Howe: Setting the Record Straight on Oliver Martin

June 11, 2019

Written by Rob Howe

Hawkeye Nation

IOWA CITY, Iowa – As my kids would say, it was cringe-worthy, meaning it’s something you wish you didn’t see.

When rumors began circulating that former Iowa City West star receiver Oliver Martin might be leaving Michigan and joining the hometown Hawkeyes, former Iowa fullback Drake Kulick shared his opinion on Twitter.

KF is Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz. And it’s an incredibly bad take. We will explain why in this column. In short, it’s a lack of understanding the situation.

Kulick’s view is shared by others. I see it on social media and the HN message boards.

Martin disappointed Iowa fans when he chose the Wolverines as a member of the 2017 recruiting class. Kulick is a former player, a fan, and bleeds black and gold.

I get it. In a world of hot takes, this one fits a narrative, an incorrect one.

If you know Martin even a little, you would not say he thinks he’s too good for Iowa…or Northern Iowa…or Wartburg. He’s humble. He might choose being run over by a bus, or at least trying to get out of the way of it, to being interviewed by me.

Fans should be applauding Martin’s decision to come home. He’s a team-first guy. He works relentlessly at his craft. He perfectly fits the blue-collar culture here.

I’ve known Martin since he was a sophomore in high school. The reason he became one of the hottest prospects in the country after being a two-star for most of his prep career was because of the reasons I outlined above.

I know this information or what follows here won’t reach everybody. It’s 2019 and people often need to feel offended or victimized. If you fall into those groups regarding Martin, I won’t change your mind and you’re entitled to your opinion, however uneducated it may be.

If you choose to read on, let’s address some narratives floating out there…

-Martin did not thumb his nose at the Hawkeyes when he chose Michigan during the winter of ’16-17. Like many situations in life, timing played a big role.

During the heart of his recruitment, Iowa let go of receivers coach Bobby Kennedy. It didn’t name Kelton Copeland to the position until that February and couldn’t tell Martin, who committed to Michigan in January, who his position coach was going to be.

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In addition, Greg Davis, who helped recruit Martin, resigned as Iowa’s offensive coordinator on Jan. 6. Brian Ferentz was named as his replacement on Jan. 9.

So, a normally stable staff was unstable at the key point of Martin’s decision-making process. Meanwhile, at Michigan, head coach Jim Harbaugh, assistant head coach Pep Hamilton and coordinator Tim Drevno were in lock step at the time.

Martin wrestled with his decision. He ultimately felt his best fit was in Ann Arbor.

Had he known Copeland was going to be hired, Martin may have ended up at Iowa right away. He had heard good things about the former Northern Illinois assistant, who coached Chad Beebe with the Huskies.

Martin began his prospect rise by winning MVP honors at Chad’s father’s camp. Former NFL receiver Don Beebe spoke highly of Copeland, and Martin and his family respected his opinion.

Kennedy did Iowa no favors in its recruitment of Martin, either. In a program where head coach Kirk Ferentz gives a lot of ownership to his assistants when it comes to recruiting, the former receiver coach slow-played Martin while others on the staff, including Reese Morgan, wanted to offer the local guy earlier.

The Hawkeyes didn’t offer until June before Martin’s senior year. It came right around the same time as opportunities from Michigan, Notre Dame, Wisconsin and many others.

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It never was about Martin thinking he was too good for Iowa. If that were the case, he wouldn’t be here now.

When Martin entered his name into the transfer portal last week, many of the country’s top programs again reached out to him. He didn’t visit any other schools. He stopped at Iowa the next day and made up his mind to return home.

How badly did Martin want to be a Hawkeye?

Well, he was on course to graduate next spring. He could have returned to Michigan, played this season and then transferred as a graduate if he chose. Instead, he left for Iowa knowing that he’ll likely have to sit out in ’19.

Whether he went back to Ann Arbor and played or came to Iowa and sat out, he would have two years of eligibility remaining after ’19. He decided to be here this fall, likely on the sideline, ahead of being on the field at Michigan.

-That leads us to our next narrative. Martin is transferring because he wasn’t good enough to play at Michigan.

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Admittedly, I’m not privy to the inner workings of the Wolverine program. And from what I gather, even those that cover the team often are left scrambling for the crumbs tossed out by Harbaugh.

At the very least, the accounts that Martin was falling down the depth chart in Ann Arbor were not based on anything put out there publicly by the coaches. And two impartial people pretty well connected to the program shot down the theory.

Former colleague Allen Trieu and fellow 247 reporter Steve Wiltfong said on their podcast last week that Martin was one of the team’s most complete receivers. In the last depth chart released by Harbaugh, he was listed as a starter.

Maybe Martin wouldn’t have received the playing time he wanted. Most receivers desire more time than they’re getting. But, again, he would have seen the field more at Michigan this season than he likely will at Iowa, barring a waiver.

When you consider all of the above, the “being buried on the depth chart” narrative rings hollow.

-So, why did Martin come back to Iowa City? I do not have a clear answer on this question yet. I’m hoping to find out down the line but also respect Martin and his family’s privacy.

I have been told by a source close to the situation it was not homesickness, another prevailing narrative. He did not have a problem being away.

The source tells me that Martin “was all smiles” following his visit to Iowa Thursday. He’s happier than he’s been long time. He realizes how well he fits here.

Martin wants Iowa.

Iowa wants Martin.

No apologies necessary.

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