AURORA, Colo. -- We tracked down ESPNU 150 defensive end Chris Martin (Aurora, Colo./Grandview) in Aurora, Colo., on Thursday night and were able to get a good in-person game evaluation to supplement our junior film and camp assessments. Martin played both end and outside linebacker in Grandview's one-sided victory versus Smoky Hill. His showing helped support our college projection in regard to his future position in South Bend.
On the hoof
Martin was literally head and shoulders above his inferior competition from a physical standpoint. It did look like he leaned out his frame -- he appeared to be more tapered through the waist -- since the last time we saw him participating at ESPN's Gridiron Kings in July. His large frame is certainly impressive; he looks like a prototypical 3-4 outside 'backer with his great height and long, well-defined body (250 pounds). His rangy build actually hints of continued growth, and we would not be surprised if this guy ends up at 6-foot-7 and right around the 270-pound range in college. Martin has a lot of growth left. He showed Thursday night that he could carry his weight well.
Martin's blend of size, straight-line speed and athleticism were impressive. He made plays sideline-to-sideline on defense with good range and an intense motor. Martin was given the green light to blitz most of the night at outside linebacker and consistently applied pressure on the quarterback and blew up the mesh. He actually came close to blocking a couple of kicks on special teams, as well. On Smoky Hill's first drive, it tried to outflank the rangy end. But he tracked down the ball-carrier on the perimeter with his long wingspan and good acceleration, stripped the ball and recovered it for a touchdown.
At defensive end, Martin showed he could stalemate and jolt blockers back at the point of attack (when he played with good leverage) and did a really nice job chasing plays down from the backside. He was very physical throughout the night, utilizing his superior strength to occasionally toss would-be blockers aside and punish ball-carriers as a tackler. I saw some short-area power and explosiveness closing on the football that was missing at times last season as a junior. In terms of productivity, Martin lit up the stat sheet Thursday night, but his competition was marginal.
Martin still showed stiffness when trying to redirect in space. He overran the cutback on a few occasions and had difficulty breaking down sharply in the open field as an outside linebacker. He displayed some wasted motion when changing direction and turning to run on pursuit. Martin would benefit from playing with more knee bend and trying to improve his flexibility before college. He is very straight-lined, and while he showed good range for his size pursuing sideline-to-sideline, he tended to build speed and did not show good initial burst. Even when employed at end he lacked explosive get-off, tended to pop up and had difficulty bending tight down the line of scrimmage.
Martin certainly has awesome size, freakish measurables and flashed great physical tools for a program to develop at the next level. He was very active but relied on his superior size and mobility more than football skill set. His football skills and ability between the white lines have not yet matched his striking measurables on paper. He is raw in technique as a pass-rusher and never showed great functional strength, when bull rushing through smaller blockers, or fluid outside moves. Even as a run-supporting linebacker, he did not consistently shed or utilize hand technique and as a result was cut off by much smaller linemen.
Martin confirmed to us on Thursday night that he is a college end or possibly a 3-4 outside linebacker. We also feel that although he is impressive in stature and athleticism, Martin will need some time do develop as a college positional prospect and add bulk to anchor the run. In our eyes, he's not an immediate impact, five-star type of prospect at the moment.
Look for Martin to rise a few spots in our next ESPNU 150 rankings based on the great natural tools he has to mold up and the added versatility we saw.
Next in line?
Keep an eye out for Martin's current teammate and fellow member of the Grandview linebacker corps, Eddie Yarbrough (Aurora, Colo./Grandview). Yarbrough, a 2011 linebacker, has good height and is already thickly built, with a good inside linebacker frame. He filled strong downhill on Thursday night demonstrating good short-area power and physicality at the point of attack. Made several good sticks and showed he was scheme versatile playing inside, outside and even defensive end on occasion.
Billy Tucker is a recruiting coordinator for Scouts Inc.