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October 6, 2010

An 'animal' in the interior

If anyone's qualified to theorize about what makes a good defensive lineman, it's Mike Martin, the Wolverine stalwart noseguard.

And if anyone's qualified to talk a little smack about offensive linemen, it's the junior who has obliterated the interior of every team Michigan has faced this season, eating up blocks and siphoning off running lanes.

"If you want to play defensive line, you got to love to hit," Martin said. "O-Linemen, they're good at patty-caking out there, blocking a little bit, but D-Line, you have to be ready to hit and lay the wood on someone."

And Martin has proved and reproved his affinity for knocking the snot of the opposition - just ask Indiana senior quarterback Ben Chappell, who was unlucky enough to meet Martin face-to-face on a few plays last week.

The fact of the matter is, Martin, who plays a position which almost inherently limits the boxscore statistics of those who play it by forcing him to sit low and plug the middle so others can make plays, is a highlight-reel player.

Martin already has 14 solo tackles this season - from the position he plays on the field, that is unbelievable. For a comparison, former defensive tackle Terrance Taylor recorded 16 solo tackles over his entire senior season.

And most of Martin's production comes whilst being double-teamed by the center and playside guard, but no Combo-team has been able to slow down the one-man wrecking crew.

"Mike Martin is just an animal out there," sophomore linebacker Craig Roh said. "He's the strongest person I've ever seen in the weight room. It's really showing on the field. He's taking on double teams. Against UMass, I think the play he sacked the quarterback, he beat a double team and sacked him. Which is just stupid."

He's gotten sacks (two), tackles for loss (4.5) and shown sheer athleticism that is unheard of from the noseguard position, like the third-down play against Indiana where he correctly read the screenpass and chased down speedster Darius Willis, tackling him from behind.

"Mike has been outstanding," Rodriguez says. "He's played an awful lot for a nose guard and getting a lot of double teams. He's probably been our most consistent defender all three games."

His play this year has led to the Wolverines experimenting with his versatility.

Against the Hoosiers, he lined up on the outside several times, bumping defensive end Ryan Van Bergen inside to the noseguard position.

It worked - Martin provided plenty of heat from the outside, and the Wolverines will most likely bring this formation out again this weekend against Michigan State.

"Whenever you can give a different look to an opposing team, it confuses them a little," Martin said. "It was a lot of fun to play outside. Van Bergen, he did a good job at noseguard down there, and I talked to him a little after the game, and he said he just has to get used to it a little bit. I felt the same way about being out there, because that was my first time. It was fun, we're going to practice it this week and play it as best we can on Saturday."

And Martin, a Redford, Mich. native, is excited about the opportunity to showcase his skills against the intrastate rival Spartans, especially since this game is the most hyped Paul Bunyan Trophy games since the 1999 season.

"I love the fact that they're undefeated," Martin said. "That just makes this game even bigger. I think it ensures that we're going to get their best on Saturday. I wouldn't want it any other way. I want their best, and I'm sure they want our best, so both teams are going to play as hard as they can."

He added, with a smile, "I never really liked the color green, so I can wait to play for our team to get ready to go."

-- Follow Reid on Twitter @Mister_AndyReid

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