Kareem Martin enters his senior season at UNC followed by lots of expectations. Kareem has had to live up to many talented defensive lineman from UNC in the past years, including current Chicago Bear Julius Peppers. Peppers showcased his talents in Chapel Hill from 1998-2001, when Martin was just entering middle school and ranked 2nd in UNC school history with 30.5 sacks. Martin can learn a lot from Peppers, and how his work ethic and talent set led him to a very successful NFL career. Although it is hard to produce the way Peppers did, and a comparison would be unfairly placed on Martin, Peppers does offer a blueprint for Martin on succeeding both at UNC and in the pros.
Kareem went to high school in Roanoke Rapids, twice helping lead them to an undefeated season. Martin entered Chapel Hill rated the 34th best defensive end in the country by Scout.com, and started his first career game at UNC in the Georgia Dome versus LSU. He played in 11 games his freshman season, recording a season high 5 tackles against Georgia Tech. Martin would continue to improve over his sophomore season, starting all 13 games for the Heels at defensive end. He would finish that season with 40 tackles and 4 sacks, including 7 tackles in a game against Georgia Tech. Martin continued the strong play last fall, getting a second team All-ACC selection and recording 15.5 tackles for loss.
The defensive line looks to be a strong point on defensive this season, even with the loss of starters. Playing on the other end of the line this season will be sophomore Shakeel Rashad, who showed promise as a pash rusher last season. Tim Jackson and Shawn Underwood should provide a strong defensive presence from the tackle position. The line will have to play well to open up holes in the defense for the young linebacking core, while also pressuring the passer on the ends to give the secondary a better shot at defending the pass. The defense should be much improved in Coach Fedora’s second season and it starts with Martin and the defensive line.
Martin is expected to pick up the slack left over after Sylvester Williams was drafted into the NFL. After Martin’s performance in the spring game, UNC fans should be hopeful that he can do just that. He had four sacks in the Spring game, an impressive number even in an inter-squad scrimmage. Anchoring the defensive line along with being a senior leader on UNC’s 2013 football squad will be a challenge. But we can still expect big things from 6’6″ senior Kareem Martin.