ATHENS, Ga. — Before Georgia and Tennessee tangle at Neyland Stadium on Saturday, quarterback Zac Jancek and defensive back/receiver Will Martinez will play Friday night at home for Knoxville Catholic High.
Zac is the son of Tennessee defensive coordinator John Jancek. Will is the son of Volunteers defensive backs coach Willie Martinez.
Their fathers’ current team will play Georgia, the coaches’ former team, on Saturday.
There are few Georgia players still on the Bulldogs’ roster from Martinez and Jancek’s last season at Georgia in 2009, but ties, of course, remain on the coaching staff.
Jancek said he speaks to Georgia offensive coordinator Mike Bobo every now and then.
Wives Kelly Jancek and Lainie Bobo remain close. Kelly Jancek is the godmother of Kate Bobo, Mike and Lainie’s 6-year old daughter.
The approach on both sides this week, however, is more professional than personal.
“Obviously, we know we’re facing a great opponent,” Jancek said. “They’ve got great players and great coaches and a tremendous opportunity to see where we’re at as a program and as a defense. It’s about competition, it’s about going out and competing against an opponent no matter who they are. As a competitor, you want to win every game you play.”
Georgia and Bobo won resoundingly in his first matchup against former Georgia defensive assistants last November when the Bulldogs throttled Auburn, 38-0. The Bulldogs jumped out to a four touchdown first-half lead and finished with 497 total yards against a defense with former Georgia defensive coordinator Brian VanGorder as coordinator and Martinez as secondary coach.
They were out of jobs when Auburn fired Gene Chizik. VanGorder is now with the New York Jets and Martinez landed with Jancek.
“He was the first guy I called,” Jancek said of Martinez, who coached at Oklahoma for two seasons after Georgia.
Martinez and Bobo were hired on coach Mark Richt’s original coaching staff in 2001 and Jancek came aboard as linebackers coach in 2005.
That’s when Martinez, the secondary coach, was promoted to defensive coordinator, a position he held for five seasons until Richt fired Martinez, Jancek and defensive ends coach Jon Fabris after the 2009 regular season ended with a 7-5 record.
“There’s a lot of similarities with what they’re doing to what they did when they were here,” said Bobo, who also stays in contact with Martinez. “They’re lining up trying to get the guys to play hard, being opportunistic on the defense and that’s kind of been their trademark always all the way back to days of VanGorder and when them two were here. Guys were going to line up, they were going to play in good football position, they’re going to try and hit you and create turnovers. It’s going to be fun.”
Jancek was hired by Butch Jones at Cincinnati soon after departing Georgia and followed him to Tennessee, where he’s in charge of its 4-3 defense. The two first knew each other working at rival Division II colleges in Michigan in the mid-1990s when Jancek was at Hillsdale College and Jones at Ferris State and worked together at Central Michigan and remained friends.
“I liked the way he coached the fine details, the fundamentals,” Jones told reporters after practice Tuesday. “You kind of have a coaching tree. Whether it’s coach Martinez or him, it stems to Brian VanGorder who was also the defensive coordinator at Georgia. I’ve known those individuals forever.”
Jancek took over a defense that gave up a school-record worst 471 yards per game last season. The Volunteers are allowing 58 fewer yards per game this year.
“We’re a work in progress,” he said. “I think we’ve shown tremendous improvement from last year to this year from spring ball to the fall. We’re getting better each and every week.”
Martinez was teammates with Richt when they played at Miami.
“I enjoy seeing those guys,” Richt said. “I like them very much and I consider them good friends, but we go compete. We’re looking at tape, we’re not looking at coaches’ pictures in the media guide.”
Said Georgia receivers coach Tony Ball: “It’s been what, four years since they’ve been here? You’ve got to think people grow, people continue to grow professionally and schematically, so you have to study that and that’s what we do.”
Bobo said he’s tried to treat this like another game and not overthink it.
“You catch yourself chasing a lot of ghosts,” Bobo said. “‘I remember they played this team. They did this.’ You’re going to mention some of those things to your guys, but you’re not going to go crazy trying to figure out exactly what blitz or what play they’re going to line up to heavy formation. .. If you get them overthinking and think they see too much, they can’t play fast.”