The Oklahoma secondary is going through a transition this spring as Quinton Carter, Jonathan Nelson and Jamell Fleming are all being replaced by Willie Martinez. On Thursday, SoonerScoop.com Editor Carey Murdock talked with Martinez about the way things are shaking out and what youngsters are making impressions early.
SoonerScoop: Could you just talk about what you're doing with your safety position right now with Javon Harris and Aaron Colvin. And how that's working out with them?
Martinez: Aaron is obviously running with the first group at safety and Javon is at safety. And Tony Jefferson is rotating also at the strong safety position then with the other group we have Quentin Haynes and Sam Proctor at free safety.
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SS.com: With Tony… you obviously liked last year as your nickel or 'Roy' back … what's the ultimate end game of playing him there or do you hope to accomplish having him play regular safety as well?
Martinez: Well that's what we recruited him as, as a safety. He's talented enough to play there and we did not want to overload him last year. We wanted him to concentrate on one position at the nickel position and we feel like now he's got the experience and it's just a major plus because he's able to do it. It's just going to help us out.
SS.com: Obviously you saw a lot of good things out of Gabe Lynn for you to be able to put him there and then work Colvin at safety. But can you talk about his production and what you've seen there?
Martinez: Gabe's doing a great job. You can see the mature level … you can see he's gotten stronger … you can see he understands our defense and we felt that way once the season was going on you know it was kind of tough to get the amount of reps Aaron was getting. It was basically a three man rotation at corner but Gabe has really come back and really focused this spring and in the winter and he's done a really good job in the weight room and it has carried over to the field. Smart player… we're really excited where he's at right now.
SS.com: With Javon, I mean we saw him a little bit last year when Jonathon Nelson got banged up but he seemed to be a very physical player. Is that what stands out to you?
Martinez: He's a smart player. He's picked up the scheme very fast and you know he's the guy that last spring really didn't know much about him then all of the sudden he came on at the end of spring and obviously the game experience that he experienced this past year really playing well in the Oklahoma State game that has given him a lot of confidence. He's really feeling comfortable and we really felt comfortable moving him to free safety. And he can bump back and forth and that's really what we're trying to do, is have the flexibility. He knows strong safety so we're just going to put him over a free safety and if anything happens or if we want to swing some players we'll end up doing that.
SS.com: With Colvin could you see yourself moving him back to corner? Is it still experimental?
Martinez: No we like him right where he's at. And the great thing about it is it's so easy to go back to corner… and we're going to see how the young players are developing and how things are going the rest of spring and how the other corners are progressing too. But right now we feel comfortable and he feels comfortable its really amazing how he's caught on, a very instinctive player. He's a playmaker. You know, we're excited right now at the strong safety position.
SS.com: He's gained size and a lot of people look at him and say is he big enough? Is he a guy that still needs to gain some weight and strength?
Martinez: Yeah he's about 185 pounds right now and I'd like to see him get up to about 190 and he's a physical kid and that's part of it. Does the kid want to hit? And he is. He's that type of player. He's a physical player along with being athletic.
SS.com: Going back to the bowl practices Brent (Venables) talked a lot about James (Haynes)...
Martinez: He's somebody that obviously has got to learn the system but he's a kid that has got a lot of pride and is a smart player and comes from a great program and you can see that in how he picks up things so it just takes time. That safety position is a lot like the quarterback position you gotta make all the calls and you have to know our defense and know all the checks that go along with it. So he's starting to process that all right now.
SS.com: Both of those guys… we obviously haven't seen any of them… but with Quentin what stands out about his skill set that you like?
Martinez: He's not as big as James, okay? They're right at the same pace from a knowledge standpoint and knowing our defense. Probably a little bit quicker than James at this point.
SS.com: In terms of young corners is there anybody that is standing out and is making a lot of progress that you've liked seeing?
Martinez: Well I mean Julian Wilson is getting a lot of reps and he's improving, which is good to see and that's promising.