A former Georgia defensive coordinator and most recently the secondary coach at Oklahoma, Willie Martinez is a guy who has plenty of experience coaching the position and he said the Tigers are making some progress in the new defense so far.
"Obviously, it's a lot for them," Martinez said. "They're eager to learn, more and more and more. There's inconsistencies which are going on, which we kind of expected that. We're really in a developmental stage of the package, trying to get a feel for what's the right spot for guys. There's really good competition going on out there."
One of the keys to any defense is having strong communication from the linebackers, secondary, and front four. Martinez said that's something that takes some time in a new defense because of uncertainty, but he has seen some progression since the first day.
"There's a lot of communication that they've got to be on top of their game, whether the particular call that we're making in getting that echoed to our defense, particuarly the safeties, who are like quarterbacks on our defense," Martinez said. "They've got to make a lot of calls. Still getting used to that, being vocal, being confident in what they're doing."
Several players have caught the eye of the coaching staff this spring in the secondary with sophomores Jermaine Whitehead and Robenson Therezie among that group. Martinez said both have done some good things so far with Therezie taking a big step forward working with the first team at corner.
"Jermaine is a smart player," Martinez said. "We feel very good about his progress. He's a guy that can make calls. That's been very positive. To be able to play nickel and safety in our system is pretty good.
"He's doing good," he added of Therezie. "You can see the eighth practice here, you can see him feeling more comfortable in what he's supposed to do. He made a couple of plays, which was very encouraging, with the ball in the air. Had an unbelievable interception in a red zone period we had. That was really good to see."
Among the veterans Chris Davis is expected to take on a bigger role as a leader in the secondary. Coming off a fantastic performance in the bowl win over Virginia, Davis has carried that over into the spring and has impressed his new coach.
"Chris has got a lot of ability," Martinez said. "He's a physical player. He's really got all the skill sets that you look for in a corner. He changes speed and has good feet and ball speed. He's a smart player. Chris has had a lot of success here, so we're kind of leaning on him to be a leader."
With less than ha;f of the spring practices left to add to their knowledge of the defense, the Tigers will continue to work towards the A-Day game on April 14 with a scrimmage on Saturday. Martinez said every chance they have to get on the field this spring is something that will make a difference next fall, but everything the guys can do on their own this summer will mean a big change in the defense this fall.
"Each day is hearing it over and over again, whether it's the 20th or 30th or 40th time, a certain call," Martinez said. "You've got the summer time where there's a chance to spend time together in the offseason workouts. And then when you come back in the fall camp you can already see it's processing in a very positive manner. You can see them executing better."