Arizona football loses Jacory Croskey-Merritt to Ole Miss, heating up on Damien Martinez recruiting trail

Oregon State v Arizona
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Why Martinez makes sense

Junior. Last year: 1,185 yards, 9 TD. Damien Martinez. RB. player. DM. . Damien Martinez. . 516

Damien Martinez
Oregon State v Stanford / Thearon W. Henderson/GettyImages

Everything about Martinez would make him an upgrade over Croskey-Merritt. Above all, though, is the production; with so much talent hitting the door, Martinez is the closest to a "set it and forget it" type of back Arizona has gotten all offseason. He only played in Corvallis for two seasons, amassing over 1,000 scrimmage yards and seven rushing touchdowns in each.

He hit the ground running (no pun intended) when he first landed at Oregon State as a freshman in 2022. He carried the ball 161 times — which is more than any Arizona running back in the last two years — and tallied a team-leading 982 rushing yards and seven rushing touchdowns, paired with 61 receiving yards to put him over 1,000 scrimmage yards. This earned him the 2022 Pac-12 Offensive Freshman of the Year Award, a First Team All-Pac-12 nod, and a Freshman All-America honor.

Damien Martinez
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He got even better in his sophomore year, carrying the ball a whopping 194 times and eclipsing four figures with his 1,185 rushing yards — just 5 fewer than Croskey-Merritt. He found the end zone nine times while tacking on 126 receiving yards. Martinez earned First Team All-Pac-12 honors and was a Doak Walker Award semifinalist, and Arizona's chances are looking promising.

Martinez has a proven track record at the power-conference level, the accolades to show for it, and would be entering his junior season. His upside is through the roof, and his remaining visits are with Mississippi State, Kentucky, and Miami. Arizona arguably has the best chance of the four to make the playoff, and Croskey-Merritt's departure opens up a spot for Martinez atop the depth chart.