Missed chances motivate Markelle Martin

Markelle Martin sees a lot of good from 2009. So do his coaches. His career day to close the season, a nine-tackle, one pass break-up crescendo from an impressive sophomore campaign, tops the list.

But Martin sees a lot of missed opportunity in his 11 pass break-ups on the year. Oklahoma State obviously never led in its 27-0 Bedlam loss to Oklahoma, but Martin thinks they should have. Trailing 3-0 in the second quarter, quarterback Landry Jones' pass to the flats was tipped and Martin stepped in. But what should have been seven points and a 7-3 Cowboys lead in Norman resulted in just a wasted down. Martin went on to finish the season without an interception.

"That could have changed the game -- the momentum from that play," Martin said.

Instead, Oklahoma finished that drive with a touchdown to take a 10-0 lead.

This year, he wants to turn those pass break-ups into turnovers, make those plays and snatch that momentum.

"I focused a lot over the summer on ball drills and my hand-eye coordination," Martin said. "We do a lot of ball drills now with [safeties] coach [Joe] DeForest, just attacking the ball."

Having a more complete knowledge of the Cowboys defense is helping Martin chase the coveted tag of "ballhawk." He has defensive coordinator Bill Young to thank for that. Young, an Oklahoma State alum, brought his feared defense to Stillwater before the 2009 season. In 2007, Young helped Kansas win the Orange Bowl and the Jayhawks finished the year with the fourth best defense in the country.

"I've made a lot of strides with coach Young. You have to be patient and you have to actually learn the defense from the outside in," Martin said. "I know the responsibilities of the corners, the linebackers, the D-line. It made mature a lot more and make me more responsible for the players around me."

The Cowboys jumped from eighth to fourth in total defense under Young in Year 1. Martin was one of the reasons why. They'll try to climb higher, past top defenses from Texas, Nebraska and Oklahoma in Year 2.

If they do, Martin should once again earn plenty of credit.

"We think he's going to be a really special player," Young said. "We've got two or three guys like him, and in the secondary, he's really the ringleader of that group."

Martin's already one of the team's hardest hitters. He'll try to become one of its biggest playmakers in his second time around as starter.

"We've only had one scrimmage, but certainly in the time we've seen him this fall, he looks like an improved player," Young said. "He looks bigger, he looks stronger, he looks faster, and certainly more experienced."