USC Football: Tee Martin Handy in Jalen Greene’s Move to WR


If there’s anyone who knows what it’s like going from being a quarterback to a wide receiver, it’s Tee Martin. The Trojans’ current wide receivers coach rose to fame as a quarterback, leading the Tennessee Volunteers to the 1998 national title.

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Between now and then, Martin’s entire career has hinged on the transition from the pocket, out wide.

While at Kentucky in 2010, he coached Randall Cobb, a converted quarterback who is now a Pro Bowl receiver for the Green Bay Packers.

And on top of that, Martin says he recruited and then transitioned five high school quarterbacks into wide receiver for the Wildcats.

It’s fitting that he’s the one serving as the guide for USC’s Jalen Greene, who is making the move from quarterback to receiver this fall.

Mar 3, 2015; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Southern California Trojans quarterback Jalen Greene (10) throws a pass at spring practice at Cromwell Field. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

“I like those types of guys,” said Martin, this week. “They have a firm understanding of the system from playing quarterback. From a system knowledge standpoint, he knows what to do. It’s just the nuances of playing the position that he’s adjusting to.”

Greene, while he’s not the only converted quarterback in USC’s receiving corps, has that advantage because he was recruited to play quarterback.

He, unlike Ajene Harris, spent his entire freshman season plus a couple of spring camps learning Steve Sarkisian’s offense while holding a clipboard.

“It makes it a lot easier,” says Greene. “I know what reads the quarterback is looking for, where I need to be and what zones he is looking at.”

That ease is a big reason why Greene has been one of the more impressive players since the Trojans opened fall camp last Saturday. In a lot of ways, the redshirt freshman looks like a natural wide receiver and could fool you for being a veteran, if you didn’t know better.

He’s caught passes in tight quarters out of slot, has picked up yardage by making guys miss and has shown a burst of speed that could rival anyone else on the team.

“Sometimes coaching a quarterback, you have to get them more physical,” said Martin of Greene. “He’s playing really physical.”

Add in his pre-installed quarterback mindset, and the Trojans have stumbled upon the luxury of having a receiver that can both read and react to defensive backs.

“I can tell by their alignment what zone they’re trying to create or what they’re trying to do,” said Greene. “It gives me a better perspective on them, how their feet are and what I need to do as a route runner.”

Finding that middle ground between the systemic knowledge of a quarterback and the technical ability of a receiver will be what defines how good Greene can be.

That quarterback vision is key for now in the feeling out process. Though for Tee Martin, there’s give and take.

“Having played the position, there’s not much I can lead other than him being a leader and me expecting more out of him, from the fact of ‘you should know this because you were playing quarterback’,” said Martin. “But for the most part, I’m really trying to talk to him about adjusting to being a wide receiver, as opposed to keeping him thinking about being a quarterback.”

Finding that middle ground between the systemic knowledge of a quarterback and the technical ability of a receiver will be what defines how good Greene can be.

And really, it’s what has defined Martin himself, as a coach. Not to mention head coach Steve Sarkisian or tight ends coach Marques Tuiasosopo.

All three were highly successful quarterbacks in college, and all three are now in places to use that background and apply it different ways.

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Any little bit of insight that Martin has with that is going to help Greene get to being a productive member of USC’s passing game quicker.

“He coaches me up every single day, on each route,” said Greene. “He lets me know I might have to release a lot on re-routes and all of that. He’s been a lot of help.”

For a wide receiver corps that must replace 104 catches by Nelson Agholor, having Greene see a positive early return on his transition is key.

This ultimately is a unit that has a No. 1 receiver in JuJu Smith-Schuster who has played just 13 games, and a projected No. 2 of Steven Mitchell with just seven career catches to his name. They could use an another playmaker, especially one who has the mental experience of a quarterback.

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