Steve Clarkson, a well-known West Coast quarterback coach, described a then 14-year-old Tate Martell as, "If you could clone Fran Tarkenton and Brett Favre, you would have Tate Martell." Clarkson was partially correct, as Martell possesses a gamblers mentality, can fit the ball into small windows and displays the athletic ability to extend plays outside of the pocket. However, an easy (and true) on-the-field comparison for Martell would be Johnny Manziel, who is on the shorter side (6'0) like Martell (5'10.5) and also possesses those attributes.
When looking at the film of his excellent junior year campaign, where he completed 133-of-237 passes for 2,608 yards, 32 touchdowns and six interceptions, it is easy to see what makes him so great. But the Bishop Gorman signal caller's height, or lack thereof, will be an issue for him at the next level. Standing at 5'10.5 and 203 lbs, Martell is most likely done growing, which may be an issue once he is standing behind Ohio State offensive linemen who are 6'5-plus. More often than not, offensive coordinator Ed Warinner will have to move Martell out of the pocket to create clearer throwing lanes.
SB Nation's recruiting guru Bud Elliott had similar thoughts about the quarterback prospect:
"Martell is an excellent high school player who faces good competition at Bishop Gorman. He needs to be in the spread offense so that he can have wider throwing windows due to being 5'10.5". He's athletic and can extend plays. Martell's delivery is unique and helps to compensate some for his lack of height." Elliott went on to say, "As an overaged player who was very good for so long, the question of upside is worth asking. Martell may be closer to being maxed out than his peers. He is also extremely close with five-star receiver Tyjon Lindsey."
Here are some of Martell's strengths:
Throwing the ball
There's no doubt about it, Martell can sling the football. He uses his athleticism to quickly drop back and scan the field. Even if he is pressured off of his spot and has to leave the pocket, he keeps his eyes downfield to find the open man. When he makes his decision to throw the ball, he displays textbook weight distribution and balance. Martell then drives off his back foot, creating maximum power on his throw. He possesses an extremely quick, over-the-top release, similar to Drew Brees, that is key to have at his height. He has an extremely live arm, as the ball flies off his hand and is typically very accurate.
Below, you can see Martell's ability to drop back, find the open receiver, utilize his quick release and fire an accurate football for the touchdown. The only issue that is seen from this angle is his long stride coming from his front leg, which makes him about 1-2 inches shorter at the release. His beautiful over-the-top throwing motion is almost negated by the long stride. Once he gets to Columbus or if he works with a good quarterback coach, that should be an easy fix for the young quarterback.
Here, Martell did a great job of throwing to the spot where the wideout was going to be, rather than at the wideout. He cocked his arm back when the receiver got out of his break, which showed his instincts and ability to fit the ball into a tight window, where only his receiver could catch the ball.
Martell has also shown off his great arm strength and touch on the deep ball. He found the open receiver, put some nice touch on the ball and accurately placed the ball over the receiver's shoulder, in stride for six.
Running the ball
Martell's feet are why he will succeed in Urban Meyer's spread offense. At Bishop Gormon, he already has experience running the read option, which is a staple of Meyer's power running spread offense. Below, he already shows the ability to read the read defender and make the correct decision. He sees the defender crashing down the line of scrimmage towards the running back, so he pulls the football and takes it on his own to the end zone.
Where Martell emulates Manziel is his ability to improvise in the pocket and create more time for his receivers to get open. When Martell is on the run, he does a great job of keeping his eyes downfield, squaring his shoulders and finding the open receiver. Young, athletic quarterbacks are typically quick to tuck the ball and run (young Braxton Miller), but Martell has supreme confidence in his arm and the poise to make plays on the run.
The clip below is a good example of Martell alleviating pressure, keeping his eyes downfield, squaring his shoulders and hitting the open receiver for a touchdown.
Overall, Martell is an excellent dual-threat quarterback prospect who brings numerous positive attributes to the table; however, he has one major physical limitation (size), which could be a problem at the collegiate level. One has got to love Martell's athleticism, coupled with his throwing ability, which makes him an intriguing prospect. He will bring competitiveness, toughness and true dual-threat attributes to the quarterback room. Tate Martell's athleticism and Dwayne Haskins' throwing ability will create major problems for opposing defenses in the future.