Oregon State football coach Mike Riley expects any backup to be ready to fill in for the starter and not have the level of play drop.
That’s been happening over and over this season, and was the case again last Saturday night against Arizona State.
That’s when Sean Martin was called on to fill in for the Beavers’ most highly regarded player — cornerback Jordan Poyer, an NFL draft prospect who was out with a knee injury.
Martin had to be that shut-down corner who covers the opponent’s top receiver, and he lived up to expectations in his first career start.
“I expected it out of him,” Poyer said. “He’s a competitor, he’s athletic and smart. He’s been in the system as long as I have. He’s my roommate so we compete in everything we do. It was his time to shine, and he did.”
Martin registered six tackles — fifth on the team — and had a pass breakup. The big thing was he didn’t allow any big plays.
“After a game like that it’s a confidence booster,” Martin said. “In the games to come you are more prepared and ready to go.”
Poyer, who is still nursing a sprained knee from the Oct. 27 Washington game, plans to be back for Saturday’s contest at Stanford.
If Poyer can’t play this week or needs a break in the game, the Beavers are confident in Martin.
“I thought he played a solid football game,” Riley said. “It’s a difficult thing to tell Jordan Poyer to sit down, but when it was over we strengthened our team. Sean Martin got a start, we won a game and Sean Martin played solidly. It was a good thing for the Beavers.”
Martin, a junior, has played sparingly over the years. He was a special teams player his redshirt freshman season, but then injuries slowed his progress.
He underwent offseason shoulder surgery going into that season and that kept him on the sidelines early. A broken left foot in the third game ended his sophomore season.
Through all the setbacks, Martin kept focused in practice so he was ready for his chance.
“Sean is a great athlete,” linebacker Michael Doctor said. “We all saw that coming. We knew he could do it in practice. He’s been in a lot of nickel and dime packages. He did a great job.”
Martin was considered the No. 3 cornerback this season, but the chances for playing time were limited since Poyer and Rashaad Reynolds were doing so well.
Cornerback is not a position Riley likes to randomly substitute people in just to give experience.
Martin did receive some playing time early this season when the Beavers installed the nickel and dime packages.
He went in at cornerback for Poyer, who became a rover when extra defensive backs were used. That experience was crucial leading into his first start.
“The nickel was a big help to go out in key situations like third down, so starting was the same thing,” Martin said. “I felt confident going in. We watched a lot of film and practice went good that week.”
Even though Martin didn’t think much of the pressure during the week there were some nerves last Saturday as the game approached.
Martin has been productive in his role with 28 tackles, three pass breakups and two interceptions this season.
His development alleviates any worries next year when Poyer, a senior, leaves for a shot at the NFL.
“Last game was important for me to know I can make plays,” Martin said. “Every week I’ve acted like I was going to play, so when I was called I was ready.”