Spring football practice 4.2.2012

Nebraska's Eric Martin brings an attitude to the Husker defense. Can the unit back up his swagger? (PATRICK BREEN / LJS file photo)

PATRICK BREEN/Lincoln Journal Star

The voice stands out. Even at the end of practice, even when everyone is tired, even when the offense is moving the ball.

Slight correction: Especially when the offense is moving the ball.

“When the offense is scoring, I’m usually the one to get mad and be kind of emotional about it,” Eric Martin said. “Yeah, I usually do have a couple words to say.”

Figure he's fibbing. Surely more than a couple words.

Junior defensive end Jason Ankrah tells you Martin’s mouth is the one that is always moving on that defensive line.

It’s not a bad thing.

“Eric is the main vocal one out there,” Ankrah said. “A lot of us are quiet. We just stick to what we have to do. But Eric, I’d say he’s the one that gets everyone hyped up. He knows what to do. His mouth doesn’t stop.

“He’s out there hitting people in the head, jumping up and down. Even if he gets knocked down, he’s going to get up, he’s still going to talk. It gets us all hyped up. Maybe everyone is all tired at the end of practice, but he’s going to do something to get everyone up.”

There is a certain entertainment value that comes with Martin’s words. Like after this past Wednesday’s practice when he described a mild-mannered teammate as a centaur.

“You know, centaurs are kind of quiet,” Martin explained. “You just give them a sugar cube and they walk away.”

As aforementioned, he’s entertaining.

But Martin wants to be more than that in this, his senior year.

Now in his second full year at defensive end, Martin is working alongside Ankrah at the end spot opposite senior Cameron Meredith.

A linebacker earlier in his Husker career, Martin seemed to grow into his new position during the latter half of last season. Eighteen of his 23 tackles came in the second half of the season, including a 2 1/2-sack game against Michigan State.

While he had his moments, Martin said he stands to get better in every facet this year.

“I didn’t have a very good season, I thought,” Martin said of 2011. “(And) regardless of if I had a good season or not, I can always get better. I don’t really worry about what happened last year. I’m just focused on what I can do now.”

Concerning the now, Martin’s mentality would seem to connect well with first-year defensive line coach Rick Kaczenski, whose motto to his defensive lineman all offseason has been to “attack.”

As Martin has shown on special teams and in third-down situations as a defensive end, attacking is something he is programmed to do better than most.

Kaczenski made it clear in the spring that he thinks Martin can do more than be just a third-down pass rusher.

"I know this: He's too good of a player for him to be standing next to me on Saturdays," Kaczenski said then. "We're going to find ways to get him on the field.”

One area you’ll most definitely continue to see Martin on the field is on special teams, where many of his biggest collisions have come in the kick coverage and return game.

Martin continued with that role even last year when he packed on a bunch of pounds to play defensive end.

“It made me more tired,” he said of the added bulk on special teams. “Dragging around more cargo made me a little more tired. But I was stronger, too. I was moving people out of the way, too. But it’s still the same, though. You’re just still out there playing aggressive.”

His presence was still felt there. Seven of his tackles came on special teams.

He’ll help there. He’s also making sure to help the young defensive linemen, who have made a strong first impression on him this fall.

“Vincent Valentine, he’s really big. Really big,” Martin said of the 6-foot-3, 320-pound true freshman defensive tackle. “You watch him in his pass rush, he’s just strong, just a force. Just look at him, he’s like a diesel walking around.

"And (true freshman) Aaron Curry, he’s built. I feel like this is the biggest defensive line class we have. Because Avery (Moss) is huge and so is Greg (McMullen). They’re bigger than me and they play the same position. We have a lot of big freshmen linemen that are going to be the future of our team and they’re going to be really good.”

That's part of the reason that mouth keeps moving.

Fall camp is always hard, Martin said.

Sometimes a voice of encouragement during these dog days can do wonders.

“It’s not just about playing hard for yourself,” Martin said. “You have to bring your teammates up, too. I’ve been teaching the young guys, the freshmen, trying to get them up to par so they can have a better future here, too.”

Reach Brian Christopherson at bchristopherson@journalstar.com or 402-473-7439. You can follow him on Twitter @HuskerExtraBC.


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