Junior defensive end prospect Ben Martin is already considered one of the top players in the Midwest and he hasn't even finished his junior season yet. Irish Eyes spoke with Martin's coach, Tom Grippa, about his star junior prospect.
"As a freshman we knew he had a lot of potential," Grippa said of Martin. "It was his first year playing football. He's pretty green when it comes to football. He's still learning how to play the game. He's a terrific athlete on the field, but he's not a polished machine on the line of scrimmage just yet.
"When he started playing his sophomore year he started showing that he was going to be a blue-chip player."
Grippa said Martin's blessed with the one thing all true blue-chippers have—speed.
"His size, speed and athleticism," the LaSalle head coach said when asked what makes Martin a special player. "He's 6-5 and 225 pounds. I've never timed him, but with the kids that I had that have gone to camps, and comparing his speed to their speed, he's in the 4.5 range. He has a great vertical jump. He's just a great athlete. He's got the stuff to be special."
Grippa also said that the teams facing LaSalle each week also know about Martin's talent and potential and try to game-plan around him.
"Everybody we play; the do something," he said. "They chip him with backs or tight ends or stay away from him. They're always doing something to try to get a piece of him. He's been an impact player. Our defense has been really good this year and he's been a big part of that."
"His strength is that when you run away from him, he runs plays down from behind. He really uses his speed well," Grippa added.
What position will Martin likely be on the next level?
"He's a rush end as a five technique edge player," Grippa said. "His pass rushing is just OK at this point. He's not great at it yet. He will be when he can concentrate on just football. He had a really bad sprained ankle over the summer playing basketball so that's limited him a little bit, but he's still had a great year for us."
The great year the LaSalle head man speaks of has Martin registering 32 solo tackles, 34 assists, 13 tackles for loss, nine sacks, six quarterback hurries, four caused fumbles and six pass deflections in just eight games.
"He's a three-sport guy so he's never going to get really big until he gets to college," Grippa said. "He'll probably play next year at 235. He's going to play basketball and he does track. He throws the shot and disc, and there was a couple of meets where he anchored the 4 x 100 and he never lost ground when he got the baton. He's long jumped 20 feet."
Grippa has coached a number of D1 prospects in his coaching career, but he didn't hesitate to say that Martin clearly has the most potential of any player he's coached.
"I've been around here for awhile. I was the head coach at (Cincinnati) Elder from 1987 through 1996, then I went to Fairfield, which is a public school. At Elder I had three kids go to Ohio State and a bunch of kids that went to the MAC. I had a kid who went to Kentucky. I had a kid who was the starting center for Pitt. I've had Division I recruits, and I'd say that Ben has the biggest upside because of speed," he said. "As a high school player he will be one of the best high school players in America. He'll be one of the top 100 players."
Grippa also said plenty of college coaches agree with his assessment of his top junior prospect.
"I need a mailbox just for his mail," he said with a laugh. "He gets mail from everybody. The University of Cincinnati has already offered. Illinois has already offered. All the MAC schools have already offered. I would say it will likely come down to Notre Dame or Ohio State if Notre Dame offers him. I think they will. He's been to a couple of games at those schools. I know Rick Minter pretty well from coaching at Cincinnati. He actually lived over on this side of town and I'd see him out once in awhile. We like Rick."