Monday, June 17, 2024

Oregon State’s Damien Martinez to enter transfer portal as dynamic Beavers RB seeks new home for 2024 season

Oregon State running back Damien Martinez intends to enter the college football transfer portal when it opens next week, 247Sports reports. Martinez ranked among the top 25 rushers in the nation in 2023 and posted 6.1 yards per carry. In the transfer portal, Martinez will be rated as the No. 2 running back, behind only Quinshon Judkins (from Ole Miss to Ohio State). 

The two-year starter from Lewisville, Texas, rushed for more than 2,000 yards and 16 touchdowns in two seasons with the Beavers. He earned All-Pac-12 First Team honors as a sophomore while pacing an underrated Oregon State offense. With Martinez gone, Oregon State is down to three scholarship running backs for the spring. 

Martinez was one of the few star players to stick around after coach Jonathan Smith was poached by Michigan State over the offseason. Three All-Pac-12 teammates — quarterback Aidan Chiles, TE Jack Velling and OL Tanner Miller — joined Smith in East Lansing. Multiple other players landed at Florida State and USC

Fifteen different Oregon State players earned a spot on the All-Pac-12 team after the 2023 season. With Martinez set to leave, only one — offensive lineman Joshua Gray — will return.

Devastating loss for Beavers

Martinez had been vocal about returning to Corvallis, even after Smith left. He seemed to embrace the role of cornerstone.

“I’m not one foot in, one foot out,” Martinez told 247Sports in November. “I’m here. I’m stuck on being here. This is where I want to be, and like I said, I’m comfortable here. I haven’t had talks about leaving at all even with all of the coaching stuff happening. I think I’ve said it before, but the coach here told me he wasn’t leaving and he ended up leaving. Loyalty is another big thing and I just wanted to be here.”

However, the last calendar year brought unprecedented change for Oregon State and Washington State after both were left out of the power conferences following the collapse of the Pac-12. While the Beavers lost Smith and a host of major contributors, Wazzu lost both basketball coach Kyle Smith and athletic director Pat Chun. 

Outside of Gray, almost every major contributor for Oregon State’s offense in 2024 was set to be new. The Beavers boasted one of the elite offensive lines in the nation last season but must find four new starters up front. The lack of experience may have proven concerning for Martinez as he enters an all-important third season. 

Where might Martinez go

Martinez immediately establishes himself as one of the best rushers in the transfer portal and potentially the best player available. Listed at 6-feet and 232 pounds, he boasts a physical running style that should translate to almost any school or conference. 

Following Smith to Michigan State could be an attractive choice for Martinez. It would allow him to stay in a similar system while transitioning to the Big Ten. If Martinez wants to return home, he was recruited by assistants at both new SEC programs — Texas and Oklahoma — at previous stops. Sooners wide receivers coach Emmett Jones led the charge as his lead recruiter at Kansas out of high school, and OU could use some help at the position after young players struggled to stay healthy in 2023. 

Alternatively, Martinez could look to the “Portal King” Lane Kiffin. The Rebels lost star Quinshon Judkins at the running back position. They’ve been tied to Miami transfer Henry Parrish, but Martinez would be an even bigger get. 

Other schools with running back as a need during the second transfer portal window include Tennessee and Mississippi State

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