LaSalle's Martin Makes Adjustment To MLB

Cincinnati LaSalle's Ben Martin is making the adjustment from defensive end to middle linebacker as he opens his senior season. He helped the Lancers take a 34-9 win over Lakota East in their season opener Saturday. For more on his position change and his top schools, click here.

Cincinnati LaSalle's Ben Martin is considered one of the nation's top defensive end prospects. But in an effort to help his team, Martin was lined up at middle linebacker for his team's season opener Saturday against Liberty Twp. Lakota East.

Although Martin only registered a handful of tackles, the LaSalle defense was smothering in a 34-9 win over Lakota East on a hot day at the Skyline Chili Crosstown Shootout at UC's Nippert Stadium.

"Hopefully, I'll get it by next week," Martin said. "This week in practice, I am going to go all out and try and learn the position better and just step up. I need to play faster. I know I was a step slow today. That's unacceptable. I need to get better at that."

Martin (6-5, 230), rated as the state's No. 1 prospect by Ohio High and No. 76 nationally by, discussed the rationale for the move.

"It was my coach's choice," Martin said. "Me, personally, I was fine with playing defensive end. But this was the best thing for the team. That's what the coach thought. I was for it. It's a new position. I did not have as good a game as I would have liked to, but my teammates stepped up and we pulled it out."

LaSalle coach Tom Grippa is eager to see how Martin makes the adjustment from defensive end to middle linebacker.

"We did it so teams can't cut block him and they can't double team him," Grippa said. "That was it. I think it was a great move, because if we didn't East would have just cut him the whole game."

Grippa hopes that by playing Martin off the ball he can increase his production from a year ago, when he tallied 70 tackles, 15 tackles-for-loss and 10 sacks as a defensive end.

For his part, Martin is glad to help his team, although he still sees himself as a defensive end at the college level.

"I want to be a defensive end when I get to college," he said. "That would be fine with me."

After a rigorous off-season, Martin is glad to get back on the field.

"Getting out here today was a lot of fun for us," Martin said. "We overcame the heat and we played really well today as a team. I was just happy to get out here and get this first win under our belt."

Some believe Martin could carry 250 pounds or more on his frame.

"I wanted to be 235 when the season started or even 240, but this is where I'm at," he said.

As for college choices, Martin continues to list Ohio State, Notre Dame, Florida and Tennessee as his top schools.

"Those are my main schools right there, but who knows who will try to come in late and put their bid in," he said. "I'm trying to stay open, ride the season out and make a commitment after the season."

Regarding each of those choices, here were comments from Martin:

* On Ohio State -- "O-State, I love it up there. I'm from Cincinnati. I'm actually from Gary, Ind., originally, but I've lived in Cincinnati most of my life. O-State is a great place. They have a great coaching staff and great players up there."

* On Notre Dame -- "The tradition at Notre Dame is really big. That catches everybody's tradition. Also, graduating with a degree from Notre Dame just puts you a little ahead of the rest."

* On Tennessee -- "Tennessee was a great school. They put a lot of linemen in the league. Me being a lineman, that's good to see that they can do that."

* On Florida -- "Florida has a good football program and also has a good academic program."

Martin said he hopes to get out and see each of those schools in action and also plans official visits to each of them.

"They just started sending schedules this week," he said. "I am going to sit down and see what games I want to go to later this year.

"I will go and take visits before I make a decision."

As the final seconds ticked off Saturday, LaSalle's cheering section chanted, "We want Northmont." A year ago, LaSalle lost to Northmont 42-7 as the Lancers played without their starting quarterback. This year's game sets up a match-up with two of the state's top 10 prospects with Martin and Northmont quarterback Clay Belton.

For LaSalle, a win could go a long way already toward helping its playoff chances. The Lancers went 8-2 a year ago, but did not qualify for the playoffs.

Martin, who holds a 3.4 GPA, is serving as a team captain this year. He relishes the chance to be a leader.

"It means a lot to me," he said. "I know a lot of people are looking up to me. A lot of kids want to be No. 99. I have to make it happen and make myself look good and make my team look good because when it all comes down to it it's about winning."

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