But they haven't stopped there.
In 2006, the staff brought in arguably the nation's top offensive line class. They've followed it up with an additional seven signees in the last two classes.
But during the 2008 recruiting cycle, the Irish had to fight hard to keep their class together. The reason was a very disappointing 2007 football season that saw the Irish go 3-9 while losing to the likes of Navy, Air Force, and Purdue. Those are three football teams the Irish have dominated in the first two years of the Charlie Weis regime. On top of that, we saw the worst Irish offense in recent memory. That's got to hurt recruiting, right?
Not on the offensive side of the football.
Having skill talent is very important in college football. But if you want to compete for championships on a yearly basis you have to be good up front.
I discussed earlier, the success the Irish coaches have had along the offensive line over the last three recruiting cycles. During this recruiting cycle we have seen the Irish staff continue to load up on talent up front. It started with four-star guard Alex Bullard and five-star stud Chris Watt.
The most recent addition has a local flavor.
Bishop Chatard standout Zach Martin is the latest in a long line of top notch offensive line recruits to jump on board with the Irish. The 6-foot-5, 260-pound Indianapolis native brings typical Midwestern toughness to South Bend. Martin is a good sized prospect with a thick lower body, good arm length, and a country strong style of play. While he is a bit undersized right now, with his thick lower body, his solid upper body frame, and his natural strength I see Martin putting on quite a bit of weight in college.
When I first watched his film I was surprised by his athleticism. He's not a very highly ranked player so I was expecting to see a hard-nosed player but one who lacked good athletic ability. I was wrong! Martin is a very good athlete. He has quick feet and good open field speed. He has fluid hips and moves very well for a lineman.
As I discussed before, as you find with most Midwest linemen, Martin is a tough and hardnosed player. He gets after it and punishes opponents. But it is his agility and athleticism that leads me to believe he has potential to be a pretty solid player in college. When you combine his toughness with his athletic ability you have the makings of a very solid offensive lineman.
His athletic ability also gives Martin versatility. While I believe his best position is offensive tackle, I can also see Martin playing guard if the need arises. Martin also has very good lower body strength. When he engages with players he really does a fine job of driving and burying them. The Bishop Chatard standout also has very active legs. At times he'll stop them on contact but soon picks them back up and drives. As he develops in college. I'd like to see him keep his legs working at all times.
It's also obvious that Martin comes from a well-coached program. He plays with very good technique. As with all high school players he has some work to do, but his foundation is outstanding for a high school junior. Martin lines up with a good stance and shows good overall technique at the snap. At times in his stance he will point his knees out which cause him to false step before he gets going. This is a minor thing that I only saw on a couple of occasions. At the snap Martin fires off with good initial quickness, plays with outstanding leverage, and keeps a very good base. He shows very good strength at the point of attack and rarely loses a one-on-one battle.
Martin does need to be more consistent with his footwork. At times he will take false steps at the snap and won't gain any ground with his initial step. This causes him to miss his aiming points or not attack the defender at the proper angle. While Martin has very strong hands he will need to get quicker with his hand play. He'll also need to keep his hands tighter on defenders as he punches them.
Run blocking right now is Martin's greatest strength. He combines good athletic ability, toughness, strength, and a quick first step to fire off and drive defenders off the ball on a consistent basis. Not only does he use his leverage to gain an advantage, Martin also uses his strength and leg drive to constantly bury opponents.
He also works well in space. He comes from a background where he was asked quite often to pull, trap, and block on the perimeter. At times he gets a bit out of control in open space but this can be improved. But when he delivers a blow in the open field, he just crushes his opponents. As his angles improve and his footwork improves, I see Martin becoming a very talented run blocker at the next level. He has all the tools. He has the athletic ability, natural strength, technique, and toughness to excel in the run game.
As a pass blocker, Martin will need work but he has a good base with which to start. Martin keeps a good, strong base in pass protection and sets up quickly. He does a good job sinking his hips and bending his knees. Martin does a good job anchoring and will hold up well against bull rushers once he gains the weight I see him gaining. He uses his good foot quickness to mirror well. Once he gets his hands on defenders he does a decent job extending, but will need work in this regard. But when he does give a punch defenders get knocked back.
However, there are areas where Martin will need work. First of all he tends to give away the fact his is about to drop. He tends to lean back a bit in his stance when it's a passing situation. Martin also takes a little bit of a false step on his initial drop. Speedy edge rushers will give him problems due to this false step.
I love the fact the Irish have began to add a more Midwestern flavor to their offensive line. Like most Midwestern linemen, Zach Martin is a tough and hard-nosed lineman with a motor that never stops. Martin is a high-energy offensive lineman with a lot of upside.
The Irish signed three interior players last fall and have commitments from two more standout interior players this year. But the Irish only signed one tackle last year (Lane Clelland). There was an obvious need for the Irish to sign another offensive tackle. Zach Martin fills that need quite well. But what gives Martin even more value is his versatility. The Indianapolis native is a big addition to what is becoming a surprisingly outstanding recruiting class.