Originally created 08/21/05

Martinez gets chance at Georgia



ATHENS, Ga. - When Mark Richt had to look for a new defensive coordinator in January, he didn't stage a national or even regional search.

Richt already had taken care of that four years earlier when he put together his first staff at Georgia.

Richt's choice to head the defense was so obvious that he immediately named Willie Martinez at the same time it was announced that Brian VanGorder was leaving the Bulldogs to take a job with the NFL's Jacksonville Jaguars.

Martinez was a candidate for defensive coordinator in 2001.

"It just as easily could have been him four years ago," Richt said. "Now, it's his time."

Martinez is adding his style to the defense. The scheme isn't changing, but his players say they will be on the attack more as Martinez seeks an increase in turnovers forced by the unit.

The defense had only five interceptions in 2004.

"That has been the number one thing we have stressed this fall," Martinez said. "You can't play defense if you don't get turnovers."

Even though the defense has lost such standouts as end David Pollack, linebacker Odell Thurman and safety Thomas Davis, the goal in 2005 is to increase the pressure and force more turnovers. The Bulldogs are ranked No. 13 in the Associated Press preseason poll released Saturday.

"I look for more intensity with coach Martinez," said senior cornerback Tim Jennings. "There will be a lot of pressure from the cornerbacks, a lot of man (coverage). A lot of enthusiasm. We've still got the same scheme. You'll probably see more aggressiveness on the outside, a lot of pressing on the outside. We want to make them try to throw the ball to the outside."

Martinez, 42, played with Richt at Miami and worked with VanGorder at both Central Florida and Central Michigan. He was Central Florida's defensive coordinator in 1995-96.

As Georgia's secondary coach the past four years, Martinez has sent Davis, Sean Jones, Bruce Thornton, Terreal Bierria, Jermaine Phillips and Tim Wansley to the NFL.

Now, as he prepares for Georgia's Sept. 3 season opener against No. 18 Boise State, Martinez took a break to send a playful dig to his buddy VanGorder in the NFL.

Asked how he is different than VanGorder, Martinez said: "He's overweight. He's got wiry hair. He's louder than I am. He's fatter than I am. Make sure that all gets to Jacksonville."

Martinez said he was influenced by VanGorder but will have his own style.

"There's always stuff that rubs off on you," he said. "Our philosophies are similar, but we're two different style guys."