August 6, 2009

Martinez says defense off to a good start

Georgia defenders talk about accountability, the fact that they will play with intensity and a chip on their collective shoulders to prove to doubters that last year's defensive malaise was a one-year blip on the radar screen.

Defensive coordinator Willie Martinez would certainly like to think so.

He's obviously hopeful. But like most coaches, Martinez is a pragmatist. He wants to see the proof on the field.

"I just know that our guys this year are doing a good job. They've done a great job since January. I like our leadership, but we're still trying to figure out, still trying to be flexible when it comes to figuring out the guys and trying to develop a two-deep," he said. "But I think our leadership is pretty solid when you've got a guy like Rennie Curran and Jeff Owens right in the middle of your defense. We're just trying to develop more depth and see where we will be on Sept. 5 because we need depth. We've got the players; we've just got to try and find the right spots for them and develop them."

One position Martinez said he's not concerned about is free safety where senior Bryan Evans begins his first full season at the position after sliding over from cornerback where he played his first three seasons on the team.

According to Martinez, if he and the rest of the coaches knew what they know now, they might have made the switch much sooner.

"Bryan has been big for us because he's had a tremendous offseason. We wanted to do it earlier in the process but it's obviously paying dividends right now because you've got a guy who's got experience, tremendous speed and physical presence coming down for the run," Martinez said. "He's covers a lot of field and from playing the other position, he understands the whole package and that's going to be a major advantage for him."

At 5-foot-11 and 194 pounds, Evans was already one of the fastest players on the Bulldogs before the switch was made.

But that wasn't the only reason.

"I think just the fact that he had experience that we lacked at the time, plus he has the body type that can do it. Who else was there than Bryan?" Martinez said. "He had the size, the speed, he's smart and it was based on a need where we didn't have any experience. We got very inexperienced when Quintin (Banks) went down and we had lost Kelin (Johnson) from the year before. We lost numbers so Bryan made perfect sense. We just asked ourselves who else but Bryan could do it. He was very unselfish. When we asked him to move over he was all for it."

As for Banks, his early prognosis is favorable.

Banks was bothered with a bad meniscus virtually all of last season and was limited in spring drills due to the injury.

But so far, so good:

Banks has practiced full go thus far for the Bulldogs and that's good news for Martinez, whose only other safety with any experience in strong safety starter Reshad Jones.

"He's (Banks) in the mix. He's got experience and he knows our defense. That's an advantage and it's good for us to have that depth but we're not going to sit there and blow him up," Martinez said. "We're going to monitor his reps and slowly phase him in. But we've got some other guys who are going to get some reps, too."

That list includes redshirt freshmen Sanders Commings, Bacarri Rambo, Makiri Pugh, along with true freshman Shawn Williams.

Between that group, Martinez hopes to have some sort of rotation in place he's comfortable with before the Bulldogs travel to Stillwater, Okla. to take on Oklahoma State.

"There quarterback (Zac Robinson) is a big difference. He's a threat throwing the ball and he's a threat running the ball. Then you throw in there they've got a great receiver in Dez Bryant, a running back in Kendall Hunter, they've really got a three-headed monster," Martinez said. "The (Russell) Okung kid is tremendous and it's going to be hard to find four guys up front than that across the country. They've definitely got our attention, but that's good. Our players have focused probably a little bit more because they know who the opponent is and they've got enough people telling them how good they are so it keeps them focused and prepare a little bit harder."

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