"Playing Together" Key, Secondary Coach Says

Auburn's defensive back coach, Willie Martinez, discusses a variety of subjects as he settles into his new assignment.

Auburn, Ala.--New Auburn assistant football coach Willie Martinez said that developing consistency in the secondary is what he is looking for as a member of Gene Chizik's staff.

"We want a group that is going to be very consistent in how they prepare every day--knowing what they are supposed to do and executing it," he said.

"We want them to be very detailed," he said of the safeties and cornerbacks he is coaching, adding he wants to be sure every player has a complete understanding of how he fits into the secondary and the defense as a whole.

"They have got to work together," Martinez said. "I want them to start fast and finish fast. You will hear that a lot through me and through the players."

Martinez, who coached defensive backs at Oklahoma the past two years, reunited with new Auburn defensive coordinator Brian VanGorder in February. Auburn is the fourth college the two coaches have worked together.

With Martinez on staff he replaces Phillip Lolley, who is now in an administrative role. Tommy Thigpen, who has coached safeties the past three seasons for the Tigers, is coaching linebackers this year.

Asked about coaching both the corners and safeties, Martinez said, "There is a comfort level doing that. That is what I have always done."

Auburn's players are going through winter conditioning workouts and they are expected to begin spring drills on March 21st.

"The number one job in the secondary is to not give up the explosive plays," Martinez said of what he will be teaching his players. "With that you have to be very consistent in how you prepare every day. Every detail in a coverage or a defense is very important. Just do what you are supposed to do. Don't do more than what you have to do.

"They have to play together," he added. "They have to be a unit and that means both on and off the field. Whether you are on the field, or in the weight room, it has got to be something where they are pushing each other.

"You can't leave one guy by himself. If somebody isn't getting it right, you have got to get it right. If one guy out there in the secondary makes a mistake, we all make a mistake....Having that mentality of being a team guy in the secondary is so important in the secondary."

Martinez has studied video of Auburn's 2011 games and has been doing one-on-one meetings with the defensive backs. He said it is important to get to know each player's personality.

"You treat them all fair, but you don't treat them all the same," he said. "Trying to figure out what buttons to push has been my job since coming here and it will always be to help us in some form or fashion to be successful, and it is not just football. Why they are here is to get a degree...We want young men to be productive in society. The kids come from all different type of backgrounds and have different things going on in their lives."

Martinez said there is a possibility of a position change or two in the secondary. The most likely moves he said would be moving someone from free safety to strong safety or vice versa, or moving someone from the nickel back role to cornerback, but added he is not sure if there will be need to be any changes. "I really don't know that," he said. "There have been pretty smart coaches around here for a long time."

The new Auburn assistant said he thought it was important to watch video of the secondary in action last fall. "I did that for the reasons trying to match up names and get a feel for the positions they played. That is one of the first things I did so I could get familiarized with the kids."

He said that he is going to reserve judgment on his new players until he has hands on experience with them on the practice field. "I want to go through spring ball, I want to go through the offseason stuff. A lot of time just watching film doesn't tell you the whole story and really not knowing what the game plans were all about and schematically what they were doing."

Martinez said he is starting to get a feel for the defensive backs at winter workouts. "We are seeing a little bit of that going through the offseason conditioning seeing how guys compete against each other and how they react," he pointed out.

Martinez coached at the University of Oklahoma in the Big 12 the past two seasons.

One of the draws to returning to the SEC was coaching again with VanGorder, Martinez said. He noted that he is very familiar with the coordinator, but said that like Thigpen and Mike Pelton, the other defensive coaches, they are all learning terminology together because what VanGorder is doing now after five years in the NFL is different than what he was doing as a coordinator at Georgia.

"The great thing about it is I know what to expect ahead of time because we have worked together, but the scheme is totally different than what we worked before with terminology...The verbiage is all different. We are just trying to be on the same page. That is what has got to happen right now and we are all trying to learn that with Tommy and Mike."

Martinez added that the transition has been going smoothly. "That has been great. First class. The first thing I noticed here from Coach Chizik all the way down the entire staff, the support staff, is it is all first class."

Commenting on VanGorder's style as a coach, Martinez said, "From the beginning he was very detailed, an excellent teacher, very consistent, there is no gray area. Those are very positive things in this game. You see the consistency. He has a plan. Obviously, he is a great motivator. He has the intensity--all the things you need to be successful in this game."

Martinez noted that he was familiar with Auburn football from his time in the SEC at Georgia. "We had some really great games," he said.

"The SEC is competitive every week from top to bottom. I understand that. Regardless of who it is there are so many rivalries. Everybody really knows everybody. You are recruiting the same kind of kids. The kids you got and the kids who went somewhere else you know their personalities. That is what makes this conference so unique and great. On any given Saturday you have to strap it up.

"Just watching the film from last year, one thing that hasn't changed is the physical part of offenses in this league running the football. Obviously, on defense you want to be able to stop the run. That will always be the first and foremost thing."

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