With starting center Daniel Kilgore lost for the season after breaking his ankle against the Broncos, the 49ers are in dire need for the next man to step up. The good news is the 49ers invested in the position in the draft this offseason, drafting USC center Marcus Martin. A three year starter, Martin spent his first two seasons starting at left guard, and converted to center for the 2013 season. Martin is coming back from a knee injury he suffered this preseason, and the timing couldn't be better for his return with the injury of Kilgore.
Arm Length: 34"
Bench Press: 23 Reps
Leverage: Gets his long arms extended and puts them below pad level. With his strength and good center of balance this makes it hard for defenders to get by him. This bodes well for pass protection first. Some defenders have had success laterally on Martin but he doesn't get pushed back often.
- Quick after the snap: Martin snaps the ball and gets himself set at a very fast pace, allowing him to engage who he's blocking before they touch him first. The motion from snap to getting his feet and hands set is very fluent.
Second level blocking: Can chip a lineman and release him to the guard and then get up field and block a linebacker quickly. Martin's pro day forty yard dash time was 5.22 but I've seen enough on film to realize he's faster than that time may indicate. In this respect Martin could become a reliable ally for Frank Gore, paving his way down the field for more sizable gains than we have seen this year.
Pre-Snap smarts: Is able to diagnose what the defense is going to do frequently. His ability to pick up blitzes is impressive. Martin sees what is going to happen next, and this is a credit to him studying the game of football in the film room. He should be able to take command of the offensive line and communicate well what he sees to the rest of the group.
Strong with high motor: Playing physical with tenacity is something Martin does naturally. He's going to wear who he's blocking out more often than he will get worn out. He reminds me of a fighter who will win by decision decisively by throwing blows relentlessly and effectively until the final bell rings. By the fourth quarter, Martin will show a lot of defenders that he is a worthy foe, and one that is stronger and more conditioned than them.
- Position versatility: Can play center and both guard positions.
- Center Experience: Martin only has one year of experience at center.
- Finish second level blocks: At times Martin hasn't squared up the linebacker enough, which leads to a play stalling for a short gain. He has shown he can pummel men at the second level and just needs to do so more consistently.
- Lateral agility: While Martin does have good footwork, he could get better moving left to right. That's the best chance someone has of winning a battle against Martin right now. Not often does a defender get around him, but this can allow them to get in a favorable position to stuff a run, eliminating the hole that should have been there.
Snap Location: His former line coach at USC said he had some growing pains with snapping in the shotgun.
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I'm excited to see Martin in action, especially after hearing Coach Harbaugh say he looked impressive Monday and has been very good in the classroom. Although Martin has position versatility, at 6'3 his best bet is to stick at center, where I believe he could become a very good one. What I like about Martin is that he's a student of the game as well as a very strong player. That bodes well for him becoming a complete center, an All-Pro caliber center. Martin isn't even 21 years old yet. He is going to get stronger, and add to his football IQ.
The future is now for the 49ers, and they have no time for much growing pains or learning on the job. Don't expect a drop-off at the position from Daniel Kilgore's production. I expect Martin to step in and make the middle of the line better than it has been this season. If the 49ers are going to make a playoff run Martin will have a big say in how far they go. A center is underrated, unsung, yet so very important. I like his chances of performing at a high level, and it could happen right away.