John Denton's Knights Insider: Chris Martin Earns Promotion

Aug. 14, 2010

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By John Denton

ORLANDO, Fla. (UCFAthletics.com) - When head coach George O'Leary and assistant coach Brent Key made wholesale changes to UCF's offensive line earlier this week, the moves and roster shuffling to the depth chart came as a surprise to most.

Not Chris Martin, a converted defensive tackle who has surged into the lead at the left tackle slot and brought some much-needed swagger and nastiness to the Knights' offensive line.

Martin's rise has been a part of his master plan since the spring when he first started playing the offensive line. He just assumed with his combination of awesome power and uncanny athleticism that it was just a matter of time before he would be working with the first string.

``Honestly, coming into camp I knew it was going to happen. I had set my goals high and I was going to keep working until I got (to the first unit),'' Martin said. ``Was it a surprise that it came so fast? Yes. But it wasn't a surprise that I go there (to the first unit) like I did.''

Coming out of spring practice, Martin was listed as the second left tackle behind Nick Pieschel. But O'Leary and Key made the decision following Thursday's scrimmage to move Pieschel to right guard to solidify that slot and promote Martin, a 6-foot-5, 290-pound redshirt freshman from Fort Walton Beach.

O'Leary and Key also promoted promising twin freshmen Jordan and Justin McCray to the second unit. Their old brother, Cliff McCray, is the starter at left guard and has been a standout with his wiliness to lay a lick on a foe.

O'Leary said the changes were made to make the Knights more active and athletic along the front line. He was disappointed with the line's ability to move around last December in the St. Pete Bowl and vowed he would lean toward upgrading the group's foot speed and athleticism for this season.

``I used the scrimmage after nine practices to see where we were and I thought we had to get more speed athletically on the line,'' O'Leary said. ``I moved Chris Martin up and put Nick Pieschel at right guard. And I moved the McCrays to right guard and tackle (on the second unit), (Theo) Goins to left guard and (Abre') Leggins to left tackle. So there were wholesale changes. When I looked at what we're doing I thought it was the best thing for the football team.''

Moving Pieschel to right guard gives the Knights a right side of Jah Reid (6-foot-7), tight end Adam Nissley (6-6) and Pieschel (6-7). O'Leary likes the possibilities of running behind that trio of top blockers.

``It gives you good height over there with 6-7, 6-7 and 6-6 over there, but the thing we're looking for is movement and consistency,'' he said. ``Basically the moves are made for the football team. We're giving them an opportunity to get some things done. I saw that (left guard) as a position where we've got to get some things done, especially when the (blitzes) start happening.''

Blitz pickup is something that's still a work in progress for Martin, who came to UCF as a defensive tackle. But his physical gifts give the UCF coaching staff that Martin will not only become a solid player at offensive tackle, but also a potential star.

Already the fastest and most agile Knight along the offensive line, Martin put on seven pounds in the offseason by working hard in the weight room. His bench press max rose from 410 pounds to 460 pounds and was in the top five on the team in power clean at 350 pounds. Combine all of that with a salty attitude, and UCF is expecting big things from No. 70 at left tackle.

``My athletic ability outnumbers everybody else on our offensive line. I come over from defense, I'm quick, I can jump and I can move around, so I'm blessed with all of the tools to be a great offensive lineman,'' Martin said. ``And one of the main reasons that they brought me over (from defense) was to bring some attitude and more aggression to the offense. Even after the play I want to be on top of the guy, shoving them down. I bring some extra aggression.''

Key came into fall camp with a good feeling about Martin after seeing him progress in the spring. And those good vibes were backed up by more progress through the first week and a half of workouts so far.

``We moved Chris in the spring and the first time playing offense was a real learning experience for him. But now working drills, bonding with those guys and watching film has been good for him,'' Key said. ``And now after 10 days of practice, I can say he's one of our guys who has gotten better every single day. I looked at tape and he's taking better footwork and hitting landmarks that he wasn't hitting early. And he brings a lot of aggressiveness and a nasty attitude and that's great because we need that.''

Another factor driving Martin to do well as UCF's left tackle - he's best friends with starting quarterback Rob Calabrese. He wants to do everything in his power to protect his friend's blind side against the oncoming rush.

``I understand how important it is playing left tackle. But Rob and I are also good friends on and off the field and we have that chemistry,'' Martin said. ``So I want to do everything in my power to keep him safe and help him out.''


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John Denton's Knights Insider appears on UCFAthletics.com several times a week. E-mail John at jdenton@athletics.ucf.edu.