Spring Preview: Martin Interview

Demetrice Martin talks about the depth at safety, why Andrew Abbott was a good candidate to switch positions, and what he expects from Marcus Rios this spring...

Q: How much of a chance have you had to look at your guys on tape?

A: I've had a chance to look at some. By choice, not all of it. I want to give all these guys the ability to impress me with their play on the field, and not what other people have said about them and what they've shown in the past. I just want them to kind of take to our techniques and our terminology, our scheme and kind of grade them from there.

Q: So not necessarily judging their performance, but more to just get a feel of what they're capable of?

A: Right, exactly. Just kind of look for some main points that you can improve on from the top, just right off the bat. Some things that kind of stuck out. And then just not go too much in depth past that. Just find two or three things for everyone to improve on this spring, and then I'll think they'll show me their true colors during spring.

Q: Is there anything overall that jumped out to you about the picture of the secondary, or is it all just kind of individual stuff for each player?

A: Most of it will be individual, but if I had to put anything in a group setting, it would just be the tackling that stuck out a lot. We need to be better pursuing tacklers, better open field tacklers, and within the box. Just things such as that. Just overall tackling as a group is one thing that stuck out. And, you know, obviously working on catching the ball when we get the opportunity to catch it. We don't get that many opportunities and we've got to make them count when we do get our hands on the ball.

Q: With the tackling, did you see that as more of a strength thing or was it more of a technique thing?

A: I think it's a little bit of both. I think some of the missed tackles were because of maybe not using the correct technique at the correct time. You know, tackling is a funny thing, because no matter how much you practice it, when you get in the game, it's going to be a little bit different than how you exactly practiced it. So, you've just got to have that understanding that different situations bring different types of tackles, and my job as a coach is to try to single out those different types of tackles as much as possible so they feel comfortable when they get in those situations.

Q: Toward the end of last year, the old coaching staff really cut down on contact and tackling in practice, to kind of save legs and keep kids from getting injured. Do you think you'll be doing a fair amount of live tackling in spring?

A: As the type of defensive backs coach that I am, I hope so. So I hope that it permits that, but obviously there's a lot of factors and variables that factor in to whether or not we can, all spring. But in a perfect world, yes, I would say yes, and I hope so, but there's a whole lot of other things that come up during the spring which may cause the head man to say, "Hey, let's taper that off a little bit."

Q: And one of those things might be depth, it looks like. Looking at the depth chart, you've got a few guys who might not be fully back from injuries, and you just lost a safety to the offense in Dalton Hilliard, What do you think of the depth you have at safety for spring?

A: Going into spring, there's no way around it, we are short there in numbers and in depth. As the defensive backs coach, I'm going to have to try to juggle guys around and, you know, the positive thing about it is that all the guys there will be learning the strong safety and the free safety, so we'll be able to develop some depth that way because both guys will know strong and free, and the incoming guys we have coming in in the fall will definitely add some depth that way.

Q: I saw that Andrew Abbott is a guy you moved to safety. Is that something you saw in him in the tape that you wanted to try him out there?

A: Well yeah, we just kind of wanted to put guys in the positions to get the best group of defensive backs out there on the field. Right now, I feel, especially with the depth numbers at safety, he's one of the guys that can get in there and get reps, and we'll see how he does in the spring. I mean, if you think about it, he played nickel a lot for them last year, and nickel is very consistent with playing safety so he knows a lot of the movements and he knows a lot of the different types of techniques within the different types of coverages that you need to perform and do well with at that position, so now we've just go to see how it is with him being the actual quarterback and helping quarterback the defense and playing with a little more depth than he would at corner. One of the things I like about him is that he shows strong leadership skills. He wants to be great. He does, and so far he's doing all of the right things that it takes to be a great football player, and hopefully it all works out that way.

Q: At corner, another guy who's been injured the last couple of years is Anthony Jefferson. How's he looking? Do you think he'll be ready for spring?

A: Yes, I'm counting on him to be ready for spring ball. He's getting better and better every day. I don't think he's at 100%, but those are some of the things that he's learning how to work through, as far as being a football player that's not yet quite 100%. But he's working his butt off to get there. He's showing some good promise, and he has some talent. He has some skills, man. If he can just get over the injury bug, and play to his potential, he'll be pretty good there.

Q: You've also got a freshman coming in this spring in Marcus Rios. What do you think of him, and do you think he'll be able to help with the depth issue immediately?

A: I'm fired up for Marcus Rios to get in. Obviously, we talked about it already with the depth issues in the secondary. He's one of the guys I'm going to try to use as a swing guy to see how much he can absorb, and where he can fit in at to be one of those guys…He's going to get an early opportunity and an early look here at some corner, some nickel, maybe even some safety if I feel like he's picking all the other stuff up first. We're going to rep him at corner first, and then rep him some at nickel, and then see what he can handle and what he can't.

Q: Are you going to try to steal Dalton Hilliard back from the running backs? See if Mazzone's not looking and swipe him?

A: Dalton knows he has a home on the secondary, and so I think he wants to get his, I call them, "Inner demons" out on the offensive side of the ball. He did play a lot of offense coming up in high school, so I think he just wants to give it another shot. You can't knock it. The guy's going into his last year, and he has that, you know, I don't want any player who plays for me or who plays for us to be like, "Hey, man, I wonder what would have happened if I did this." Coach Mora is good about giving guys opportunity and all you've got to do is verbalize that you want that opportunity. It may happen and it may not, but at least there's a conversation about it. So Dalton can give it a shot and see if it works out. Like I said, he knows he has a home over here on the defense, on the dark side.

Q: What are you hoping to get out of spring? An idea of who's starting, a good picture of the depth?

A: All those things combined. I mean, if guys are true cut starters and they emerge, then great. The main thing is that I just want to set the tone as far as the attitude and the energy and the effort. I mean, the effort is going to be great at first on everything we do, but I just want to set the bar so high so that when the rest of the guys come in thereafter, they're going to have to be out of this world to come in and compete and that's just kind of the atmosphere I'm trying to build. One of toughness and meanness and just kind of that nastiness in the secondary where it's going to be like, when we come back for fall camp and fall ball, we're going to be chomping at the bit.

Q: Talking to Coach Mazzone, he was talking about tempo and how he wants to practice fast. Are you preparing your guys for that kind of tempo?

A: They know it. The good thing about my group is that even though they don't have a lot of depth or a lot of numbers, they're all pretty wily veterans as far as game playing experience. They've seen Arizona State play, and they've played against them, and they've seen the kind of tempo when they played against them. It's kind of a positive that we get the chance to practice against that type of tempo and that kind of stuff for spring and for the rest of the season, where, when we come against a team that does that or specializes in that, we should be pretty used to it.

Q: Kind of a broader question, but does anything change for the secondary when you're running a 3-4 as opposed to a 4-3?

A: Well, overall, I'd say that the coverages generally are still the same. You're still playing your cover 1, and you're still playing your man to mans, you're still playing your zone coverages. It's just the different ways you employ these guys to play the coverages. So, in a nutshell, it's mostly the same, but it does allow you the ability to add some different tweaks to it, based off which linebackers are in coverage, and that sort of thing.

Q: Coming from Washington, is it a different kind of feel for you having a defensive coach as the head man? Is that a welcome thing for you?

A: I love it. Shoot, they always say, if you know it all, if you stop learning, then you stop growing. I'm always learning, and Coach Mora has a wealth of knowledge, especially in the back end, so I'm always picking and prodding, and taking stuff out of his back pocket. I'm in his office, reading through his old notes, and his old drills and all kind of stuff. Just whatever it takes to get better as a coach so I can get my players better as players. So it's a great plus. It's an added advantage.

Q: On recruiting, we already talked a little back on signing day. But what do you think it was that made this staff so successful in such a short amount of time?

A: I would have to say probably the competitiveness of all the guys to have that real true love for it. I mean, guys go get after it and it's kind of like you've got to step your game up to keep up with the next, you know, because everyone's so competitive. It's like a pack of dogs on that last piece of meat. Everyone's fighting and scratching and clawing to get it.

Q: So what you're saying is you're going to try to win both recruiter of the year awards next year instead of letting Klemm have one?

A: [Laughs] You know, that's always the goal. But as long as it stays on this UCLA staff, I'll be happy.

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