Martin anchoring IU’s O-line

The days were long and the work was tough.

But Wes Martin made good use of those summers spent on dairy farms near his hometown of West Milton, Ohio.

It started at age 13, when Martin completed odd jobs around the farms, clearing cow manure and baling hay. He did plenty of the latter, so much so that the rare occasion of baling straw felt like a sweet reprieve.

“For anyone that’s baled hay, it’s tough,” Martin said. “If it’s early in the morning and there’s a lot of dew on the ground, or if it’s rained recently and the cut’s wet at all, it gets really heavy. It can be pretty stressful on your body. Definitely, some strength came out of that.”

Now 22 years old and a redshirt senior left guard at Indiana, Martin is a man who deals in raw strength. Unquestionably the strongest player on IU’s team, Martin is the standard for what coach Tom Allen wants in a football player.

This season, Allen wants to see Martin make the most of his strength.

Indiana needs a bounce back season from its offensive line, which spent the majority of the 2017 campaign nursing widespread injuries and generally struggling to give the Hoosiers the push they required.

If IU is to fix the offensive line issues that ailed it a season ago, it will start with Martin, a team captain, setting the example.

“He’s really smart, he’s tough as nails and he’s so dependable,” Allen said. “To me, those are the qualities I’m looking for in our football players. When I find a guy like that on our team, I want to make sure we put him in a position to say, ‘This is the kind of guy we want.’”

Martin was one of the few bright spots up front for the Hoosiers last season, recording the most pass blocking snaps (569) among guards nationally without allowing a sack. His efforts earned him the program’s Chris Dal Sasso Award, which recognizes its most outstanding lineman, and a place on the All-Big Ten Honorable Mention list.

But the latter recognition was not altogether welcomed by Martin. To help the Indiana offense reach a level of consistent success in 2018, he wants to play at level much higher than he did in 2017, when he was already pretty good.

“I wasn’t happy with being honorable mention,” Martin said. “I wanted to be higher than that. It’s natural to want to be the best you can. There was a motivation there to keep pushing forward and to be even better.”

Perhaps his continued prowess in the weight room is a sign that Martin is getting there.

The 6-foot-3, 316-pound Martin has been IU’s strongest player for some time now, a man without a serious challenger for such a crown. Fellow linemen Brandon Knight and Simon Stepaniak come close, he said, but there’s no doubt Martin remains in a class of his own.

“You talk to (new strength and conditioning coach) Dave Ballou, who’s been several places, and he’s the best he’s ever had,” Allen said.

Two weeks ago, Martin posted a new personal best when he benched 535 pounds. He can squat in the mid-600s and hang clean 405 pounds.

“I’ve always taken a lot of pride in the weight room,” Martin said. “It’s something that I enjoy doing. It’s a really cool process to be able to set a goal in the weight room, and when you finally hit that goal it’s really exciting.”

Of course, Allen admires Martin’s otherworldly strength. But after spending the spring and early portion of the summer reviewing hours of game film from the 2017 season, the IU coach wants to see more explosive power from his burly guard.

“He’s always been strong, but it’s how fast can you move that way?” Allen said. “To me, he needed to get more explosive (where) he’s able to put his foot in the ground and when he gets that second step down, he’s able to knock that defensive lineman back. To me, that’s something he needed to grow in.”

Martin has been up for the challenge.

“His consistency, his tenacity, his toughness, his grit for that position is everything you want,” Allen said. “You can count on the guy.”

6 comments

  1. No doubt because his alma mater is IU he will be unheralded but some NFL team will get a stud.

  2. Martin is a good anchor for IU’s OL. IU has big talented OLmen and they now have had one year to adjust to the new techniques and system. Coach Hiller needs to show this year why coach Allen brought him on board to coach the OL. The OL showed big improvements this Spring according to the coaches. We won’t really know though until they go against the B1G defenses IU will face. Our OL needs to be physical because they face big physical players each week in the B1G schedule. It will be great if IU’s OL can drive defensive fronts off the LOS something they haven’t done in the past. I have high hopes for the OL and offense this year and I hope they live up to their potential.

  3. I hope the game experience last year will have more linemen stepping up this year besides Martin and Cronk. IU was too predictable in short yardage runs going behind Martin almost every time. 247 Sports projects IU to go 3-9 this year citing a tough schedule and young defense. A lot will depend on quarterback play. I watched Dawkins on YouTube- very good athlete and runner. Nice arm strength but will sometimes badly miss receivers. He can and does make nice throws but misses easy throws too often. Coach Allen still talking “breakthrough”. Really risky if they end up anywhere near 3-9. He will lose the confidence of the fans and his team. Hopefully this is the year IU beats projections.

  4. In case anyone hasn’t been following, Ian Thomas has been the big head turner in the Panthers camp.

    That’s a big deal. There is a HOF TE in place in Greg Olsen ready to hand off to the next generation. He is a special player.

  5. Chet it is good to keep track of Thomas as he has a special story. It is good to hear he is turning heads in camp and I hope he stays healthy to show exactly how good he can be this year.

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