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Irish A-to-Z: Nick Martin

Jul 21, 2014, 3:22 PM EDT

USC v Notre Dame Getty Images

No, he’s not his brother. But center Nick Martin should solidify his standing as one of the top centers in the country in 2014. After an injury ended his debut season in the starting lineup early, Martin returns healthy after knee surgery, giving Notre Dame a key anchor in the middle of Harry Hiestand’s offensive line.

With Steve Elmer and Christian Lombard surrounding him, the interior of the Irish offensive line has the ability to move the point of attack and played athletic, power football. All three could’ve been collegiate tackles, but will combine to add size, bulk and athleticism to an offensive line that could get better even after losing two early picks to the NFL Draft.

Martin will be at the center of it all, anchoring the line and leading it as well. Let’s take a closer look at the Indianapolis native.


6’4.5″, 295 lbs.
Senior, No. 72



Even with his brother already on the roster, Notre Dame wasn’t a lock to land Martin. Spending the majority of his time committed to Kentucky, Martin only flipped to the Irish in January, after taking official visits to both campuses. (Martin’s father played football at UK.)

The Wildcats’ loss was the Irish’s gain, and while he was only a three-star prospect, Martin had offers from programs like Michigan, Iowa, Tennessee, Stanford and UCLA. Almost a replica size-wise with his brother, Kelly talked about what the Irish were getting in signing Nick Martin, perhaps a sign of his move to the interior of the line.

“The common theme here with the offensive linemen is their ability to move,” Kelly said. “And at 6’4″, 270, he’s got really good athletic ability, and he finishes off blocks. He’s got a demeanor again. That offensive line demeanor for us is the way they play the game. And he plays it very, very well.”



Freshman Season (2011): Did not see action.

Sophomore Season (2012): Played in all 13 games for Notre Dame, serving primarily as an offensive lineman on multiple special teams units.

Junior Season (2013): Moved into the starting lineup at center. Started and played in 11 games before a season-ending knee injury ended his year against BYU. Part of an offensive line that allowed just eight sacks, the second-best total in all of the FBS.



Expect Martin to move quickly out of his brother’s shadow in 2014. As a center, Martin has the size and athletic ability that Kelly and Hiestand demand. That should allow the Irish to run a variety of blocking schemes and to move at pace with Notre Dame reutrning to the spread offense that built Kelly’s reputation.

While Zack’s national profile struggled because he wasn’t the prototype size at left tackle, Nick doesn’t have those limitations as a center. After playing behind Braxston Cave for two seasons, he’s a more athletic option than the former three-year starter, and will likely join his brother in the NFL after his five years in South Bend are up.



Martin won’t be able to brag about an Ironman streak like his brother. But he’s on pace to have a very impressive career in South Bend, likely serving as a three-year starter at center who has the ability to play just about anywhere on the offensive line. In 2014, we’ll get a true idea of just how good Nick is. And hints coming out of summer workouts have the answer likely being: Very Good.

Looking back at Notre Dame’s offense in 2010-2012, Kelly was open and honest about some of the athletic limitations that Cave had as the Irish center. While Martin doesn’t bring the physical strength that Cave did to the front line, he’s capable of doing everything Notre Dame demands from an interior offensive lineman.

Martin is a very good center. If he stays healthy (and the Irish win), he’ll likely find his way onto the Rimington Trophy’s short list. After seeing his older brother ignored in the postseason awards circuit, it’d be good to see the little brother recognized.



The Irish A-to-Z
Josh Atkinson
Nicky Baratti
Alex Bars
Hunter Bivin
Grant Blankenship
Jonathan Bonner
Justin Brent
Kyle Brindza
Chris Brown
Jalen Brown
Greg Bryant
Devin Butler
Jimmy Byrne
Daniel Cage
Amir Carlisle
Austin Collinsworth
Ben Councell
Scott Daly
Sheldon Day
Michael Deeb
Steve Elmer
Matthias Farley
Tarean Folston
Everett Golson
Jarrett Grace
Conor Hanratty
Eilar Hardy
Mark Harrell
Jay Hayes
Matt Hegarty
Mike Heuerman
Kolin Hill
Corey Holmes
Chase Hounshell
Torii Hunter Jr.
Jarron Jones
DeShone Kizer
Ben Koyack
Christian Lombard
Tyler Luatua
Cole Luke

  1. rocket1988 - Jul 21, 2014 at 4:37 PM

    I wonder what Ty Willingham, er John Gait has to say here? I guess not all SEC teams are created the same?

  2. rocket1988 - Jul 21, 2014 at 4:48 PM

    I wonder what Ty Willingham er, John Gait will say here. UofK is SEC right? I guess not all SEC programs are created the same!

  3. johngaltisspeaking - Jul 21, 2014 at 5:09 PM

    Saban would start Martin immediately ! Major Alabama talent which is one step up from SEC Talent.

  4. dudeacow - Jul 21, 2014 at 5:54 PM

    Keith, you keep on referencing hints coming out of the summer. Do you think you could provide us with any interesting tidbits you’ve gleaned? :) Thanks, and keep up the great work!

  5. yaketyyacc - Jul 22, 2014 at 7:17 AM

    there seems to be a pattern with coach Kelly, first a player is on the special team, and that is the springboard to get to the starting team. but, it was coach Kelly that pointed to one of the reasons Alabama destroyed ND. It had all of its starting team on the special team at the kickoff. the point is that in battle, you put your veteran fighters as the spearhead of the attack.
    bit I digress. Martin is a sound, capable, and solid player, who is the right choice to anchor the offensive line.

    • johngaltisspeaking - Jul 22, 2014 at 11:33 AM

      Again for some reason this is one of the head scratchers of Brian K. I have to say I have done more head scratching with Brian K then any other coach. Sometimes I just don’t think he has no clue what to do.

  6. johngaltisspeaking - Jul 22, 2014 at 11:29 AM

    Anyone want to read why I am correct about Notre Dame just read the following article:

    I am correct on two things:

    1) Blue chip players win Championships not 3 star wonders. So all of you day dreamers who think we can win with 3 star players you are all just delusional.
    2) Notre Dame is playing themselves right out of the playoffs by trying to play a schedule that Alabama could not even win outright. This is my biggest gripe on ND our schedule is just ridiculous for our talent level. I think this will get better when we have to play 8 ACC teams but any year when we have to play Clemson or Florida State with USC and Stanford we can all just forget it. 2 losses this year will not even get us into the playoffs. Winning 8 games this year would be excellent based on the opponents.

    • dbldmr - Jul 22, 2014 at 11:48 AM

      To be the best you have to beat the best. If ND is going to lose 2 out of 3 to Clemson/FSU, Stanford and USC why would ND belong in the playoffs?

      • johngaltisspeaking - Jul 22, 2014 at 3:04 PM

        Its not IF it is a reality…. I keep telling you guys this is pointless. If ND Football was solely a business it would have been bankrupt a long time ago. You cant take subpar talent with a few blue chippers drizzled in the mix and expect to compete with USC who is going to start recruiting in the top 5 here on out. Based on what I saw in 2012 and in 13 we have no chance to make it to the playoffs. Something has to drastically change and it starts with special teams.

    • nudeman - Jul 22, 2014 at 11:54 AM

      I don’t know all the math, but in the new playoff system, strength of schedule matters, correct?
      Having said that, I get your point. There is a point of diminishing returns, and this year’s schedule just might cross it.

      But here’s the issue: Unlike any other program (except maybe the service academies), ND is a national program. ND recruits nationally and plays nationally to an extent that no other program can claim. No school in the SEC plays games in NY, CA, TX and FL in the same year. In fact no other team in ANY conference does that.

      I’ve always thought this is one of the coolest things about being an ND fan.
      On a weekend when OSU or UM might be playing Illinois, Indiana, or Minnesota, ND is playing the Seminoles in Tallahassee. Couple weeks later Bama might be traveling “all the way” to Knoxville while ND is playing USC at home on national TV.

      It’s cool. I like it. Don’t need more games against Lower Bowel Movement U.

      • johngaltisspeaking - Jul 22, 2014 at 3:15 PM

        I agree with you when it comes to being Independent but honestly once we join as full members 9 of those games are taken, 8 ACC Games ( Regional ) and Navy. That means we have 3 open slots: USC, Stanford and a either a Big Ten, Big 12 or SEC team. That to me looks like a conference schedule to me. The plain truth is our independence is going away and in all honesty I think its fine as long as we can keep our ties to the West Coast. I would even give up Navy to play a Big 12 or SEC Game. We already know that there are ton of Legit Patsys in the ACC. If we get luck we will be the worst teams in the ACC and then play USC and Stanford. Now we have a shot at the playoffs. Michigan Florida State, Stanford, USC what a joke…

      • nudeman - Jul 22, 2014 at 5:31 PM

        Hold on there … 8 games per year against the ACC?
        I thought it was 5.

    • irishdog80 - Jul 22, 2014 at 8:27 PM

      Uh, according to the article, ND recruits at a level similar to other Playoff contenders. Over 50% of ND’s roster is made up of 4 and 5 star athletes. Like I have said before, if we lay an egg this year…8-4 or worse…an embarrassing loss to a major power or bad team…poor offensive performance as a whole…I will agree that Kelly and recruiting are the problem. Given a NCG appearance two years ago and the arrow pointing up at QB for this year, I am optimistic.

      • johngaltisspeaking - Jul 23, 2014 at 12:20 AM

        You can’t win with 3 star players. The only team to come close was Oregon, and now that ship has sailed.

      • irishdog80 - Jul 23, 2014 at 9:23 AM

        Uh, Chance Warmack and The Shark were 3 stars coming out of high school. I agree that you have to have your share of 4 and 5 star players. With an 85 man roster, they don’t all have to be a 4 or 5 star. Personally, I would prefer an ascending 3 star player over a plateauing 4 or 5 star that meanders through a college career.

  7. 1historian - Jul 22, 2014 at 12:44 PM

    ND is not built to contend every year for the NC against the football factories that dot the landscape these days. But there will come magic years when they DO contend and when everything turns out perfect and it will happen again.

    For now, the magic, the greatness of Notre Dame football lies dormant, just below the surface. It’s closer than it used to be, but it needs a victory that was once considered impossible but which the guys manage to pull off.

    Then – Notre Dame is all the way BACK

    We’re almost back, but we need a game like that to make it all the way.

    A game on the road against a #1 ranked team where we’re expected to contend for 2 1/2 quarters and then the home team pulls away and ND gets kudos for a valiant effort.

    Not good enough.

    This October at the end of the 4th quarter I want to see a look on the faces of the FSU players that asks the burning question “WTF just happened?”

    • johngaltisspeaking - Jul 22, 2014 at 3:22 PM

      LEt me know if you want to make a bet I’ll cover you. Notre Dame football has become, cross your fingers say your prayers we know we are not good enough but maybe just maybe a miracle might happen. To me that is just down right pathetic. Let me know when Notre Dame gets to UCLA or Stanford level then we can talk about getting to the next level : SEC…….

  8. irishdog80 - Jul 22, 2014 at 12:56 PM

    The eight sacks allowed last year is a truly amazing stat. Some of it can be attributed to the system Kelly employed with Rees…quick reads, etc., but it mostly a testimony to Hiestand’s ability to create a unit. With athletic and massive Kelly and Hiestand recruited and trained linemen throughout the 2 and 3 deep, I am expecting big things from this line and for the foreseeable future. Long, opponent’s morale breaking drives should be the modus operandi until our young defense gets fully up to speed.

    • nudeman - Jul 22, 2014 at 2:26 PM

      I’d have preferred Rees took a couple more sacks instead of winging it into coverage against UM (2 crushing picks), OK (3 game changing picks) Pitt (that last INT was just awful) and Stanford (tried to throw it 70 yards when his max is 35)

      So beat me up for another Rees bash f you want, but the real point is that a sack isn’t always the worst thing in the world.

      • dbldmr - Jul 22, 2014 at 2:40 PM

        Agreed. Better 4th and 25 than watching Opponent U’s offense trotting onto the field on your 36 yard line after a pick.

      • irishdog80 - Jul 22, 2014 at 2:59 PM

        Sacks can be a misleading stat…look at the sacks a number of apparently elusive QBs have racked up over the years–they “run” into a sack instead of dumping the ball out of bounds, etc. That said, the 8 sacks allowed is still remarkable and reflective of a truly coordinated effort on the o-line. An underrated skill for an o-lineman is field awareness. We have all seen the o-lineman that is busy double or triple teaming a d-lineman while another player waltzes in for the free shot at the QB. ND’s linemen work together and form a unified wall with their heads on a swivel looking to help where they can. I like it.

  9. ajw21 - Jul 22, 2014 at 7:07 PM

    It is 5, I believe John is saying we will be a full member of a conference some time in the future, that won’t happen so just John being John and talking.
    FyI: Keith thanks for the articles, nice to read something ND related every day between family, work, and golf. Also thanks for not letting posters write an article, terrible idea by whoever suggested it.
    Go Irish!

    • johngaltisspeaking - Jul 23, 2014 at 11:19 AM

      I might have been wrong on the 8 games for the ACC but to think ND won’t be part of a conference in the future is just silly. This new over glorified BCS Playoff system is a joke and we all know it. The need to completely remove the Gymnastic / American Idol rating of teams and go to a legitimate conference playoff cannot be overstated. If the system moves in that direction ND will have to join a conference. Once again Personally that is the only true way of arriving at a true champion like the rest of the sports world. If ND has to join a conference then so be it

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