Wes Martin doesn't talk much. He never really had to.
For the better part of the last three years, Martin was the promising youngster amongst proven veterans on the offensive line. He left it to the likes of All-Americans Dan Feeney and Jason Spriggs to speak. He'd sit back and listen.
Now a redshirt junior and a near-lock to start at left guard throughout the 2017 season, Martin can't sit back any longer. The 6-foot-3, 310-pound standout is the elder statesman of a room without a senior that's still looking for a voice.
"It's kind of a weird transition I'm still getting accustomed to," Martin said Thursday. "I still need to get better at it."
Martin's track record speaks for itself. He has 19 starts and 26 appearances to his credit already on an offensive line that's consistently stood as one of the best in the Big Ten.
He started all 13 games at right guard last season but said he's at home in his more natural left guard spot now. But as the offense looks to replace graduated seniors Jacob Bailey, Dimitric Camiel, Feeney and Wes Rogers, Martin will have to find a way to replace the production they gave as leaders on and off the field.
That means talking.
And that's a work in progress.
"Wes is a guy that just naturally is not a big talker," offensive line coach Darren Hiller said. "He's not a vocal guy. Now he goes out there, he works his butt off in the weight room, he works his butt off out there on the practice field. I've got no problem with that."
But that vocal piece. What about that?
"He's learning," Hiller said.
Martin prefers to lead by example. He puts his head down and goes to work and expects his teammates to do the same.
And there's nothing wrong with that, Hiller said. That's a valuable piece to what he's trying to get out of Martin as he takes over the control in the offensive line room from the departed Greg Frey, who left IU for Michigan.
If you can't lead by example, being a vocal leader becomes harder, Martin said.
That works the other way, too.
"I don't think there's such thing as just a lead by example guy," Martin said. "You've got to talk at some point. That's something I need to keep getting better at is being more vocal. You can't be a leader and just lead by example. You've got to bring guys along by talking to them."
Martin admits to shifting a good portion of his spring practice focus on getting younger guys up to speed while sharpening up some of his own skills. At this point, being as well-versed in football as he is, Martin is just trying to get back into the rhythm of his blocks.
Redshirt sophomore Simon Stepaniak and redshirt freshman Mackenzie Nworah are two guys who are jumping out early in spring practice, Martin said. But the overarching theme on the offensive line is guys still looking to become more consistent with playing time on the line.
Part of gaining that rhythm and tempo starts with Martin. As he leads, others will follow.
He just has to get used to it.
"He's a tough guy," Hiller said. "He's played a lot of snaps. He understands football. I've got no problems with what he's doing right now."
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