In the Film Room: Chris Martin

Rarely does one football player truly make-or-break a football team. Rarely does one player mean the difference between 9-3 and a possible National Championship. But there are some positions where that type of player can impact a team. A quarterback can have that impact, and so can a dominant pass rushing defensive end.

I truly believed at the time, and believe now that if Justin Tuck would have returned to Notre Dame for his senior year the Irish would have played Texas for the 2005 National Championship. Not since Tuck decided to leave early for the NFL Draft have the Irish had that kind of difference maker on the edge. They haven't had a player who you could put on the edge and expect him to dominate his position snap after snap. With the commitment of Chris Martin the Irish now have a prospect who has that kind of potential. I'm not saying that Martin will in fact be a future All-American at Notre Dame. That's unfair and unrealistic to those kind of expectations on a player, but I am saying that Martin does have that type of ability as a football player.

The 6'4, 225 standout plays linebacker at the high school level, but I believe he projects as a defensive end or 3-4 outside linebacker at the next level. Martin is tall, long, and has a thick frame. He's isn't a wide player which will limit some of his growth potential, but there is no doubt that with his thick, athletic frame we won't see Martin grow into a 250-260 pound player. There is quite a bit of room for growth both physically and in the weight room for Martin; having said that, he is a naturally powerful football player. The Bishop O'Dowd star is aggressive, physical, shows excellent toughness, and delivers a lot of big hits as a linebacker. Martin has a tendency to play too high which prevents him from really exploding through blockers and ball carriers. Despite this he still is able to get a push and knock players back. As he learns to play with better leverage and get more bend he'll become even more physical and explosive.

Martin is also a very solid athlete. I don't believe he has the athletic ability to play linebacker in a pure 4-3 defense. In a defense where the strong-side linebacker plays up at the line of scrimmage (an under defense for example) I believe Martin can stay up. But his athletic skills project best as an edge player, whether it is as a defensive end in a 4-3 defense or as a 3-4 outside linebacker. Martin shows very good initial quickness and explodes off the line. He possesses quick feet and is able to reach full speed from his initial steps. He shows good lateral quickness for a bigger player and has enough agility to cut and go on the fly. This is especially true as a defensive end. Where Martin shows a weakness is when he is asked to stop, plant, and completely re-direct. This is the trait that in my opinion limits his ability to play a pure linebacker position in a 4-3 defense. As a defensive end Martin's quickness off the line and aggressiveness will make him very difficult to block off the edge in both the run game and pass game. Martin shows good closing speed for the defensive end position and has a motor that never stops. He's a solid athlete for a linebacker, he's an excellent athlete for a defensive end.

Martin anticipates the snap very well from his linebacker position. He does a very good job of finding ball carriers and attacking, although he doesn't always take proper angles in pursuit. The Oakland, CA native has excellent play recognition and is able to sniff out screens, bootlegs, and misdirection plays. As he engages blockers Martin does an excellent job of keeping his eyes downfield and seeking out the ball carrier or quarterback. One area I'd like to see Martin develop his game a little bit is to learn to attack the football when pursuing backside. He closes very well on ball carriers and quarterbacks and times his hits well (although he has a tendency to leave his feet at times), but I'd like to see him learn to rip at the football as he comes from behind. This is especially true when attacking the backside of a quarterback. With his strength and ability to use his hands I believe he would be quite effective with this technique.

Martin is an efficient football player and doesn't waste a lot of movement. He plays under control and doesn't over-pursue. He is rarely out of position and does a good job of reading the play and then exploding to the ball carrier. Martin is a strong tackler as a high school player. His natural power allows him to always win one-on-one battles and his athletic ability allows him to drive through ball carriers. One issue I've always found with high school defenders is that upon contact they tend to stop their feet, or slow them down a bit. Martin does not have this problem, despite the fact he plays so high. When he engages a ball carrier Martin drives his feet, which is where he gets his power. If he learns to play with better leverage it will allow him to explode with his hips, which will make him a destructive hitter and dominant tackler. Martin also wraps up well and won't often miss tackles. I didn't get a chance to see him drop into coverage.

Martin's length, quickness, overall agility, and ability to use his hands should help ease his transition to the defensive end/edge linebacker position in college. Martin has all the physical tools to be an outstanding edge rusher. There will obviously be a lot of room for development when it comes to pass rush moves (considering he's an inside linebacker in high school), but Martin has the tools to develop moves. With his aggressiveness and natural strength Martin should be able to bull rush effectively. Martin shows a natural ability to use his hands, which is rare for a high school junior. He uses his hands to keep blockers at a distance and is able to use them to disengage and break to the ball carrier. Martin will have to learn to be more forceful and aggressive with his hands (as well as proper placement) but his natural ability using his hands will be an asset as he tries to develop his pass rush moves from the edge. With his strength and ability to use his hands, with proper coaching, Martin should be able to develop at least a rip move, swim move, and club. His quickness and ability to re-direct on the fly should allow him to develop good double moves as well. His initial quickness, snap anticipation, and speed off the edge should also allow him to simply beat tackles off the edge as well. As mentioned previously, Martin does an excellent job of working against blockers while getting his eyes downfield and on the quarterback.

As good as he can be as a pass rusher, there is no doubt in my mind that if he develops physically Martin will be much more than just a pass rusher. He shows very good short area power, which will be important for his transition to the defensive end position. His hand fighting ability will also serve him well as a defensive end, as he will be able to keep blockers at bay, seek out the football, and disengage to the ball carrier. As mentioned earlier he'll also need to develop better hand quickness, get his hands inside more effectively, and be stronger with his punch. One thing I love about Martin is how aggressively he plays and the fact he is always working downhill (upfield). This will allow him to get into blockers quickly and prevent them from driving into him. He constantly has blockers on their heels. Martin also shows good backside pursuit and containment.

Martin is the second top notch defensive end prospect that has committed to the Fighting Irish over the past three recruiting seasons. Johnson was a pure power player with a great first step, Martin is a more athletic player who is a true edge player. It's not very often the Fighting Irish are able to land this kind of athlete for their defensive end position. It also is another West Coast player the Irish were able to steal from the West Coast powers Southern Cal, USC, and Stanford (academically). Martin's strength, aggressiveness, and athleticism should fit very nicely into Jon Tenuta's attacking defense.


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