MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – WVU defensive end Sean Martin is following the old-school route up the defensive depth chart.

In his freshman season, Martin filled in on special teams, and then he eventually became a depth piece along the defensive line as a sophomore. Last year, as a junior, he finally cracked the two-deep, starting eight out of 12 games with 1.5 tackles for loss.

His teammates say that his leap from year three to year four could be even better.

“[He] gets in the backfield fast,” linebacker Lee Kpogba said. “[His] pass-rush is crazy. He’s been making a lot of plays in the backfield.”

Martin knows that his strengths present themselves while stopping the opposition’s run-game. If he wants to match the production of recently departed Dante Stills, his sack total will have to increase, even with Kpogba’s praise.

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“I’m getting better at pass-rush, [but] that’s something that I really have to work on this season,” Martin said. “We have to get back there this year, we have to.”

Kpogba is already seeing the improvement from the Bluefield, West Virginia, native. He sees him in the weight room and in the facility at times when nobody else on the program is in sight, and the results show.

“Sean’s always in the weight room. Sean’s always in the building. [When] nobody else is in the weight room, you’ll see Sean doing something, just trying to take care of his body, rehabbing and whatnot. I mean, he’s a great player. I’ve seen him, [just] this spring, I’ve seen him do some crazy things.”

Martin was a Class AA state champion at Bluefield High School where he garnered three-star prospect status after a First-Team All-State selection as a junior. As a senior, he recorded eight sacks and four forced fumbles. By the time his senior season concluded, ESPN and Rivals both tabbed him as the No. 1 prospect in West Virginia, while 247Sports placed him at No. 2.

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He was named to Phil Steele’s Preseason All-Big 12 fourth team along with seven other Mountaineers, but the Big 12 Preseason Poll predicted that WVU will finish last (14th) in the Big 12 this fall. Like many of his teammates and coaches, Martin is taking it personally.

“I feel like we’re very disrespected right now,” he said. “We just have to prove everybody wrong and show them what we about.”

He will get his largest sample size yet to prove the doubters wrong. For the first time in his collegiate career, he will start on opening night when the Mountaineers travel to Penn State.

“He’s a dog,” Kpogba said. “…You can just tell it’s going to be a big year for him.”