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Friday, August 27, 2010
Spartans have a weapon in Keshawn Martin

By Adam Rittenberg

The final phase is the easiest for Keshawn Martin.

Once he secures the football, both as a receiver and as a return man, it means bad news for the opposition. The Michigan State junior averaged 18.1 yards per touch in 2009 and led the team with 1,451 all-purpose yards, which ranked third in the Big Ten and first among players who weren't full-time starters.

Michigan State's coaches will do all they can to get the ball to No. 82 this fall. But to reach the final phase, Martin must master the details of what it takes to get there.

Keshawn Martin
Keshawn Martin has his sights set on an increased role with the Spartans this season.
"In his first year, he didn’t even know he was going left or right," Spartans offensive coordinator Don Treadwell said. "We just tried to get him in a few spaces and let him play ball. Last year, toward the end he started figuring it out: ‘OK, it is important to do this on the split for this play. It is important to get the depth.'

"Therefore, a comfort level set in and he found himself open a little bit more because of those fine details."

Martin finished with 160 receiving yards and two touchdowns in his final two games last fall. He averaged 208.6 all-purpose yards in his final five contests.

Not surprisingly, Martin will be in the mix for a starting job when Michigan State opens the season Sept. 4 against Western Michigan.

The 5-foot-11, 185-pound Martin made route running and better hands his two main offseason priorities, and he's seen improvement in both categories.

"Just trying to become more complete," he said, "instead of just having one thing to rely on."

That thing is speed, and Martin has as much or more of it than any wideout in the Big Ten.

We saw it mostly on kickoff returns in 2009, as Martin led the Big Ten in conference games with an average runback of 33.6 yards. He finished 11th nationally in kick returns for the season (28.9 ypr), and averaged 22.8 yards per reception with five touchdowns.

Martin ran track as a high school senior but surprisingly didn't run the anchor leg on two relay teams (he ran the second leg). This winter, he was clocked at 4.41 seconds in the 40-yard dash.

"I wasn’t really pleased," he said. "I believe I'm a 4.3 guy."

Martin lists Devin Hester and Percy Harvin as his favorite NFL return men and has no concerns about his ability to perform on special teams this fall. But playing receiver at the college level remains a work in progress.

"He has obviously surpassed where he was at this time last year," said Treadwell, who works directly with the wideouts. "We're excited for what may be in store for us because of what he might be able to do as a receiver."

How dangerous could Martin be this fall?

“I haven't really thought about it," he said, "but think I will be one of the most dangerous [players] in the league."