Lions possess playmaker on defense and special teams

Sophomore cornerback Philbert Martial (right) looks for running room after fielding a kickoff against Mississippi College Sept. 13. Martial established himself as a shutdown corner and dangerous return man for the Lions.

A shutdown corner on defense and a dangerous return man on special teams is rare, but the Lions are fortunate to have both in sophomore Philbert Martial.

Martial has helped lead the Lions to No. 1 in total defense and pass defense in the Gulf South Conference. The Mobile native is tied for the team league in interceptions with three.

Martial has returned the three picks into 136 yards and a touchdown.

“I think he is the best corner in the conference,” said defensive coordinator Chris Willis. “I also think he might be our best player on defense. The one thing about him he is going to be on you. You have to make a great catch because he is not going to leave you wide open.”

Last year Martial was named GSC Defensive Freshman of the Year and received the UNA Special Teams MVP award.

Head coach Bobby Wallace said Martial is the best defender he has coached at the position and also the best return man he has coached.

“The biggest thing that stood out to us when we recruited him out of high school was his punt return and kick return ability,” he said.

Martial is No. 3 in the GSC in punt return average with 10.2 yards a return. He also returned eight kickoffs for 166 yards.

Marital said he plays similar to Arizona Cardinals defensive back Tyrann Mathieu, a player who made a name for himself as a corner and return man at LSU.

“He is a ball hawk, he returns and he can play safety or corner,” he said. “I pattern my game after him.”

Fellow sophomore cornerback Levi Fell said they both use their skill set to complement each other on the field.

“He is really smart. We help each other with film and we make sure we see the same routes,” he said.“We even the field out.”