Jim Harbaugh has never won a game inside Kinnick Stadium. Not as a player, not as a coach. Perhaps that’s why, in 2017, he pushed so hard to come into Iowa City and get a win on the recruiting trail.
At the time, it wasn’t a big deal for Michigan fans. Oliver Martin was a star prospect, rated as a 4-star by all the services and a top-10 receiver nationally. But that sounds like most of the receiver recruits the Wolverines land.
The bigger deal was for Iowa fans, who yearn for those star recruits at the skill positions. The Hawkeyes have had tremendous success developing players along both the offensive and defensive line, as well as the secondary and of course, at tight end. That success has led to the recruitment of more sought after prospects at those positions recently as Iowa has more to sell.
But receiver has never been a strength and here was a 4-star talent with an offer list of the who’s who of college football and he was from Iowa City. Alas, it wasn’t meant to be as Martin chose to jump into the deep end with Jim Harbaugh instead of staying home at Iowa.
Hawkeye fans did not take the news well. It was viewed by some as a betrayal by a local star. By others, it was an indictment on the Iowa staff’s recruiting ability. Either way, it was a nightmare. The Iowa City-native was headed to Ann Arbor.
Two years later and a week before Iowa’s next crop of recruits were set to step foot on campus, Hawkeye fans allowed themselves to get their hopes up. Rumblings started to roll in that Martin wasn’t happy with things at Michigan.
It made some sense. After taking a redshirt in his first year, Martin hauled in 11 passes for 125 yards and a lone touchdown last season. Not bad numbers for a redshirt freshman, but not stellar either.
In the meantime, Michigan continued to reel in high level talent at the position. In 2017, the same year the Wolverines inked Martin, they also landed three other 4-star receivers. And 5-star Donovan Peoples-Jones. After being nearly full, they seemed to punt on receiver in 2018, then returned to grab two more 4-stars at the position on 2019.
Despite the added talent, there were at least some reports in spring that Martin was in line to move up the depth chart and perhaps even start.
Harbaugh says that at receiver, Mike Sainristil, Oliver Martin and Tarik Black are the current starters.— Orion Sang (@orion_sang) April 3, 2019
Of note: freshman Erick All has played some receiver this spring.
Those reports quieted, however, and were supplanted by reports Martin was not in line to start and possibly even had been passed up by incoming freshman Mike Sainristil. And thus, the rumors of unrest were entirely plausible.
Hawkeye fans found themselves in one of two camps: those were allowed themselves to be taken in by the prospect of a talented home-frown receiver coming back to Iowa City and those who had been through that a summer ago and refused to allow it to happen again. And then, nearly as quickly as the rumors had started, they appeared to be quashed.
WR CREW 〽️ #SpeedInSpace #gOblue〽️ pic.twitter.com/pqZJwyoQU8— Josh Gattis (@Coach_Gattis) June 3, 2019
That would be Martin third from the front on the right side. Around him would be the rest of the Michigan receivers group. After being late to report back to Michigan, Oliver Martin had returned with his teammates.
Iowa fans were disappointed yet again, but nothing had changed from a week prior. The Hawkeyes still had a very solid group of receivers already in Iowa City and they still had a senior quarterback to throw them the ball.
Last night, the winds of change blew once again as we learned that despite reporting back to Ann Arbor, Oliver Martin had indeed entered his name in the NCAA transfer portal.
Per a source, Michigan wide receiver Oliver Martin is in the transfer portal.— Tom VanHaaren (@TomVH) June 5, 2019
The news by itself isn’t terribly surprising nor terribly meaningful. As mentioned already, there were reports Martin wasn’t climbing the depth chart as hoped at Michigan. And the Wolverines changed offensive coordinators this offseason. Furthermore, the news he has simply entered the portal doesn’t necessarily mean he’s looking to come to Iowa.
However, much like a week ago, there are rumblings. There are a number of people who seem to think Martin would not have made the difficult decision to leave Ann Arbor unless he knew where he was going. Some of the same people who were quite adamant he was indeed leaving a week ago were equally as adamant he intended to come home to Iowa City.
At this point, the rumors are all still just that. However, there appears to be significant smoke here. If there proves to be fire, it could mean another potential playmaker in Iowa’s receiver group that seems poised for a breakout after the departure of star tight ends T.J. Hockenson and Noah Fant.
It would also be just the latest loss for Jim Harbaugh in Iowa City.