Future Impact: Frank Martin

Santa Ana (Calif.) Mater Dei four-star offensive guard Frank Martin becomes the second offensive line commit within a span of 24 hours for USC.

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 offensive guard.”

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 to Miami.

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 player.

“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.”

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