AUBURN, Ala. – Looking at tape from last season, Auburn used several different underclassmen in its game plans who could play key roles in the 2018 season.
When looking at their season opener in 2017 against Georgia Southern, the Tigers featured two guys – running back Kam Martin and wide receiver Will Hastings – who could be fixtures in Gus Malzahn’s offense moving forward.
Martin could become Auburn’s feature back this season, and Hastings, a slot receiver, may see a larger role this spring while Ryan Davis is recovering from a shoulder procedure.
In last season’s opener, Martin got a lot of work after Kerryon Johnson left with an injury. Kam Pettway was suspended, so when Johnson went out, Martin came on.
Martin’s best trait is his speed, and he showed it against Georgia Southern. When given proper space – thanks to blocking, scheme and/or the defense being a step too slow – Martin’s downhill speed makes opponents uncomfortable.
Though some of the defenders in this play show a lack of discipline regarding gap discipline, Martin makes them pay once he breaks through the line of scrimmage. He sees the field well, adjusts his path and is able to make the most out of the open field in front of him.
He scored on a run similar to this earlier in the game.
With his size (5 feet 10, 182 pounds) and open-field speed, there’s a thought that he’s not a physical runner. Almost 20 percent of Martin’s carries (14 of 74) came in the opener, and many fans assumed it was because Martin would struggle against bigger, more physical defenses. But sticking with the game tape from the opener, he was able to lower his pads and fall forward.
Martin burst through the line impressively. He initiates contact and is able to fall forward to generate extra yards on the carry. This is a must for any full-time back in Malzahn’s system.
The play shown above is another example where Martin showed he was willing to find contact with defenders. He also used a little hesitation at the line to find the best hole. That jump cut is something that Martin did not show constantly on tape, but his patience and burst on this play is something that reminds observers of several of the 1,000-yard rushers that Auburn has fielded over the past few years.
Now, back to the smaller-back build and the stereotype that comes with that.
While this ends up being a 4-yard gain on first down, Martin needs to be quicker to lower his pads and initiate contact with defenders. There are hints that Martin has gained weight, and runs like this on first down are the difference between second-and-6 and second-and-3.
Martin will be asked to attack the edge often, and with his speed, he should be able to get a step on perimeter defenders. While this run isn’t totally Martin’s fault, coaches never want to see a run result in negative yards. Yes, H-back Chandler Cox missed the key block to seal the edge, but if Martin is going to truly compete for Auburn’s starting running back job, he has to find ways to prevent putting his offense in second-and-long situations.
© 2016, gridironnow.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.