New OU coach relishing unique position

NORMAN, Okla. -- Willie Martinez is the only new member of Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops’ staff this season.

“You come in here as a new coach, you really don’t know the entire history, all the reps the players had for three years, whether it’s good or bad, as you progress,” Martinez said.

But Martinez says his unique position, one not often afforded to brand-new position coaches, puts him at an advantage. He’ll get daily help uncovering that history from the man who coached Martinez’s defensive backs last year, Bobby Jack Wright.

Wright moved over to coach defensive ends in place of Chris Wilson, who left Norman for Starkville, Miss. to become the co-defensive coordinator for Mississippi State.

Additionally, he joins the staff of a head coach, Stoops, who also coached defensive backs at Kansas State before moving on to coordinate defenses for the Wildcats and later, Florida.

“That’s one of the things I love about this situation,” said Martinez, who coached the secondary at Georgia from 2001-04 before taking over as defensive coordinator from 2005-09.

“Guys want to compete. They know coach has coached that position. It’s nothing but positive.”

He’ll take over a secondary stocked with both young and experienced talent, and one that allowed just 179.7 yards per game in 2009, third fewest in the Big 12 and less than a yard more than the No. 1 pass defense in the Big 12, Nebraska. It also gave up just 11 passing touchdowns, the second fewest in the league.

“Our expectation is high,” Martinez said. “This is Oklahoma and we expect to be the best.”

Both safeties, senior Quinton Carter and junior Sam Proctor, return. Senior Jonathan Nelson, who started at safety late last season and had interceptions in the Sooners’ final three games, will press for playing time alongside sophomores Marcus Trice and Joseph Ibiloye. Nelson has also played cornerback, and sophomore Demontre Hurst showed potential as a freshman. Redshirt freshman Gabe Lynn, No. 81 on the 2009 ESPNU 150 and the No. 8 defensive back, could also get early playing time.

And though Martinez says he’s still embracing the feeling-out stage of his new position, as the spring moves on, there’s a good chance he’ll like what he sees.

“We’re not going to do anything different. This is about Oklahoma. I’m going to coach the way I know how to coach, but I’m going to coach within the system,” he said. “There’s differences in fundamentals, techniques, but really at the end of the day, this is Oklahoma and I’m going to coach the Oklahoma way.”