Former Georgia defensive coordinator Willie Martinez has officially been hired as a defensive assistant at Auburn, Auburn announced Friday.
Hiring Martinez, a longtime secondary coach who has been working for Oklahoma the past two seasons, fills the spot left on Chizik’s staff left by former cornerback’s coach Phillip Lolley’s decision to return to an administrative role.
Martinez becomes the third new assistant coach to join Gene Chizik’s staff this offseason. Chizik had already brought in defensive coordinator Brian VanGorder and offensive coordinator Scot Loeffler to replace Ted Roof and Gus Malzahn, respectively.
“This is a great opportunity to be a part of a storied program and tremendous coaching staff here at Auburn,” Martinez said.
Martinez reportedly spent the week meeting with Auburn’s coaching staff before the move was announced. A longtime secondary coach with plenty of experience, the 48-year-old Martinez has been reunited with VanGorder for the fourth time in his career.
"I’ve had the pleasure to know Coach Chizik and other members of this staff for a long time and I share their energy and passion for the game of football and developing young men," Martinez said.
He worked for Brian VanGorder as the Bulldogs' secondary coach from 2001-2004 before succeeding VanGorder as Georgia’s defensive coordinator in 2005. The pair of coaches also worked together at Central Florida from 1995-96 and Central Michigan from 1998-99.
Martinez’s task will be to help improve an Auburn secondary that ranked 76th and 86th in the nation in pass efficiency defense the past two years.
Over the course of the past three years, Auburn’s cornerbacks have struggled in man-to-man coverage, particularly with playing the ball in the air on deep routes. For VanGorder to send a package of blitzes out of his trademark 4-3 defense, the Tigers will have to play better coverage on the outsides in 2012.
“Willie Martinez is an experienced coach that has been very successful in this conference and understands the rigors of coaching and recruiting in the SEC,” Chizik said. “We’re excited to have him on board and look forward to bringing his knowledge and experience to our staff.”
When VanGorder left Athens to pursue NFL opportunities, Martinez took over as the Bulldogs’ defensive coordinator and held the position for five years. As Georgia's defensive coordinator, Martinez's defenses ranked sixth in 2006 and 14th nationally in total defense in 2007.
But his time at Georgia was cut short by ineffectiveness after Martinez’s initial success. In Martinez’s final year as Georgia’s defensive coordinator, the Bulldogs were ranked 71st nationally in scoring defense and 90th in pass efficiency defense.
Citing a decision made over a long period of time, Georgia coach Mark Richt fired Martinez in 2009, and he was subsequently hired at Oklahoma.
In two years at Oklahoma, the Sooners ranked eighth and 23rd in the country in pass efficiency defense against a Big 12 schedule known for producing some of the nation’s most prolific passing numbers.
He resigned at Oklahoma earlier this year to make room for former Arizona head coach Mike Stoops to rejoin his brother’s staff in Norman.