Recruiting notebook: Oliver Martin's choices still wide open
There might not be a more undecided free agent at the U.S. Army All-American Bowl than Oliver Martin.
The wide receiver recruit has visited several schools and has his eyes on a couple more, but he has no immediate plans for a commitment. So naturally, some of the top recruits in the country are trying to convince him to join them. It can be hard to track who belongs to which school.
“I’ve talked to a lot of kids here,” Martin said in a phone call earlier this week, “but I don’t necessarily know where they’re committed to.”
There’s reason Martin has become a hot commodity. 247Sports slates him as a four-star recruit and the No. 11 wide receiver in the 2017 class. Rivals has been decidedly lower on Martin with a three-star rating and a ranking as the No. 63 wide receiver, but the recruiting site named him as a top performer on the first day of practice for the Army Bowl.
Martin will be one of several recruits with Notre Dame interest playing in Saturday’s game, which NBC will broadcast starting at 1 p.m. EST.
The 6-foot-1, 180-pound product of Iowa City West visited Notre Dame twice this fall. He attended the Irish loss to Duke in September and returned for an official visit for the team’s awards show on Dec. 9.
“They just made sure that I got to see everything that I needed to,” Martin said of his official visit. “I really liked spending time with the player host (wide receiver Miles Boykin) and getting around their team. I felt like I fit in a lot. They tried to see where I would fit into the offense and I liked that.”
Martin’s lead recruiter, associate head coach Mike Denbrock, recently left the program, but Martin said it doesn’t impact his outlook of Notre Dame.
“They’re a top-tier program in the country. I know they’ll bring in someone good,” Martin said. “Even though I liked Mike Denbrock a lot, I trust they’ll bring in someone that’s just as good. Everything else, all the other aspects of Notre Dame, I like a lot too.”
The hardest school for Martin to say no to would be Iowa. The Hawkeyes have made Martin a priority. If anyone knows how talented Martin can be, it should be Iowa. Martin holds the record for all-time high school receptions in the state with 239. He totaled 3,449 receiving yards and 33 touchdown catches in his career.
“One of the major attraction points for them is that it’s my hometown,” Martin said. “A lot of my friends will be there. I will be like the hometown guy there. I like Iowa City a lot. If I were to say no to them, that would be tough being the hometown guy with all my friends going there.”
Martin said Michigan, a school he visited in October, remains an option for him. The rest of his recruitment will shake out following the Army Bowl. The first visit on Martin’s itinerary is Michigan State next weekend.
“I know they have really good coaches there,” Martin said. “They’ve had past success recently. One of the coaches in particular is coach (Terrence) Samuel. He seems like a really knowledgeable coach at the wide receivers position. He could develop me well. And then one of my good friends is committed to Michigan State. So I’m going to go on an official with him.”
That friend is Michigan State quarterback commit Rocky Lombardi from West Des Moines, Iowa. The Spartans may lean on that connection to make a late push for Martin.
Martin said he’s also considering visits to Oregon and Auburn. He would like to make a commitment before signing day, so those visits will have to be put in place soon in order to keep his own timeline.
A list of criteria for Martin’s eventual decision doesn’t exist. He figures he’ll know what to do once he’s seen every option. That could be bad news for the schools he’s already visited. Or it could mean nothing at all.
“I’ll just sort through it and see which one is the best fit for me,” Martin said. “There’s not like one thing I’m looking to see that’s better. I’m just going to let them show me around.”
For the sake of the schools, hopefully they’ve done a better job than the recruits giving their own pitches at the Army Bowl.
The Army Bowl won’t have as much of a Notre Dame flavor as it has in previous years, but there will still be a handful of players for Irish fans to watch.
Two Notre Dame commits will play for the East team: tight end Cole Kmet (No. 80) and offensive lineman Josh Lugg (No. 67). Both have been committed since the 2015 season and are a prime example of the strong recruiting work Notre Dame has continued at each position.
Two Notre Dame targets will announce their college decisions during the game: five-star offensive tackle Foster Sarell and four-star wide receiver Jamire Calvin. Sarell's decision is down to Stanford, Washington, Notre Dame, Nebraska or USC. Calvin will choose from among Nebraska, Notre Dame, Washington State, Oregon State or Alabama. Sarell (No. 70) and Calvin (No. 13) will play for the West team.
Two more undecided Notre Dame targets will also take the field for the West team: wide receiver Oliver Martin (No. 8) and defensive back Greg Johnson (No. 31).