Willie Martinez: You’ve come a long way, baby.

Those of us that sat in the Georgia Dome to watch the ill-fated 38-35 loss to West Virginia in the Sugar Bowl questioned whether the Georgia defensive staff was up to the challenge of gameplanning to stop the spread option offense.  We weren’t used to seeing a Dawg defense get shredded to the tune of 502 yards – especially by a Big East school.

Martinez went through a period of being compared with his predecessor’s success, and it wasn’t pretty.  But judging by the tone of this article in today’s Washington Post (h/t Bulldogs Blog), it looks like he’s gained some measure of redemption.

It made sense at the time. Preparing to face the No. 1 scoring offense in the nation in a BCS bowl on New Year’s Day, the Georgia coaching staff figured it would be wise to employ more speed than bulk. Relying on nickel packages that utilized one more cornerback and one less linebacker, the Bulldogs’ defense throttled Hawaii, 41-10, in the Sugar Bowl and provided an example of how to slow down the vaunted spread offense.

While the writer defines the term “spread” a little too broadly – Arizona State and Kentucky frequently employ one back sets with three and four receivers,  but they don’t run spread option schemes – there’s a lot of good stuff in there from the players and Martinez about what they try to do with the 4-2-5 scheme that has become a mainstay of Georgia’s defense.

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13 Comments

Filed under Georgia Football, Strategery And Mechanics

13 responses to “Willie Martinez: You’ve come a long way, baby.

  1. peacedog

    I think part of what we’re seeing is also the talent coming back around. Not that it was bad in 2005 – far from it. We’re better off at DT and LB now, however. And probably better off in the defensive backfield. And potentially deeper at DE. That wasn’t the difference between the early Martinez defense and VanGorder, of course. But it was a factor, I think.

    I definately feel Martinez has contributed to the improving defense, also in part by learning from his mistakes.

  2. 81Dog

    not to make excuses for what we all painfully recall as a pretty dismal first half performance, but werent we really running thin on LBs by that game? Injuries are part of the game, and dealing with them comes with the territory, but I think we’re a lot deeper at LB now (and thus, better equipped to handle spread offenses) than we were in 2005, especially by the end of 2005.

    someone will correct me if I misunderestimated our LB corps from back then, but that’s just something I wanted to throw up. As opposed to wanting to throw up in the Dome at the Sugar Bowl as I sat smack in the middle of about 15,000 crazed West Virginia fans in the first half.

  3. dean

    No denying the defense looked like they were running in wet sand that ill-fated night. But I didn’t really question the staff. Let face it, none of us took WVU seriously, players included. They were a Big East team coming to play an SEC team on our home turf no less. I could tell by the opening drive the dawgs weren’t in it. Plus the fact that the offense turned it over 3 times didn’t help the defense. By the time we realized WVU was there to play it was too late. Even if you did blame or question Willie for that game he’s done enough to redeem himself since.

  4. I just remember watching Greg Blue playing cover two deep zone all night against a team that threw a total of fourteen passes. Drove me crazy…

  5. Dawg19

    All great offenses are stopped eventually by defenses that have one thing in common…

    Speed…

  6. Kit

    UGA’s Defense has always been good for one reason and one reason only: hitting the QB.

    I don’t think there’s another coach that’s gotten throttled by me as much as I’ve gotten after CWM, even though I make it a habit to never call for a coach’s head. That being said, Martinez’s soft-zone defense relies on pressure from the front four in order to force the QB into mistakes and your LBs and DBs play the soft zone to capitalize on errant to slightly-errant throws resulting in turnovers.

    My problem with CWM has been that he never seemed to blitz until our stretch last year. However, you don’t need to blitz if you’re getting pressure up front…but if you’re not, BLITZ DAMN IT!

    If CWM can always have the goal of “hit the QB no matter what,” then he’ll always be a success and we’ll continue to be lucky to have him.

  7. UgaMatt

    What would be interesting if it could be quantified is how much money that game cost Blue. His poor angles and desire to decapitate someone rather than just making the tackle were really exposed in that game. Really looking back though, it wasn’t the option plays that WVU gashed us on, it was the runs right up the middle. Truth be told, we couldn’t stop straight ahead running that whole year.

  8. Jim

    It wasn’t just the Sugar Bowl. It was the games leading up to the Sugar Bowl when the defense seemed to have problems with our SEC opponents. I agree he seems to have adjusted but rewatching that last drive on the South Carolina game, the Vanderbilt game and the Tennessee game makes you wonder. Here is the obvious, we need the offense to score more points this season.
    I think he is a good guy whose players like him but I would like to see us get more agressive like we did the last half of last season.

  9. dean

    Unfortunately or not I didn’t get to go to this game I had to watch on TV and I couldn’t really tell what the defense was. I’m not saying there was no blame for the staff but from my perspective it was more sloppy play than scheme. I also think we underestimated their speed.

  10. Will

    I agree with dean at 1:41. Not to pull a Saban, but I’ve always thought of that Sugar Bowl as being kind of like 9/11: even if someone had told us how dangerous WVU was, we wouldn’t have believed it until it actually happened.

  11. baltimoredawg

    it’s always seemed to me that the stretch of really awful defense (with a few exceptions) really started with the auburn game that year and carried over to the next season. and ugamatt is right that the run defense between the tackles was terrible.

    i hope that cwm turned a bit of a corner in his coaching philosophy last year–i’ve lost a lot of hair from scratching my head over a good deal of what he’s done as coordinator.

  12. TomReagan

    I’ve never bought into the idea that we didn’t take WVU seriously. Our guys looked just like a high school team that’s playing the Wing-T for the first time, for those that remember the mid-90s when the Wing-T first started spreading through the state.

    The problem with those offenses is that it is impossible to simulate them in practice and the only way to get used to them is to actually play against them at game speed against 11 guys who know what they’re doing. Once we adjusted to the speed of the game, we played fine in the Sugar.

    Martinez was also playing with a bunch of guys recruited under VanGorder’s watch. I think Martinez has shown that he’s a much better talent evaluator than VanGorder ever was–and I know all about the Thomas Davis story. Martinez has always been amazingly on target with his DB recruits and our overall talent on defense has risen with him as DC, as well.

    It’s nice to see him getting the credit he deserves.

  13. SCDawg

    Kit is dead on with his comment. We started winning last year when we started hitting the QB.