How Oliver Martin Stepped Up From His First Year to Now

Oliver Martin Michigan first catch

How Oliver Martin Stepped Up From His First Year to Now

Football

How Oliver Martin Stepped Up From His First Year to Now

ANN ARBOR, Mich. — Michigan redshirt freshman wide receiver Oliver Martin got in the game for the first time in the Wolverines season opener at Notre Dame and quickly registered his first career catch.

The first was a short 7 yard reception on Michigan’s second drive, but in the fourth quarter, as the Wolverines mounted their comeback attempt, quarterback Shea Patterson hit Martin for 21 yards.

Martin described his big play that helped the Wolverines score their first — and only — offensive touchdown, as his catch set Michigan up on the Fighting Irish 5 yard line.

“I had a seam release corner, and cover two, and I kinda got bumped outside a little bit early,” Martin said. “So I got on the sideline quick and I saw Shea scrambling and motion me in. I felt the defense kinda overplay a little bit, so I cut back across the field and there was that little hole in the defense that he hit me on.”

We heard a bit about Martin’s talent before he even arrived in Ann Arbor. The Iowa City native is a multi-sport athlete, as he’s also an accomplished state champion swimmer. But we finally got to see his talent and athleticism for the first time on Saturday in a maize and blue uniform.

Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh often speaks of how the biggest jump players make are from their first to their second year, and Martin feels like he’s done just that.

He says that he’s a polished route runner, good at his releases off the line of scrimmage and and explosive playmaker. The biggest thing he worked on this offseason was getting off the line of scrimmage — a difficult task for young receivers adjusting to the college game — but also becoming more versatile, to boot.

“I think I’m improved on my releases a little bit,” Martin said. “That was a big area of improvement. And then learning all the different receiver positions. Whenever there’s a rotation, whether it be the X, the Z or the F position, I can go in.”

One way in which he was able to make such marked improvement is because of the new dedicated staff to the wide receiver corps. When the NCAA allowed a tenth on-field assistant to be added nationwide, Michigan brought in former Florida head coach Jim McElwain, who helped bring Alabama a national championship as its former offensive coordinator. The Wolverines also added former receiver Roy Roundtree to the staff as a graduate assistant, after he spent the last two years an on-field coach for Indiana State.

The difference was palpable, as this year, the receivers have been able to learn things that weren’t really being taught previously.

“It’s just different techniques that Coach McDaniels, Coach McElwain and Coach Roundtree have helped us with,” Martin said. “Last year, we didn’t necessarily have particular release techniques to work, and they’ve really emphasized new techniques this year. We’ve had periods in practice that we just go one-on-one releases against the DBs, and I think that’s helped a lot with all the receivers.”

But Martin’s impact to the team became that much more important in the early going when leading X receiver Tarik Black broke a bone in his foot for the second consecutive year. As a result, Martin was no longer relegated to the slot — or F position.

He says that with Black out for an indeterminate period of time, the onus is on all the remaining receivers to be as versatile in their ability on the field.

“I had to play a little bit more of the X position, where traditionally I play a little bit more Z and F,” Martin said. “So I just have to be ready to play any of the three positions. That goes the same for the other receivers, too. You have to be able to play all of the positions.”

Now, a year-plus into the system, Martin is able to play faster — a huge benefit to the offense. But it wasn’t always that way, of course.

When he arrived in Ann Arbor a year ago, Martin was swimming mentally when he learned he had to juggle classes while learning a college-level playbook. Gone are the days of high school where superior athletes could simply go out an assert their will.

There was a lot to learn, and now, Martin says he finally feels comfortable with his assignments.

“I have a much better handle on it this year than last year,” Martin said. “Last year, I guess I didn’t expect the complexity of it coming in. And it was kinda hard to pick up while I was taking classes in the summer. But now, I’ve got it fine. Spring ball helped a lot with that.”

In his first game action, Martin caught three passes overall for 29 yards. He will have his next opportunity on Saturday, as Michigan hosts Western Michigan for its home opener at The Big House.

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