Moving on without Chris Martin: Where KU football goes from here
It's still too early in the process to make a definitive call about what the Chris Martin arrest means for Martin, Kansas University football or the 2013 season, but assuming that the talented defensive end's run-in with the law will at the very least land him on the sideline for a good portion of the upcoming season, it seems logical to take a quick look at just what a blow not having him might be.
Before we go any farther, I'll start by saying that based on everything I've heard from a handful of people I've talked to about this situation, all kinds of outcomes remain on the table regarding Martin. He could be kicked off the team immediately, he could be cleared, he could wind up with a severe slap on the wrist and, even if he is cleared in some way, he could still miss half the season or more as a statement from KU coach Charlie Weis. Remember, Weis, just last year, handed out three-game suspensions for DUI arrests and this, we surely can all agree, is a much more serious charge than those.
I have no idea how any of this is going to end, but I think the only thing Weis and company can do is let things play out in the legal system, gather as much information as they can in the process and then, when all is said and done, decide on the appropriate punishment. Regardless of what that is, don't think for a second that Martin won't be punished.
It's a bad deal for KU football either way you slice it, both from a PR standpoint and a competitive standpoint. And it's a bad deal for the fans, too. Martin is a very likable dude, quirky in a way but gifted with great energy and an enjoyable sense of humor. You never knew exactly what he was going to say or how he was going to say it, but you did know two things: 1. Whatever he said would be the straight truth as he saw it and 2. He would likely deliver it in a very entertaining fashion.
For the purpose of this blog, let's assume the worst here and examine the landscape of the defensive line with Martin not being a part of it.
His absence puts immediate pressure on fellow newcomer Andrew Bolton, 6-3, 280, who, like Martin, comes to KU with the reputation as a legitimate pass rusher off the edge. Because Bolton could not make it to campus early like Martin did, hopes for his immediate impact must be tempered, but, if Martin is finished, the Jayhawks need Bolton to be everything he's been advertised and maybe more.
The spring depth chart listed sophomore Ben Goodman, 6-3, 255, as the immediate back-up to Martin at the Buck position — defensive end/outside linebacker hybrid — and that should bring at least a little smile to the faces of KU fans. Goodman is a great talent who has gotten better every day he's been in town and appears to have a very bright future. He doesn't own exactly the same build as Martin nor does he come with the same nasty mentality, but the guy can play and he should get every opportunity in the world to prove that now. I know the coaches were very high on him after spring ball and, as he enters his third season in the program, it's time for Goodman to show why.
Junior Michael Reynolds, 6-1, 240, is another player listed behind Martin at the Buck spot on the spring depth chart. Although Reynolds did not follow up his spectacular 2012 spring game with much of a season, he has some legit ability and could help replace Martin in a committee scenario as, at the very least, a situational pass rusher.
Senior Jordan Tavai, 6-3, 295, is sort of the forgotten man in all of this mess. Tavai, you'll remember, was one of the highlight signees from last year's recruiting class and, although he reported to campus a little overweight and out of shape, he made plays throughout the season from his spot at defensive tackle. From the time he arrived, Tavai was billed as a guy who could play both inside and out, and if Martin is done, it seems like a safe bet that Tavai will stay exclusively on the edge to pick up the slack, especially when you consider that Keon Stowers, Marquel Combs and Ty McKinney all represent great options on the interior of the defensive line.
One guy you'd have to consider a sleeper here is juco transfer Tedarian Johnson, 6-2, 288.. Johnson's huge and raw and doesn't exactly look like the kind of guy who could explode off the edge the way Martin or better-known NFL pass rushers like Von Miller or Dwight Freeney can, but he's well-liked by the coaches and one of the obstacles he was going to have to overcome — getting an opportunity to play — may have just cleared up a little. Again, he's not going to be Chris Martin, but he could help fill the void.
And don't forget senior Keba Agostinho, 6-2, 277,. He may not be on the same plane as a lot of these guys in terms of talent and ability, but he has more actual game experience than all of them and has made plays at defensive end.
The bottom line is this: If Martin's done, be it for good or for a significant chunk of the season, it's a huge blow to KU. He was the kind of guy who could be a difference maker for a defense, a guy Weis said would command constant double teams, which would make life better and easier for everyone else on KU's defense.
So, with him out of the picture, things change. But there still seems to be enough talent elsewhere on KU's defense, as well as enough depth on the defensive line, to think that KU could overcome this loss. Things might not be the same or nearly as good as they could've been, but this is a team sport and, beyond that, KU has created a fantastic team environment, and I can't imagine that any of these guys — players or coaches — letting one man's mistake bring down the entire unit.
Time will tell.