Notre Dame’s football program has made big strides since fifth-year senior Zack Martin watched a 6-6 season unfold from the sideline as a redshirt freshman, but he says there’s still a long way to go during his final season in South Bend.
Tackle Zack Martin said staying focused hasn't been an issue in his fourth year of spring ball.
“We’ve got a lot to work on. For people to think that we’ve arrived is a bit ridiculous,” Martin said. “We know after that [national championship] game we were far from it.”
Martin said he and other Notre Dame veterans took that attitude in their winter and spring workouts this year in hopes that it would help them in getting a second chance to prove themselves in 2013. That motivation has helped to keep a fourth go-round of spring workouts from becoming a drag for the Irish starting left tackle.
Martin, who has started 39 straight games at left tackle for Notre Dame, said the 42-14 loss to Alabama in Miami gave him and his teammates a better idea of what they need to do to be national champions.
“When we played Alabama, that’s what it looks like,” he said. “We know we’re not there yet, but that’s what we’re working toward. We know we’re capable of a lot of things, but it’s just if we can come in and work and get everything out of everyone on every day.”
The three veterans along this year’s offensive line — Martin, fellow fifth-year senior Chris Watt and senior Christian Lombard — are spending this year’s spring session trying to keep any rust from accumulating during the offseason and focusing on acting as good role models for the newcomers fighting for a starting spot this season. Martin said Irish assistant Harry Hiestand has kept them from finding any space to slack off during the first three weeks of the spring.
One of those newcomers is Martin’s younger brother, Nick, who appears to be the frontrunner to take over as Notre Dame’s starting center next fall. The older Martin said he has been impressed with how well his brother has adjusted to the new position. Nick Martin worked at both tackle and guard last season before shifting to the middle of the line during the offseason.
“He’s very versatile. He’s athletic enough to play those different positions and then when you get him down at center he can move left right and then protect,” Martin said. “He’s a lot stronger than people would think. He’s got a big upper body and is real strong in the weight room. He can move laterally and reach big nose guards. He’s just got all those little skills that make it up.”
Martin said the young guys running behind them have also helped to keep morale high on the offensive line this spring. After the center position is settled, running back might be home to the biggest battle for playing time during the next four months. Juniors George Atkinson III and Cam McDaniel, along with sophomore Will Mahone, have all showed some promise, according to Martin.
“Some of those guys I didn’t know they couldn’t run that hard,” he said. “We told them afterward if you keep running like that it’s fun for us to block for you and gives us a little extra boost.”