Weight: 304 lbs.
High school: Catholic Central High School in Redford, MI
Position: Nose tackle
Jersey number: #68
Last year: I ranked Martin #4 and said he would have 60 tackles and 4 sacks. He had 37 tackles, 6 tackles for loss, and 2.5 sacks.
As you can tell by my ranking of Martin, he has a chance to be a big-time player for Michigan this season. Of course, if he struggles with injuries like he did last season, this defense could go down the tubes. Martin started 12 out of 13 games last season, but he was hampered by ankle injuries for the majority of the season, spraining both of them at different times. He still managed to put up decent numbers for a nose tackle and be named Second Team All-Big Ten, but it wasn't quite the performance that most expected. He had 51 tackles and 8.5 tackles for loss back in 2009, so it was a step back for the then-junior.
Part of that can be attributed to the 3-3-5 that was ineptly installed by Rich Rodriguez and Greg Robinson. The defense is designed so that eight men are in the box and any (or all) of them could rush the passer at any given point. That would confuse offensive linemen and quarterbacks, thus freeing up any number of defenders to make plays. Unfortunately for the Wolverines, Robinson blitzed only occasionally and allowed opposing offensive lines to devote at least two blockers to Martin on every play. So despite having a defensive tackle who has been All-Big Ten worthy for the past two seasons, Michigan's coaches have seen his sack totals remain steady at 2, 2, and last season . . . 2.5. Meanwhile, Michigan's sack totals have dropped steadily since 2006 from 43 to 33 to 29 to 22 to a low of 18 in 2010. In other words, this team was getting almost 3.5 sacks a game five years ago . . . and only got 1.5 per game last season. Remember when we all thought Ron English was a bad coordinator?
Anyway, Michigan finally has another coach (well, coaches) who understands the importance of creating havoc with the defensive line, and they plan to move their best lineman around to give him a chance to make plays. In the spring and during August practices, Martin has been sliding all around the front seven, playing nose tackle, defensive tackle, defensive end, and outside linebacker. There's even a clip of him playing outside linebacker, picking off Denard Robinson, and taking it to the house. This is good. Not because Denard Robinson is throwing picks to 300-pound linemen, but because Michigan's defensive coaches have the creativity and confidence to throw wrinkles at quarterbacks that they don't expect.
Martin ranks this highly on the list because there's nobody else on the team like him. Aside from having a depleted defensive line from a numbers standpoint, the rest of Michigan's defensive tackles are relatively stationary, with 319 lb. William Campbell, former offensive guard Quinton Washington, and redshirt freshman heavyweight Richard Ash. When Martin went down in the Iowa game last season, his replacement, Adam Patterson, got pushed diagonally for about 10 yards while the Hawkeye running back ran in the opposite direction. I can't say that I've ever seen a Michigan defensive lineman get handled so easily. With unproven linebackers and solid-but-unspectacular defensive backs, Michigan's defensive line must be stellar this season. If they struggle to hold at the point of attack, bad things will happen. After being increasingly beaten, battered, and embarrassed, this defense needs a shot of confidence. Hopefully Martin can help with that.
Prediction: 50 tackles, 4.5 sacks; First Team All-Big Ten