, a speedster who was viewed as one of the biggest prospects in the class of 2009.
The problem is size. Herron is listed at 5-10, 193 pounds, Saine at 6-1, 217 pounds and Berry at 5-11, 195 pounds. Neither of them would be mistaken for a fullback, although Saine would most closely resemble one.
With freshmen Adam Homan and Zach Boren working alongside redshirt freshman James Georgiades, the coaching staff looked at the depth chart after spring practice and decided Martin might be a better fit at running back. When spring began, he was listed in the media guide as the starter at fullback.
It was a switch Martin – who played both spots in high school as well as defensive end and linebacker – was excited to make.
"It was actually a shock to me," he said. "It's a blessing to me, too. I'm fine with it. I love running back. It's a beautiful situation I'm in."
Martin said that the goal coming out of high school was to eventually make his way into the rotation at running back. He estimated his own time in the 40-yard dash at 4.5 seconds and said there is not have a noticeable speed difference between himself and the rest of the running backs.
Following the team's second day of practice, Tressel said the coaches saw plenty of potential in Martin when he was recruited even if the recruiting services did not.
"That's why we always thought that he could be a tailback," he said when a reporter noted that Martin looked quick. "He was always one of those wild-card guys that he could be a special teams guy, a fullback and a tailback and be very valuable on your travel squad and so forth. I think he's got skills."
Despite the aforementioned backs ahead of him and dual-threat quarterback Terrelle Pryor running the show, Martin said he feels there will be enough carries to go around.
"I think that we all can be used in the backfield," he said. "I think that we have a steady rotation and we can hit our opponents with different things. It will be to our advantage every game."
The transition from fullback to running back has not been a particularly taxing one, he said. Martin said he struggled at picking up some of the concepts at fullback but that playing running back comes more naturally to him.
"Fullback is a little harder than running back," he said. "The coaches will tell you the play and tell you the numbers but you've still got to figure out the correct route to block and everything. At running back, I'm catching onto it real easy. There's only two or three simple things I have to know about."
If his role develops as a short-yardage back, those so-called simple things he has to learn might become easier and put him into a position where he can be successful.
Saine said he feels Martin can bring something different to the table and succeed in that capacity.
"It definitely helps that we're more versatile," Saine said. "It would be a change-up for the team to deal with."