Martin quarterbacks diverse Vols' offense
By TIM CASEY
When Notre Dame fans glance over at the Tennessee offensive huddle on Saturday, they'll swear they're seeing a familiar face.
Leading the charge for the Volunteers' offense is quarterback Tee Martin. Standing 6-foot-3 and weighing 215 pounds, Martin may be a couple inches taller and weigh a few pounds less than Irish quarterback Jarious Jackson, but their similarities are apparent once they step on the field.
Both Martin and Jackson are in their second season as starters. Besides passing ability, they have enough speed and strength to make positive yardage out of a broken play. Both signal callers are also among the best athletes on their respective teams.
"When you first look at it, they are similar-style players," Irish head coach Bob Davie said. "They both can run and are strong and athletic. They've both been successful.
"Both of them are really good college players and both of them are physical football players," he continued. "If we were still in the era of guys playing two ways, I'd bet both those guys could do that."
One area where Martin has the clear edge over his counterpart is in victories. Taking over for Tennessee legend Peyton Manning a year ago, Martin led the Vols to a perfect 13-0 record and their first national championship since 1951. In his two years as starter, Martin has compiled a 19-1 record while Jackson is 14-6 at the helm of the Irish.
A two-time SEC player of the week this season, Martin is one of five quarterbacks nominated for the Johnny Unitas Golden Arm award, presented to the top senior quarterback in the nation.
For the season, Martin has completed 104 of 190 pass attempts (54.7 percent) for six touchdowns along with eight interceptions. The Vols third leading rusher, Martin has gained 151 yards and scored six touchdowns on the ground.
Martin spreads the ball around to all his recievers. Fifteen different receivers have caught at least one pass this season.
Davie is primarily concerned with Tennessee's team speed.
"You may not appreciate just how athletic they are until you watch them on tape," Davie said. "I can't imagine there is another team in this country that has a better just overall team speed than they do."
In order to combat Martin and company, the Irish defense must play as well as they have all year. Defensive coordinator Greg Mattison considers Tennessee as the defense's toughest challenge of the season.
"They'll be the best football team we've played thus far," Mattison said. "They've got great team speed. They've got a great offense and big offensive line. This will be our biggest test but we look forward to it."
Mattison feels his defense will be ready under the lights in Knoxville.
"You can see the gleam in their eye," Mattison said. "They're excited. They've been waiting for this one."
All Sports Stories for Friday, November 5, 1999