Two days after a pair of SEC programs earned commitments from elite quarterback prospects in the Class of 2017, the class’ top-rated player at the position — also an SEC pledge — decided it was time to look around.
Tate Martell, the No. 1-rated dual-threat quarterback in the country, de-committed from Texas A&M late Wednesday night. Martell, who plays at Bishop Gorman High School in Las Vegas, had been committed to the Aggies for more than eight months. When Texas A&M went through turmoil at the position near the end of the 2015 season after former five-star recruits Kyler Murray and Kyle Allen decided to transfer, Martell was steadfast in his commitment.
When the Aggies landed graduate transfer Trevor Knight from Oklahoma, he seemed like a perfect one-year bridge option until Martell arrived on campus. Now, the Aggies are back looking for a quarterback of the future, and Martell is now the highest-rated quarterback on the open market in his class.
So, where will Martell end up? He’s got more than 20 reported offers, and it’s certainly possible that he will add some more in the coming days now that he’s a “free agent” again.
Here are some of the top potential options for Martell:
1. Auburn Tigers
Tigers coach Gus Malzahn added two highly-rated quarterbacks in the Class of 2016: incoming freshman Woody Barrett and junior college transfer John Franklin III. Auburn already has one of the top quarterbacks in the Class of 2018 committed, Joey Gatewood.
The Tigers do not have a quarterback in the Class of 2017 after Lowell Narcisse de-committed and eventually pledged his services to LSU. While it seems like a crowded meeting room right now, if none of the quarterbacks seize control of the job in 2016 (like say, what happened in 2015), Martell could step right in at Auburn and have a year head start on Gatewood.
Of course, if the quarterback situation doesn’t find some clarity in 2016, Auburn might have a new coach and a new offensive system that doesn’t fit a dual-threat option like Martell.
2. California Golden Bears
This is a simple one. Jake Spavital used to be the offensive coordinator at Texas A&M. He now works for Sonny Dykes at Cal. Martell tweeted, shortly after Cal extended him an offer during the 2015 season, that Spavital was his favorite coach in the country.
The Golden Bears also just had a quarterback selected No. 1 in the NFL draft, and just landed the No. 1-ranked wide receiver in the Class of 2016. There isn’t a quarterback with anything close to Martell’s pedigree projected to be on the roster in 2017.
3. Ohio State Buckeyes
A college coach who wasn’t from Texas A&M reportedly visited Martell on Thursday, and then the quarterback de-committed from the Aggies. Guess which school that was?
The depth chart is murky behind starter J.T. Barrett, who will be a redshirt junior next season and could be in the NFL by the time Martell would be on campus. The Buckeyes do have elite 2016 prospect Dwayne Haskins, and super athlete Torrance Gibson might still end up at quarterback.
There is also a 2017 quarterback committed, and that could be a problem for Urban Meyer. Danny Clark was a young prodigy in Ohio, a kid who started as a freshman at one of the state’s most storied programs and committed to the Buckeyes that year. Meyer even made a promise that he wouldn’t take another quarterback in 2017.
It’s a pretty safe bet that every kid in Ohio would hear from rival schools about how Meyer broke that promise if Martell ends up in Columbus. Thing is, he might be worth it.
4. Oregon Ducks
After Narcisse and Alabama pledge Tua Tagovailoa committed Monday, there were only two of the top 30 quarterbacks in the class left without a planned destination. Well, Ryan Kelly de-committed from Oregon the next day, so now the Ducks have an opening.
Oregon has struggled to land and develop elite high school quarterbacks of late, and will likely start a graduate transfer for a second straight year since Marcus Mariota won a Heisman Trophy and left for the NFL without a clear successor.
Travis Jonsen was an elite recruit in the Class of 2015. The Ducks added a pair of three-star prospects at the position in 2016. If Jonsen doesn’t claim the job next season, there is a clear path to playing time in one of the most dual-threat friendly systems in the country.
5. Tennessee Volunteers
Martell has more than 20 offers, but he does not have one from Tennessee. It’s possible that changes in the near future. In fact, it should change sometime Thursday.
Josh Dobbs is the established starter, and there are going to be three highly-touted prospects apprenticing behind him in 2016 — Quinten Dormady, Sherrion Jones and Jarrett Guarantano. It is possible that, given said depth and Tennessee’s strong position with two of the top quarterbacks in the Class of 2018 (No. 1-ranked Trevor Lawrence and No. 2 dual-threat prospect Emory Jones), the Vols won’t aggressively pursue Martell.
It’s worth remembering that Tennessee did have a quarterback commit in this class. Hunter Johnson, the No. 2-ranked pro-style prospect, backed out on the Vols and committed to Clemson in December. There are no guarantees that Lawrence or Jones would ever make it to Knoxville, either.
6. Texas A&M Aggies
Maybe Martell looks around for a while and decides the grass isn’t greener. He wouldn’t be the first player to de-commit and then re-commit after checking out his options.
Texas A&M can still offer a quarterback-friendly offense with a bevy of talented wide receivers to throw to, and immediate playing time. It might be a good idea for a refresher course on social media etiquette for the coaching staff, though.