SOUTH BEND, Ind. -- During a press conference Monday, Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly was asked if he had any reservations about potentially playing two first-time starters next to each other on the offensive line this fall.
It threw him for a loop, because in Kelly's mind, Nick Martin doesn't come off as someone lacking experience.
"He doesn't seem like a first-year starter," Kelly said. "Just the way he handles himself, it just seems like he's been in there for a couple years. It's very impressive."
Martin has emerged over the last few months as Notre Dame's No. 1 center, the guy who can replace a steady 35-game starter in Braxston Cave. But Notre Dame views Martin as more than just Cave's replacement and the younger brother of left tackle Zack Martin -- he's made a name for himself in practice squaring off against Louis Nix.
"Being able to go against I think the best nose guard in the country, it's only going to make you better," Martin said. "Louis, he comes to the ball really hard, he's quick, a bigger guy. So going against him is going to get me better and I'm all for that."
Going up against Nix, a projected first-round draft pick, has challenged Martin to have near-perfect technique on every rep he takes. Kelly's seen Martin hold his own against Nix, an accomplishment plenty of interior linemen couldn't reach last fall.
Martin was shuffled between positions along the offensive line during his first few years on campus, and said his knowledge of the requirements of each position has helped him transition to playing center. He separated himself from the pack rather quickly, and Kelly expects him to be a steady presence there this fall.
"Knows the offense very well, he's not a guy that makes mistakes, extremely conscientious, very fit, could play every play and he plays to the echo of the whistle," Kelly lauded. "Just a very mature kid."
And if there's an auxiliary benefit to Martin playing center, it's that it'll fulfill his brother's wish to play on the same line as him. When Zack Martin decided to pass on the NFL Draft and return to Notre Dame for a fifth year, one of the reasons he cited was a desire to play with his little brother.
Nick Martin referred to it as "surreal," while the brothers' teammates see having a pair of Martins on the offensive line as a unique luxury.
"Definitely," offensive lineman Christian Lombard laughed. "That's a nice lineage of offensive linemen."