There’s no debating Penn State Class of 2024 commit Quinton Martin’s talent.
Penn State’s class is ranked No. 6 in the nation according to 247Sports’ composite rankings, and Martin is the top commit, ranking as the No. 1 player in Pennsylvania and the No. 34 overall player nationally.
For context, the top 32 players in the country are named five-stars by 247.
Martin is the only one of Penn State’s 13 commits that ranks in the top 140, let alone the top 40, so, yeah, he’s pretty good.
And he can do just about anything.
Martin wants to play running back at Penn State, his head coach at Belle Vernon High School in the Pittsburgh area, Matt Humbert, confirmed to NSN.
Martin is certainly capable of doing that— he rushed for 1,279 yards and 22 touchdowns in 2022– but his skills are far from limited to just running.
In fact, not everybody on Belle Vernon’s coaching staff feels that offense is his best fit at the next level.
“You’re going to get a lot of bias coming from the defensive coordinator,” Belle Vernon defensive coordinator Brett Berish told Nittany Sports Now. “I think he’s crazy for wanting to be on the offensive side of the ball.”
Berish, who’s been coaching for 32 years, cited Martin’s height, size and athleticism as things that would make him suited to play in a Big Ten secondary.
“I mean, he’s 6-foot-2 and a half,” Berish said. “He’s close to 200. He gets up there (to Penn State), he’s going to be closer to 215, 220. He can run; he can jump. He’s extremely athletic. He has great hands. I don’t know. I’m just some little podunk high school football coach. I think he can be a hell of a strong safety, cornerback type kid.”
He can also be a hell of an offensive player, and already is at the high school level.
Along with Martin’s rushing stats, he caught 28 passes for 424 yards and six touchdowns last season.
If someone asked Humbert three years ago where he’d see Martin playing, he would have agreed with Berish.
Coming up through the youth ranks, Martin was mainly a defensive player. But he started on the offensive side for Belle Vernon’s varsity from Day 1 as a freshman and hasn’t looked back.
“I could see him playing everywhere,” Humbert told NSN. “I truly could. If he wants to be a tailback and he puts his mind to it, then he’s going to be a tailback. But if that doesn’t work out, he could easily be a free safety, hybrid outside (linebacker). He can play corner. He can play receiver.”
Humbert described what Martin can do at both running back and receiver
Running back: “Elusive. Very elusive. Especially… you know, it’s funny because you look at a kid like him, and you think, ‘Wow, man. He can really stretch the perimeter. He’s a perimeter guy. He makes his money for us vertically, a-gap and b-gap. I mean, the way he operates in space, in tight windows, that’s where you see the beauty of the finesse of his football game. He’s situational as well. If he needs to lower his shoulder and be a little more physical, he can do that. If he needs to be a little bit more speed-oriented on certain things, he can do that.”
Receiver: “Has every tool that you would want out of a receiver. Can high-point a ball, has great shoulder extension or elbow extension to be able to walk out, and use a large wingspan to catch a football. He’s very graceful and very smooth in his route-running. So, he’s just an efficient receiver as well.”
Martin is also a star on special teams for Belle Vernon, with one of his many famous plays for the school coming via punt return in the WPIAL championship game against Avonworth.
Quinton Martin with another spectacular play – this time a 51-yard punt return for a TD to give Belle Vernon a 17-7 lead with 5:42 to play in the third quarter of the #WPIAL Class 3-A championship game.
— Paul Zeise (@PaulZeise) November 25, 2022
He didn’t start right away on defense for Belle Vernon due to a more established player, Devin Whitlock— who ended up walking on at Pitt— being ahead of him at safety back in 2020. An injury to Whitlock opened the door for Martin to play defense.
To say he held his own would be an understatement.
“I’ve never seen a kid,” Humbert said, “regardless of age, pick up formation identification as quick as he did in practice. To see him so— and never really play safety that much for us— to be able to identify and line up other kids as a 14-year-old back there, and pretty much master it at probably 80 to 90 percent in three days proved that, ‘ok, now this kid has everything.’
Berish gave some examples of Martin’s IQ, saying that Martin knows when to press a receiver and when to play off, and that Martin knows how to identify route concepts.
Berish also described Martin as a “good communicator.”
Teams across western PA know how good Martin is, and offenses are smart enough not to target him.
Berish estimates that Martin only allowed six or seven receptions last season.
“And they were shallow gains,” he said.
One Pennsylvania team that did target Martin was Neumann Goretti in the PIAA State Title Game.
This resulted in an interception, and Belle Vernon ended up winning a defensive battle, 9-8.
“Big-time players make big plays in big games,” Berish said.
Penn State fans hope Martin— who is still only 16 and doesn’t turn 17 until August— will rise to the occasion against Michigan or Ohio State in the future, and its certainly not a far-fetched dream to have.
If Martin has his way, he’ll be playing offense, which saddens his defensive coordinator.
But Berish, a Penn State fan, is sure he’d get over it if offense is indeed Martin’s calling.
“I’m still a little heartbroken,” Berish said. “I think his bread’s going to be buttered on the defensive side. But again, that’s not my call, and I’m rooting for him. I love the kid.”