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Michigan redshirt freshman receiver Oliver Martin discusses spring practice

Oliver Martin needed a redshirt season. 

Martin, a 6-foot-1, 198-pounder from Coralville, Iowa, came to Michigan with a high recruiting profile as a wide receiver and had a chance to make something happen as a true freshman. 

But an injury to his shoulder (AC joint) slowed him down. The playbook was a factor, too. 

More: Michigan football’s Tarik Black ready to make up for lost time

“Last year was a big learning experience for me,” Martin said Saturday. “There was a big learning curve with the offense. The main thing I had to focus on was learning the entire playbook and then being able to process it quickly. And then getting acclimated to the college level a little bit. 

“(My redshirt) was a little bit (from the injury) and a little bit from processing (things) quickly. Those were the major factors.” 

More: Michigan football CB Lavert Hill sidelined for most of spring ball

Martin was the No. 1-ranked player in Iowa in 2017, but Michigan was able to pull him away from the home-state Hawkeyes during the tail end of the recruiting cycle. An accomplished prep receiver with nearly 2,500 yards and 156 catches over his final two seasons, Martin’s ability to catch seemingly everything was a selling point to most college coaches.

He’s a sound athlete who doesn’t waste a lot of movement at the line of scrimmage. And, in high school, he always seemed to work his way open. 

College is different, though, and Michigan’s offense was not simple last season. Martin enrolled in the summer and didn’t get the benefit of spring ball. He was behind the learning curve. 

Which is why Martin — also a star swimmer in high school who has considered working with Michigan’s swimming team — has worked to find a comfort level that allows him to simply do his job on offense. Less thinking. More reacting. 

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“After going through a full year, this is so much easier,” Martin said. “Knowing the personnel groups, the formations, the shifts, all of that. Being able to process it quicker.” 

Martin played in the slot and on the outside during his prep career and could certainly line up in multiple situations for Michigan. He has ideal size for the slot, and his technique at the line of scrimmage helped set him apart as a recruit. His footwork is terrific, and he uses his hands well.

Michigan’s wide receivers struggled to get clean releases at the line of scrimmage against man-to-man defensive backs last year, especially after top receiver Tarik Black went down with injury. If a wideout can’t get off the line clean and get into his route quickly, the timing of the entire play is shot. Michigan’s entire passing game, which ranked 110th in the country last season, suffered because of it.

“I think we’re all pretty well-rounded. I think one of my strengths is releases, though other guys are (improving, too),” Martin said. “We saw that as an area of improvement last year, so that was kind of one of our focuses coming into spring ball. 

“Getting our feet active, swiping hands off us.” 

Michigan’s wide receiving corps features plenty of youth, but it’s also talented. Black and Donovan Peoples-Jones, both sophomores, are the two best athletes in the bunch. Sophomore Nico Collins has NFL size at 6-4, 206. 

Where Martin fits into that equation is still to be determined. But he has a chance to boost a unit that struggled to get open, make difficult catches and bail out its quarterback last season.

“I think we’re executing a little bit better,” Martin said. “The playbook’s been simplified a little bit. But we’re still installing stuff every day. 

“Execution and production might be a little bit better (right now).” 

Contact Nick Baumgardner: nbaumgardn@freepress.com. Follow him on Twitter @nickbaumgardner.

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