It’s far from a normal school day at McDonogh 35 High School in New Orleans. A large crowd gathers in the school’s media room, the Roneagle football team gets a break from class and LSU, TCU and Alabama fans across the country are waiting with anticipation, all for the same reason — Sci Martin is finally deciding where he’ll play college football.
The room erupts with cheers and a few chants of “Geaux Tigers!” as the school’s star senior defensive end pulls out a purple and gold jacket from underneath the table in front of his seat and announces that he’s headed for Baton Rouge.
The indirect cousin of LSU superstar running back Leonard Fournette delayed his decision almost six weeks after national signing day as his mother dealt with an illness.
Martin totaled 61 tackles, 33.5 sacks, five forced fumbles and four fumble recoveries as a senior in 2015. His signature bolsters an already strong LSU recruiting class that features a record 19 ESPN 300 recruits.
Although Martin wasn’t the record breaking 20th ESPN 300 recruit of LSU’s class, he has an uncanny ability as an edge rusher, which he showcased during his senior year. Martin has drawn comparisons to former LSU defensive end, and current Cleveland Brown, Barkevious Mingo, who also didn’t make ESPN’s list of high-school elites.
Martin said his previous relationship with LSU’s coaching staff was the deciding factor. “I have a good relationship with coach (Jabbar) Juluke and coach (Ed) Orgeron and coach Dave (Aranda),” Martin said. “I believe we are going to win a championship in the future. The (No. 3) recruiting class also helped me want to be part of this team.”
All of those coaches weren’t even recruiting Martin during the majority of his high school tenure. Orgeron is headed for his second year with LSU while Juluke and Aranda are still yet to coach their first game at Tiger Stadium.
Still, Martin heard enough from them as well as head coach Les Miles to pick the Tigers over Alabama, who he admitted was his second choice after the ceremony. “Coach O was huge,” Sci Martin Sr. said. “That was one of the main parts that got him over there. He knows defense and can get guys to the NFL. He was a big part of getting Sci to LSU.”
It was a great day for the elder Sci Martin. His family and friends teased him for never smiling as a montage featuring his son and his team’s accolades played on the media room’s projector. Martin Sr. still wasn’t smiling after the ceremony, but his words told a different story.
“That’s what we worked on all his life, since he was four years old,” Martin Sr. said. “Playing in Tiger Stadium baby.”
Martin will join a veteran defense returning eight starters, including junior safety Jamal Adams, senior linebacker Kendell Beckwith and senior cornerback Tre’Davious White. Although LSU’s defensive line is bringing back key pieces like sophomore Arden Key and junior Davon Godchaux, Martin could realistically see significant playing time as a freshman in a pass-rushing linebacker role. The graduation of linebacker Deion Jones will help Martin in that regard, and his arrival will help the Tigers in filing an area of need.
Aranda was also an integral part of Martin’s recruitment, as he saw himself fit well in the first-year defensive coordinator’s 3-4 scheme. Martin said the Tigers will utilize him as an outside linebacker in their base 3-4 formation, but he will play with his hand on the ground as a traditional defensive end in certain packages.
“He was big,” Martin said. “(Aranda’s system) helps me show my skill, which is pass rushing. The 3-4 defense he’s going to install will help me become a better rusher. It works off the edge better.”
Martin verbally committed to both Tulane and TCU in June and December of last year, respectively. During that time, Auburn defensive coordinator Kevin Steele was LSU’s headman on defense.
Aside from Martin, Aranda’s hiring and track record has Tiger fans excited after he was hired earlier this year.
Aranda’s Wisconsin badgers were first in the country in scoring defense in 2015, giving up just 13.1 points per game. They were also third in passing defense, giving up 268 yards per game and fourth in rushing defense with an average of 95.4 yards.
Armed with eight returning starters and a crop of young talent, including Martin, from the nation’s number three recruiting class, the bar is set high for LSU’s defense in 2016.
“He was an integral part,” Martin Sr. said of Aranda. “When we went up there, he showed him where he was going to be on defense. He showed his schemes, and Sci loved everything about him.”
Martin did not enroll early and will finish his senior year of high school before joining the team over the summer. His goals between now and then are pretty straight forward.
“Getting better,” Martin said. “That’s all to it. Maintaining my skills, and getting bigger.”