Recruiting notebook: Notre Dame looking to flip Ohio State commit Cameron Martinez

Carter Karels
South Bend Tribune

Four-star athlete Cameron Martinez may become the 19th — and potentially final — addition to Notre Dame’s 2020 recruiting class.

The 5-foot-11, 183-pound Martinez planned to make his verbal commitment to Ohio State official last month. But after OSU co-defensive coordinator Jeff Hafley left for Boston College’s head coaching job just days before the early signing period, Martinez opted to delay his decision.

Notre Dame has since emerged as the biggest threat to flip Martinez, a two-way player as a quarterback and safety for Muskegon (Mich.) High. Irish head coach Brian Kelly and special teams coordinator Brian Polian rekindled their contact with him last week.

Martinez may take an official visit the same weekend as Notre Dame’s junior day on Feb. 1 — a notable recruiting event four days before National Signing Day.

“Yeah, it’s something to think about,” Martinez told the Tribune about visiting South Bend. “It could be a possibility, but I’m not for sure yet. They reached out to me, and I wanted to hear what they had to say. Now I just have to think about some things and figure out what the next step will be.”

Whether Martinez would play receiver or safety at Notre Dame is his choice, he said. The Irish conveyed that message to him over the phone because face-to-face conversations are prohibited during the current dead period. On the first day of the contact period, Jan. 17, Martinez expects Polian to attend his basketball game at Reeths-Puffer High in Muskegon.

Ohio State became the first major program to provide Martinez the option to choose his position of preference. He committed to playing safety for Hafley, who also served as the secondary coach for the Buckeyes.

“Everything that we talked about and what his vision was for me when I would sit down and talked to him about it, I just believed it,” Martinez said. “That’s kind of why my whole thing was planning on going there and playing defense.”

“(Hafley) was pretty much the main guy I had a good relationship with. After he left, I wanted to see who they hired and then go from there.”

A majority of the 21 Power Five schools that extended scholarship offers to Martinez projected him as a wide receiver, though some liked him at safety. Martinez’s play at quarterback showed he could be dynamic with the ball in his hands. He rushed for 2,124 yards and 36 touchdowns on 264 carries in 14 games last season. Martinez also went 64-of-109 passing for 1,258 yards and 11 touchdowns with four interceptions.

Claiming all-state status in all four seasons as a starter with a 48-4 record, Martinez finished his career as one of the most decorated players in recent Michigan high school football history. He garnered Gatorade Michigan Football Player of the Year recognition after this season and MLive Media Group’s Michigan High School Player of the Year for 2018 and 2019. Martinez ranks No. 11 in Michigan high school football history with 6,343 career rushing yards.

247Sports and Rivals still consider Martinez as an athlete — a recruit without an assured position projection. He ranks as 247Sports’ No. 13 athlete and No. 310 overall player in the 2020 class, while Rivals pegs him as its No. 5 athlete.

Which position Martinez would favor on the Irish remains unknown.

“I’ve had a lot of fun on both sides of the ball, so it’s a little tough to choose,” Martinez said. “I just want the best opportunity to get on the field. Whichever position that would be, that’s what I want to do.”

In June of 2018, Notre Dame hosted Martinez to compete in its Elite Skills Camp. He trekked to South Bend again later that year for a home game against Florida State. By the time Martinez landed an Irish scholarship offer last May, though, his recruitment had already heated up elsewhere. He chose Ohio State on July 4 following an official visit.

Hosting Martinez for a third visit figures to be the only way Notre Dame could flip him. He’d become Notre Dame’s only safety this class, excluding graduate transfer Isaiah Pryor from Ohio State. The Irish signed three wide receivers in December — Jordan Johnson, Xavier Watts and Jay Brunelle — and added Northwestern grad tranfer Ben Skowronek at the position.

“They were just showing their interest,” said Martinez of Notre Dame’s contact. “They said they still know I’m committed to Ohio State. If I sign with them, then I’ll let them know and they’ll just move on.”

Junior day

Another recruit to watch for Notre Dame’s junior day will be Fond Du Lac (Wis.) High’s Braelon Allen.

Notre Dame joined Wisconsin and Iowa in offering a scholarship to the four-star safety on Jan. 10. Allen had planned to commit to either Wisconsin or Iowa earlier this month but delayed the decision around the same time Notre Dame persuaded him to schedule a visit for junior day.

The 6-1, 200-pound Allen became the first safety and eighth overall recruit out of the 2022 class to land an Irish offer. He’s the No. 5 safety and No. 76 overall player on 247Sports. Rivals has yet to rank Allen.

The following recruits have also confirmed with the Tribune that they will attend Notre Dame’s junior day: La Grange Park (Ill.) Nazareth Academy defensive end Daine Hanson (2021), Mission Hills (Calif.) Bishop Alemany defensive back Jaylin Smith (2021), Myrtle Beach (S.C.) High wide receiver JJ Jones (2021) and Westerville (Ohio) South athlete Kaden Saunders (2022).

Polynesian Bowl

Five Notre Dame signees accepted invites to compete in this weekend’s Polynesian Bowl: running back Chris Tyree, offensive linemen Tosh Baker and Michael Carmody, tight end Kevin Bauman and defensive tackle Aidan Keanaaina.

Only Baker won’t represent the Irish at Aloha Stadium in Oahu, Hawaii. He suffered a minor MCL sprain in his knee during the first practice of the All-American Bowl earlier this month. The other four will find out Monday night whether they will play for Team Makai or Team Makua. CBS will broadcast the high school all-star game, set to begin at 12:05 a.m. EST Sunday.

247Sports and Rivals plan to release updated rankings after the Polynesian Bowl and before National Signing Day. Tyree and Baker are nearing five-star status. Tight end Michael Mayer could also receive a sizable bump in the rankings.

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Muskegon (Mich.) High’s Cameron Martinez, an Ohio State commit, may take an official visit to Notre Dame before the Feb. 5 signing day.