Everything Willie Martinez said following Tennessee's Monday practice

On3 imageby:Brent Hubbs04/01/24


Tennessee Db Coach Willie Martinez Talks During Volunteer's April 1st Spring Practice I Volquest

Tennessee returned to the practice field on Monday to start week three of spring drills ahead of the Orange and White game a week from Saturday. 

Veteran defensive backs coach Willie Martinez has two new transfers in his cornerback group along with a bunch of young players as the secondary gets a complete make over. 

Martinez met with the media following Monday’s workout and here everything that Martinez said. 

When you look at the transfers Jalen (McMurray) Jermod (McCoy) and Jacob (Thomas), those guys that were sort of under recruited coming out of high school and are then coveted once they get into the portal years later. What happens between high school and now to make those guys better players? 

Well development, you know, it’s no different than the guys in on our team, you know, regardless of what position it is. I mean, when you, the goal is obviously to get developed, right? I mean, that’s, that’s the only way. They don’t come out, they don’t come in ready made. Obviously more guys are a little bit more mature, a little bit stronger, a little bit more, probably more physical than others. Other guys are just, just being developed at a different pace, right? Different school, whatever school they come from. And, you know, you look at those, those three players you mentioned, it’s like across the board, across America, right? 

I mean, they, they, not only did they get developed, but they also were, were producing too on their team and where they actually got great experience at different, you know, obviously there’s different conferences there that they’re all coming from different ones, but it’s the development part and, and it’s no different than one of our guys, you know, third year players gonna, that that has the talent and the skill set and it’s, and maybe didn’t have the right training in the beginning prior to coming here, but then bought into the program their culture and they’re better players. 

Willie, specifically with, with Jermod, what did you guys like about him? He was a freshman last year. You still see a lot of room for him to get better and what he seen from him so far?

Jermod is different than the other two guys you’re talking about, or anybody really. He never played defense. I mean, he was an athletic kid in high school and was obviously recruited to the school that he chose to be a wide receiver and they actually made a flip and asked him to go play defense. He did a great job, obviously that conference was loaded with great players and quarterbacks and receivers that he went up against. We saw the athleticism. That’s the one thing that you saw that he can do a lot of things. 

And then what I just said to you, going to the point that was just said is that he’s not even close to complete development wise. He’s learning the game from a defensive standpoint, but he’s got confidence, he’s got the ball skills, he’s got, like I’m saying, all types of athleticism, understands leverage. I think his training is an offensive player, obviously he understands defense too. 

He knows how he’s gonna be attacked and those are really good qualities to have when you get moved over and he’s going against the position that he was lined up against. It’s a great combination, but he’s nowhere near complete. They played a lot of match, a lot of man where he came from. We’re very multiple on defense getting to learn all the different types of zone coverages, that’s a challenge for him. 

But he’s doing a good job. This is the seventh practice and he had a really good scrimmage.

Can you just talk about Christian Conyer, what have you seen outta him this spring and and how much more do you feel like he can continue to develop? 

He’s ahead of where he was last year. This time obviously he’s still developing. There’s flashes of Christian obviously making plays and there’s the mistakes that he needs to clean up. But he’s definitely further ahead than he was last year at this time. And he is still developing. We would like for him to be a little bit more consistent, like a lot of the guys. 

What would you say are some of the biggest benefits to just the excitement of having so much unknown and kind of being able to sculpt the secondary in the way that you want and benefits the team the most? 

We’ve got an athletic group, the team is, really fast. They’re young, they’re inexperienced, but they have a great attitude of, the effort part, the preparation. They’ve done a great job of preparing for spring ball. We had obviously the majority of them since December obviously Caleb (Beasley) joined us just a couple weeks ago and for the most part we have everybody in, but it’s the athleticism, it’s the speed. 

We just gotta continue to grow and mature as an experienced group with a couple of mixed in veterans like Turrentine and, and Jordan Thomas to mention a few. Obviously we have Will Brooks and there’s a couple other guys, but hanging on them as far as helping them speed up the process. 

Well when you look at improve athleticism but not nearly as much experience, where’s the balance in letting guys go play and not putting too much on them versus being really multiple and everything that you have? How do you balance that? 

That’s a great question. You don’t want to make it complicated. We don’t think we are complicated on defense, especially if you’re on the edges. The safeties have a little bit more on their plate where they gotta make all the checks. And I guess I’m speaking about, you somebody like Jacobi, he’s had learn a new system, but he does have the experience. He’s coming from somewhere well coached and a good program. You can see that now practice seven now, where he actually is catching on the calls being the same to him. 

You’re just kind of transferring that over from the terminology. But you want this the talent level, you do want the athleticism. You want guys that are playmakers, you just gotta make sure that, that you don’t over load ’em like you’re saying. 

And,I think we’re doing that for the most part. And, and again, it is still gonna be about how fast you play. You want them to play fast, obviously you don’t want them to sit there and think like they’re processing through the whole process. But I think they’ve done a really good job. I mean, we get of time with them. We’ve had many of them since December and we did get all of them in January and they’ve done, for the most part. They’ve really handled the package pretty good. We actually threw some more down it today and there wasn’t that many busts at all. And to come off the break that we had, I think that was pretty impressive. 

Wiith Rickey Gibson, what’s the biggest jump he’s made from being a freshman and now being a sophomore and looking to take on bigger role? 

He’s a lot more confident. He’s smart, but he’s more comfortable in the package himself. He knows what his strengths are. He knows the things he needs to work on and if he can work on the things that are weak right now in his game. I’m not helping you guys out by sharing that across the board. His attention to detail is there. He’s still developing but he’s more confident. He sees those guys, whether it’s, you know, Donte or Squirrel andhe’s, he’s excited to go line up against him and do what he does best and that’s play man coverage. But he does a good job with his zone coverages too. 

Knowing the package he feels more comfortable. He understands really what the expectations and standards are. And he’s being a really good leader, 

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