August 22, 2011

Lofty Goals: 'We want a national championship'

In the long, hot days of August, plenty of talking is done by the fans on which player, or players, will be the big focal point on either side of the ball.

On the defensive squad, that name is Markelle Martin. Oklahoma State fans are looking for him to be a difference-maker for the Cowboys, which will go into the 2011 campaign as the No. 9 team in both the AP and Coaches polls.

Martin's response to the pre-season buzz? With an aww-shucks demeanor and quiet voice, he replies by saying he doesn't go for all the outspoken stuff and just wants to be a leader.

"I just kind of like hitting and showing up and making plays."

And so it is with Martin, a 6-1, 198-pound senior out of Wichita Falls (Rider), Texas. He had a big season in 2010, posting 55 tackles (47 unassisted) and three interceptions, one of those returned 62 yards for a score against Arizona in the Alamo Bowl.

That game capped off an 11-win season for the Pokes, the most ever. Between that and the high pre-season rankings, the Cowboys are in the national conversation this year.

Martin knows it.

And Martin is totally comfortable with that.

After all, his goals for the season are aiming at the exosphere.

"They're pretty high," Martin said. "We're talking BCS. We want to go undefeated. They're set pretty high - we want a national championship."

To meet those lofty goals, Martin and his teammates will have to improve on last year's 88th ranking in total defense. But he says he can already see changes with the Cowpuncher defenders - both in play and mindset.

"The turnovers and physicality of the defense," said Martin of what he expects to see improved on defense this season. "I really think we've become more of a physical team. We're more aggressive and more physical."

In a high-octane, pass-happy league such as the Big 12, showing more aggressiveness on D is important. After all, defense wins championships. The safety said he feels the defense has only improved overall during his time in Stillwater.

"I think it's made a lot of changes," he said. "When I first got here it was different for us. But each year we've made those strides. We forced a lot of turnovers last year. We've done a lot. We held teams to below the average of what they were normally doing and people don't see that because they were putting up 700, 800 yards a game but we're holding them below average. We're holding some of these receivers under 100 yards. For us, we'd like to do better, but at the same time, we understand that we are making strides and getting better week in and week out."

Martin and Co. will have their chance to prove themselves this fall and a big jump could mean big things for OSU on the national scene. But as the season draws closer, Martin is just excited about football.

"Just getting out there and having fun," he says. "I'm excited for some of the young guys. Justin Gilbert out there, just to have a chance to play with him week in and week out. Getting out there and hitting people and just having fun."

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