Marcus Martin: A Closer Look at the USC Center
By Justin Partlow
Not as well known as some of the other big name centers, Marcus Martin emerged and had a very solid senior year. After that success, he’s catapulted himself into the discussion of the top five centers in the 2014 NFL Draft. Martin possesses a very aggressive demeanor and someone who has that “nasty” factor that teams want from offensive linemen. Martin’s technique leaves a lot to be desired, and his pass protection is still subpar, but the run blocking will make him money in the NFL.
When I sat down to watch Martin, the first thing I wanted to see was his technique and how well he played within his own game. After watching the film, it’s easy to see that Martin relies on his natural ability to be successful. Martin doesn’t display very good technique and relies on his strength to win vs opponents. What’s frustrating is that when Martin attempts to, the technique isn’t poor, it’s just very unrefined. Martin can be the best center in this class if he tried, but the technique ability really sets him back compared to the other technically sound guys like Bryan Stork
Run blocking by far is the strength of Martin’s game, and the part of his game that makes him the money in the NFL. Martin plays with a serious mean streak to his game and loves to fire off the ball and make the block on a defensive linemen or linebacker. Martin though has some awareness issues on the field when it comes to run blocking and will show up on film pretty easily. At times you’ll see Martin help on a block for a defensive linemen, then move to the second level and just look around for someone to block. Usually I try to see the OL move to the 2nd level and have a person in mind to block. It almost seems that Martin is just more interested in getting to the 2nd level at times, than actually making the key block that could spring the running back for a big gain. Also it’s easy to tell that Martin still doesn’t play under control and has a habit of lunging at opponents. Martin has that mean streak, but almost uses it more as a detriment than a helping part of his game. Numerous times on film I saw him fire off with that mean streak, but then would lunge at his opponent in the attempt to make the block. It seems as if he’s so hyped to make the block that he doesn’t play it under control and actually make the successful block. When Martin does play within his game and keep the mean streak under control, he’s a very good run blocker. Watching the USC/ND game from this year, Martin had the task of going up against Louis Nix III, and when he played his own game, Martin was able to win the matchups and be successful. If Martin can continue to show that playing in control ability, then look for him to become a very good run blocking OC in the NFL.
This is certainly the part of Martin’s game that will need the most work moving forward. Martin doesn’t play with good technique here and that leads to many of the issues he has moving forward. On the film, the first thing I had noticed was how upright Martin would play in pass protection. This can be a simple fix, but also does take time to have a player adjust back to playing lower in their base. Also Martin displays very inconsistent hand usage and when you do combine that with him playing too high into his stance, Martin does get pushed back too easily from his opponent. The good news is that these are technique flaws that can be fixed, but as well it does seem that based on the film that Martin could constantly have issues with these technique issues moving forward. Martin can be a good pass blocker along with his very good run blocking ability, but the technique flaws can keep him from being the player he can be.
After sitting and watching the film of Martin, he’s truly one of the tougher evaluations I’ve done in regards to OL players. Martin is someone who can be very good if he wants to be, the question comes if he can make the technique adjustments to reach that level. Based on those concerns, I have Martin as a 5th round center, who can certainly rise if he shows improved technique throughout the off-season. Martin shouldn’t be a day one starter, but could serve as very good depth early on while he works to refine his game more and should have the chance to compete and be a starter in year two.