In the blink of an eye, USC went from having no offensive line commitments for the class of 2016, to maybe being done recruiting at the position.
Wednesday, Murrieta (Calif.) four-star offensive tackle Nathan Smith
committed to USC, and Thursday morning, the Trojans received the
commitment of Mater Dei offensive lineman Frank Martin.
USC will have 14 scholarship offensive linemen on the roster in 2015,
with starting offensive tackles, Chad Wheeler and Zack Banner, draft eligible juniors next year. Of
those 14 players, seven are listed as interior linemen.
Martin is rated as the No. 2 offensive guard in the Western Region and
No. 11 nationally by Scout. According to national ecruiting analyst
Greg Biggins, Martin’s future position at USC is unspecified.
“He told me he will play wherever they want him to,” said Biggins.
“Guard, tackle or even center. They haven’t talked to him about playing
center, but he says he’ll play there if that’s what they want.
“So you’re getting a offensive linemen who buys into being versatile
and playing wherever he has to to get on the field. Martin is coming in
ready to play anywhere.”
In recent years, both senior center Max Tuerk and sophomore offensive
tackle Toa Lobendahn have played every position on the line. This year
Lobendahn is expected to play offensive guard, although that will
depend on the health of Wheeler at left tackle. He is recovering
from an ACL tear.
“I don’t think Martin has enough lateral mobility to pass protect
against the speed rushers he’ll see in the Pac-12,” said Biggins. “I
think he could probably play tackle in the Big Ten, but against the
athletes in the Pac-12, I think you want him inside.
“I think he’s big enough and strong enough to handle that. He could get
away with playing right tackle, so I guess it’s not a matter of saying
he can’t play offensive tackle so much as saying he’s just better as an
Although Martin received his scholarship offer from USC just two months
ago, the 6-foot-6, 285-pound four-star has been a commodity on the
recruiting trail for the better part of a year.
Martin selected USC over 30 other schools. That includes scholarship
offers from every major conference — UCLA to Boston College, Washington
But rating Martin as an offensive guard when he plays right tackle for
Pac-5 powerhouse Mater Dei comes with an explanation.
“If you’re playing guard or center, the base in which an opposing
defender has to beat you is a couple of feet,” said Biggins. “You have
a man to your left and right, within about an arm length.
“If you’re playing offensive tackle, the defender can line up three
yards off your right or left shoulder. The defense can basically put
you on an island. If you overcompensate by shooting out too much, the
defender can make a quick move inside and beat you like that.
“Offensive tackle may be the hardest position to play when you think
about it that way. That’s why those left tackles make so much money now
in the NFL.”
Indeed, offensive tackle is a position that requires great athleticism,
which in turn requires the responsibility of protecting the team’s most
important player — the quarterback.
Playing guard, Martin will be protected schematically in passing
situations. But with Nathan Smith committed as an offensive tackle, and
Martin being recruited an offensive line Swiss Army Knife, do the
Trojans go for another commitment in 2016 up front?
Rancho Cucamonga (Calif.) offensive tackle Cohl Cabral is another local
offensive linemen USC recently offered a scholarship.
“Martin says USC is only taking two, but of course, if some five-star
stud comes along and falls in love with USC, you don’t pass up on great
linemen,” said Biggins. “But USC offered Cohl Cabral a scholarship two
or three weeks ago, and he had a chance to commit then.
“I think in that case, a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush. USC
can’t wait on a guy like Cohl at the risk of possibly losing him and
also losing Martin because they wanted to wait.
“Cohl definitely has some upside and is more athletic than Martin, but
Frank is pretty good. He was leaner and moved around better at the NIKE
Camp than he has in the past. Laterally he moved better, so I think
he’s developing in the right direction.
“And listen, if Cohl develops as a pure offensive tackle and gets
better during the season, it’s not like USC can’t take him too. It’s
not like USC can’t take three offensive linemen in this class.”
Technically, USC has 22 scholarships available in the 2016 class,
although the use of advanced scholarships or blue shirts has made the
total class number the past two cycles somewhat irrelevant.
Snagging Martin, however, is not irrelevant. USC has signed back to
back top offensive line classes under Steve Sarkisian, and new
offensive line coach Bob Connelly helped close the deal on both Smith
and Martin this week.
The Trojans success has come inside out on the offensive line.
“USC signing Toa Lodendahn, Viane Talamaivao and Damien Mama in 2014
was huge,” said Biggins. “Everyone of those guys was a top 100 level
“Frank isn’t quite at that level because I don’t see him coming in as a
true freshman and playing the way those guys did. At the same time, he
doesn’t have to. I think Frank is a depth guy early on and then as a
redshirt freshman or sophomore year competition for playing time.
That’s still pretty good.”
Future Impact: Frank Martin
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USCFootball.comYesterday at 6:36 PM