Martinez discusses Spring Football

ATHENS – Georgia Defensive Coordinator Willie Martinez discussed the Bulldogs' upcoming spring practices with Dean Legge.

Dean Legge: How do you get ready to replace guys like Tim Jennings, Greg Blue and others?

Willie Martinez: You start by evaluating players during the bowl season. They were not playing in the games. We've got guys that have been practicing and getting ready and you have to evaluate that. Guys like Bryan Evans, or Ramarcus Brown, Mikey Henderson, Thomas Flowers, Donavon Baldwin and C.J. Byrd – you see them and see what they are going every day. You look and see the major improvement in those guys, and in the guys that have not been playing a lot. You can say: "This guy has a chance to be better and stronger."

Bryan Evans has said that there are certain guys that have certain techniques that are better than others. He has said that he wants to work on his technique and get out there and play more. Is that what spring is all about – you've got individuals that are trying to address individual things.

There is not doubt that you have to be very good at fundamentals, but we are going to play the best players. There are guys that have poor technique, but they just seem to make plays every time they are out there. Jennings is someone that you know well, and is a great example. His fundamentals need to get better, but since the day that he got the opportunity to play he was making plays. So, we found a way to make sure that Tim was going to play. You have to know the scheme – you have to know the scheme and players' fundamentals have to come along – and you have to know the system. You also have to make plays. You can be a great fundamentalist, and not know the defense and not be a productive player. The number one thing is that you have to be a guy that is productive. You have to be productive. We've had that. We've had guys that have been inconsistent – and I am talking about the guys that have not played right now – You've got guys that are consistent and you've got guys that are inconsistent. Every time they go out there – C.J. Byrd plays all over the place when he gets there in scrimmages…

He's very aggressive it seems…

Right. Smart player – very athletic. It's really up to the player because the first team guys are going to get the same reps. The second team guys get more work in the spring and in early bowl practices. That's where I have seen strides in players like Bryan Evans, Ramarcus Brown and C.J. Byrd.

Let me ask you about the defensive line – how do you go about looking at those guys? Coach Garner has said that some guys need to step up now. What is the spring going to be like for those guys?

It's a two-fold thing because we have some guys that are not going to be in spring because of injury – surgeries and stuff. We are thin there – very thin. I think Ricardo Crawford will help.

Crawford will immediately get a look because of the situation you are in personnel-wise on the line…

Any time you come in early it's a major advantage for you. If you are talented enough – and we think they are all talented enough – if they have the right maturity level – and that's key, can he handle the consistent tempo and physical part – if he is able to pick up the scheme they (young players) will play earlier. You are talking about mat drills, where you are grinding them, and seeing how mentally tough they are…

They tell me you are the worst/toughest guy.

I'm the worst guy? (smiling)

The most demanding guy in mat drills…

Umm… You find out a lot about a guy – I found out a lot about Billy Bennett. He was one of the best; solid in mat drills.

David Greene told me Billy was one of the best mat drills guy he had ever seen, and that he was not intimidated – nothing…

He was the best kicker I've been around. He was like one of the guys. It showed in his game. (In mat drills) you have to be able to overcome peer pressure because if you are not good it cost the whole group. If you screw up we are all going back. How much do want it? That might be bigger than anything for a young kid that comes in.

Is this spring, for Kade Weston and Jeff Owens, real critical?

Yes, I think for both of them – sure. I think its going to be really good for the young guys like Byrd, too, that played last year. They are going to appreciate it more and understand. The mental part of being around the guys and learning the system is a major advantage for younger players. It's like the difference between the players that come in the summer and the guys that came in the fall. The guys that came in during the summer were ahead of those that didn't.

Owens came in before Weston…

You are exactly right.

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