Getting to know Tennessee's class of 2007: No. 2, DE Ben Martin

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Introducing No. 2 in Tennessee’s class of 2007, defensive end Ben Martin

On unbridled tongues

Watch what you say to Ben Martin. It is wise not to talk trash to the 6-5, 230 pound defensive end, even if he’s a sophomore in high school playing only his second year of organized football. Just ask the unidentified offensive lineman from a nationally ranked rival school that once tried. Well, ask him if you can find him, but for now, Martin’s re-telling of the event must suffice:

It was two back-to-back plays. In my sophomore year we were playing St. X at home. Right before halftime one of the offensive linemen was talking trash to me. I asked him if he was ready and he said he was. I ended up getting two sacks in row right after that and the crowd went nuts.

And don’t tell him where he should go to college, either. Just ask, well, pretty much anyone in Ohio.

Those Nutty Irish

Martin essentially has two homes. Most of his family lives in Gary, Indiana, just an hour away from South Bend, and he’s lived with his brother in Cincinnati, Ohio for the past several years. So it was not an overwhelming surprise that Martin’s first offer, way back in November, 2005, came from Notre Dame, nor that an offer from Ohio State soon followed.

By the end of March, 2006, Martin had a dozen offers, and he had stopped counting in June when the total reached 17. Even back then, though, everyone seemed to be assuming that the pressure was on Martin to commit to Ohio State, despite the fact that Martin often said that he felt more pressure to attend Notre Dame because of his family’s proximity to South Bend.

Martin visited Tennessee for the first time in June, 2006, because he noticed an opportunity to contribute early for the Vols. He came away impressed with Knoxville and Neyland . . .

I had no knowledge of Tennessee. I had seen it on TV before but when you get there and see it in person you’re like, "Wow this is a nice place to be."

. . . and with the way the defensive ends are coached to play:

They let their ends go. They don’t have gap responsibilities. They just let them go attack the ball and let them go out and make plays.

But nobody was listening to all of this nonsense about the Tennessee Volunteers. No, the contest to woo Martin was most certainly between Ohio State and Notre Dame. Had to be.

The Fighting Buckeyes

But . . . Martin visited Tennessee again in mid-July, and after a visit to Florida at the end of July, he pretty much said that Florida and Tennessee had as much of a chance as Ohio State and Notre Dame. Perhaps to emphasize the point, Martin took an unofficial trip to Knoxville on September 16, 2006 to see the Tennessee-Florida game. While he loved the game experience and the enthusiastic, loud crowd, he said that the most positive thing about the place was the coaching staff. "I think they have great coaches," Martin said. "They are really class people. I have enjoyed getting to know them more."

In October, things started happening pretty fast. First, Martin was named a U.S. Army All-American. Then he took his first official visit, to Notre Dame, which, of course, he really enjoyed. November featured an official visit to Gainesville for the Florida-South Carolina game, the site of Martin’s most memorable moment from an official visit (Jarvis Moss’ blocked field goal to win the game for the Gators, 17-16). A week later, he traveled to Ohio State to see the Buckeyes defeat Michigan and earn a ticket to the national championship game. Surely, this had to seal the deal with padlocks and duct tape, right? Who would decline an offer to play for an in-state, national title contender?

Don’t tell me to dot no i

But . . . Martin visited Knoxville for the third time, his last official visit of the recruiting process, in early December, and he was again impressed with the "really nice" people. He was also getting noticeably agitated at the incessant suggestion that Ohio State was the team to beat:

That's not the case at all. I'm going to do what's best for me and that will be where the best situation is. The in-state thing isn't going to have any kind of impact on my decision. Every school that I've visited is right there in the mix.

I'm gonna cross me a T

So, when the cameraman panned to B-Mart during the U.S. Army All-American Game and gave him the signal to announce his commitment on national television, a large contingent of the Buckeye Nation, or whatever they call themselves up there, was already halfway to its collective feet and a celebratory cigar. But Martin sat 'em down and snuffed 'em by pledging to Tennessee. The commitment to the Volunteers was variously described by the media as "shocking" and "a stunner" even though Martin’s decision had begun to leak out the night before.

The smelling salts immediately induced some unnamed Ohio State fan to register and post the following diary on Rocky Top Talk under the handle "OSU Rules" (sic throughout):

Obviously you guys are to back paying recruits to attend Tennecheater University again.  I'm sure some of Porky Pigs favorite boosters chipped in to buy Ben Martin for you guys.  Big mistake for this young guy he will end getting a degree in basket weaving and waste his many academic talents while playing for a corrupt University.

There was some speculation that this was, in fact, a rare public appearance of Subcommandante Wayne or his mother. Alas, no one stepped up to either confirm or deny these suspicions, but really, that’s beside the point. I mean, who wouldn’t want to give his all for a fan like that, whoever it was?

OSU Rules wasn’t really looking for answers, of course, but here are a couple anyway. Martin had said all along that he was just looking for a place with good people who could prepare him for the next level, and he just felt the most comfortable with Tennessee. Shoot, Ohio State didn’t even finish second – that distinction went to Notre Dame.

Tell ‘em what they’ve won, Johnny!

 

Ben Martin: Like this, but fast.

So exactly what is OSU Rules going to be missing this season? An explosive pass-rushing, run-stopping monster who doesn’t rely solely on his frightening appearance and demeanor to unnerve victims. No, this bogeyman pursues not with the slow, malevolent pace of a masked, machete-wielding villian, but with effort and speed.

Oh, and he’s got a brain, too. And stars:

  • Five stars, Franchise Player, No. 2 strongside defensive end in the nation, No. 20 overall player in the nation, per Rivals
  • Five stars, No. 3 defensive end in the nation, per Scout

And stats:

  • 2005: 71 tackles (34 unassisted and 16 for a loss) and 10 sacks
  • 2006: 112 tackles (14 for a loss) and eight sacks

And honors:

  • All-area
  • All-league
  • All-metro
  • All-Ohio
  • Parade All-American
  • U.S. Army All-American
  • All-Northern Hemisphere (yeah, I made this one up)
  • Gatorade Player of the Year for Ohio

In other (unspoken) words, this:

All of that, and "off the charts" character, to boot.

Now, come on. Did anyone really ever think he was going to go to Ohio State? Zing!

Ben Martin, welcome to Tennessee!

Rocky Top Talk Mnemonic

Like Jason but fast
Don't tell him to dot no i
He'll cross Ts instead
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