With a lack of backfield depth, new coach Greg Schiano quickly realized the Tampa Bay Buccaneers required new talent to run his preferred traditional offense in 2012. Trading into the tail end of the 1st round, the club selected running back Doug Martin of Boise State University with the 31st overall pick of this year's NFL draft. Martin has made a strong impression during the initial days of training camp and some have already compared him to all-pro Matt Forte of the Chicago Bears. Here is a closer look at the Bucs' new runner.
High School: Born in Oakland, Doug Martin did not play football until high school and still remains largely uninformed on the history of the game. Preferring basketball, upon starting high school in nearby Stockton, coaches soon recognized his potential on the gridiron due to natural elusiveness. By his junior year of 2005, Martin emerged as one of the region's top prospects, after leading the Tri-City Athletic League in yards per game for St. Mary's High School. Nevertheless, one scouting service only rated Martin as the 18th best running back in the talent-rich state. Like many recent players from California, Martin joined Chris Peterson's upstart Boise State football program and enjoyed a stellar college career that exceeded expectations.
Boise State: Red-shirting upon entry, Martin immediately displayed hustle in being named Boise State Offensive Scout Team Player of the Year in 2007. The honor helped him work his way onto the field in 2008, where he learned under Heisman contender Ian Johnson and played primarily on special teams. Despite Johnson's departure, Martin surprisingly moved to the defensive side of the field in 2008 and actually played 3 games as a safety, posting 7 tackles and 1 forced fumble. Due to injury, the versatile player returned to offense and never looked back. He capped a breakout 15 TD season by netting the winning score in the 2010 Fiesta Bowl. Martin then served as the Broncos' primary backfield option for his final 2 seasons and rushed for a combined 2,559 yards and 28 touchdowns in 2010-11.
Draft Profile: Nicknamed the "Muscle Hamster" for a smallish 5'9" height, chiseled 225 pound frame, and chubby cheeks, Martin was the second running back selected in the 2012 draft, behind only 3rd overall pick Trent Richardson. Much like new teammate LeGarrette Blount, the 23 year-old back is not known for explosive speed. He posted an ordinary 4.55 time in the 40 yard dash at the NFL draft combine. Yet, while Blount is limited to a bull-rush style, Martin possesses both power and an elusive ability to run around tackles. The Boise State product was not only top overall performer by position in the combine's bench press, but also posted 2nd best times for the challenging 3 cone drill and 60 yard shuffle. With an emphasis on traditional run blocking, Martin has all the tools to be an effective rusher in Schiano's system.
Bucs Outlook: Doug Martin has an excellent chance of becoming the Bucs' featured running back. Any new coach is likely to favor a personal selection, rather than the inherited asset of the prior administration, and the Bucs have already financially committed to Martin with a 5 year, $6.78 million contract. Since a single back system rarely thrives in the modern NFL, expect Blount still to be given every chance to succeed. Yet, the tendency in the former University of Oregon running back to fumble and his struggles with pass protection might give the new guy a permanent edge. In contrast, Martin has been widely praised as an all-around back. He runs effectively on the ground, excels in the passing game, and can assist on special teams. Always yearning for those elusive game-changing players, fans will enjoy rooting for the "Muscle Hamster" in 2012.
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Jeff Briscoe is a writer who covers sports for the Yahoo! Contributor Network. A loyal Tampa Bay Bucs fan, he co-hosts the Florida-based radio show, The Sports Train.