Ohio State QB signee Tate Martell isn't afraid of competition

COLUMBUS, Ohio -- There is an established starter returning, one who happens to be the most productive quarterback in Ohio State history.

With a loaded depth chart at the most important position on the field, the Buckeyes appear to have either a line or a logjam ahead of the last man into the meeting room.

But Tate Martell doesn't want to hear any of that. Whether it's J.T. Barrett and his pile of records or some combination of Joe Burrow and Dwayne Haskins, the four-star, dual-threat Martell made it clear -- simply by signing with the Buckeyes -- that he isn't afraid of a little competition.

And after a couple weeks on campus as an early enrollee, Martell is showing no signs of backing down.

"I have no issue competing with whoever," Martell said Wednesday, national signing day. "To make it in the NFL, you have to compete against the best anyway. This is not where I want to stop. I want to play in the NFL, so this isn't going to be the last time I have to compete against the best guy out there.

"I'm not thinking about 12 months [down the road], I'm thinking about right now. I want to play. I mean, I know that I'm just going to go out there and do everything I can, and if I don't play, that's on me.

"I know that Coach [Urban] Meyer is going to play the best guy. ... That's not my decision to make or anything. But I'm thinking about right now. I'm not thinking about 12 months."

Perhaps the only real uncertainty for the Buckeyes at this point is who will emerge to replace Barrett a year from now, even as Martell and his new teammates are focused on improving in the present.

Despite coming off somewhat of a down season by Barrett's high standards, he still was the Big Ten quarterback of the year, still accounted for 33 touchdowns to push his school record to 100 and is unquestionably the leader of the Buckeyes as a two-time captain. His decision to return for another season after an embarrassing shutout loss in the College Football Playoff semifinals amounted to a recruiting-season bonus for Meyer, who has already retooled the coaching staff to try to put Barrett in better position to thrive during his senior campaign.

"He's our quarterback," Meyer said. "I never thought he would leave. I don't know how close that was. Only J.T. knows. I'm very close with him. But I think he's an Ohio State Buckeye and will always be an Ohio State Buckeye.

"I think when you see a guy like J.T. who wants it so bad, wanted it so bad, we were there at the doorstep again -- that's a challenge for him. He's not done that yet. He got us to the doorstep again in '14, and then gave way to Cardale [Jones]. So I never thought [Barrett's departure] was that close."

Barrett's exit would have opened up the job to either Burrow or Haskins, who had bright moments last season in reserve. Burrow was able to excel in a few second-half blowouts, showing command of the offense and perhaps underrated athleticism when given a chance to show what he could do. Haskins earned rave reviews for his work on the scout team during bowl preparations as a stand-in for Clemson star Deshaun Watson, particularly for a strong arm that could potentially be a dangerous downfield weapon for Ohio State.

Both of them have a head start on Martell. And if Barrett is going to be pushed in spring practice or training camp, it figures to be from the two guys who already have experience and familiarity doing it.

But odds are the drama at quarterback is going to have to wait 12 months. Even after Meyer went through a circus in 2015 with Barrett and Jones -- with mixed results -- he steadfastly maintains he'd rather have as many talented, hungry quarterbacks on the roster as possible.

And there's no doubt he has added another one.

"There's no guarantee who is going to play," Martell said. "I mean, it's J.T.'s spot, but every day I'm going to go out there and compete and do everything I can.

"If I don't play here, that's going to be on me; that's my own fault for not being good enough or anything. I'm coming here and I want to play. That's what it is. I don't care who I'm competing against. I want to play."

The odds of doing it early with the Buckeyes are long. But now with a third touted passer waiting in the wings, a post-Barrett future still looks pretty bright for Ohio State.