We have already profiled three members of the Mid-American Conference's top-ranked defense from 2012 in our Top 68 countdown. For my money, the fourth member of that defense to find himself in this list is the best of the group. The final player on our list before we (finally) reach the top ten is Bowling Green State University linebacker Gabe Martin.
It is no small accomplishment for a sophomore to be named first-team all-conference, especially when he did not even start every game. Age and experience aside, though, Martin clearly deserved the honor. On a defense with the likes of Dwayne Woods, he led BGSU in tackles with 70 in 2012. He was second behind only Chris Jones in tackles for loss (8.5) and yards lost on those tackles (46). He was also second to Jones in sacks, as he accumulated 4.5 for the season. His ferocious tackling led to two forced fumbles and a fumble recovery.
Martin was also a very good pass defender. He recorded one interception and also accounted for five passes broken up and six passes defended.
Did I mention that he also contributed on special teams? Martin was one of three BGSU players to record a blocked kick during the 2012 season.
What can this redshirt junior from Grand Blanc, Mich. do for an encore? With the departure of Jones and Woods, Martin will certainly be tasked with more responsibility and will need to assume a bigger leadership role.
One interesting question going into the season will be whether or not Martin will be tasked with getting more quarterback pressures. Jones accounted for 12.5 sacks from the defensive line in 2012, and it is probably unrealistic to expect this year's defensive line to replicate that. In order to help the secondary, Dave Clawson might seek to get sacks and quarterback pressure from other players, including Martin.
However, Martin is clearly valuable in pass coverage, and one of the facets of BGSU's defense that allowed it to succeed last year was their ability to generate pressure from the defensive line. When the team was able to do that, it freed up linebackers to play more coverage and left fewer open areas for opposing quarterbacks to find receivers.
The positive for the Falcons is that Martin has such a diverse range of ability that any decision made by Clawson will likely benefit the defense as a whole. Martin is the type of player who makes plays, no matter what you ask him to do. The scary part for the 12 other offenses in the MAC is that Martin is entering just his third season of play and may be just beginning to tap his potential.
The future is difficult to predict, but at this time next year, it should not be a surprise if Martin is not just on the cusp of the MAC's ten best players but at the very top of that list.