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An Offer He Couldn’t Refuse

Willie Martinez reacts to a Georgia defensive stop. (AP) Willie Martinez reacts to a Georgia defensive stop. (AP)

Originally Published: Feb 4, 2010 2:32 PM CDT

Oklahoma Sports Staff and AP Wire Reports

OKLAHOMA CITY -- Former Georgia defensive coordinator Willie Martinez was all set to go to Stanford when he found something he couldn't pass up: Oklahoma's football tradition.

A former Miami defensive back and graduate assistant during the height of the Hurricanes' mid-1980s rivalry with the Sooners, Martinez was immediately sold on the chance to see what it's like on the other side of the fence.

"My intentions were going to Stanford and it wasn't until this past weekend when I was contacted by coach (Bob Stoops) and he wanted to visit," Martinez said Thursday. "It wasn't until this past weekend that Oklahoma came into the picture. I think the world of Jim Harbaugh and that was a great situation, and I was all excited go to.

"But to have the opportunity to be a part of one of the top five, top 10 programs in the history of college football and to be a part of Bob Stoops and that great staff at Oklahoma, I just couldn't turn that down."

The news was not easy for the Stanford coaching staff to accept, but coaches know that it’s a business first.

"I'm not going to sit there and say he wasn't disappointed," Martinez said. "But you do the best you can in making these decisions of what you think is best for your family, and that was the No. 1 thing, because they're both good programs.”

Martinez was hired Wednesday to coach Oklahoma's secondary, filling a void created when defensive ends coach Chris Wilson left for Mississippi State. Bobby Jack Wright, who had coached defensive ends for five years before Wilson was hired in 2005, will return from the secondary to coach that position.

The hiring was first reported by Tom Dienhart of via Twitter. Since, Oklahoma has been preoccupied with National Signing Day. Martinez introduced himself to the media Thursday via teleconference.

He was fired in December after nine years under Mark Richt at Georgia, including the past five as defensive coordinator. The Bulldogs' defense had become less stingy, allowing 40 points in three games each of the past two seasons.

At Oklahoma, he'll go back to solely coaching the secondary -- a role he filled his first four years at Georgia and before that at Central Michigan and Eastern Michigan.

"I'm going to have my hands full as it is in coaching the secondary, which that's what I've done the last 24 years and that keeps you busy enough," said Martinez, who turns 47 later this month. "I'm going to love being a part of just trying to help us be successful. I'm not going to have any issues with that."

Martinez said he has yet to speak with any of the players he'll be coaching and isn't all that familiar with them. He said he's only seen them play on crossover tape for Georgia's game against Oklahoma State and looking back at the Sooners' BCS championship loss to Florida a year ago.

He takes over a secondary that loses its two top cornerbacks in second-team all-Big 12 selections Dominique Franks and Brian Jackson but returns starting safeties Sam Proctor and Quinton Carter as well as Jonathan Nelson, who can play either position.

Stoops said he had gotten to know Martinez as his staff had shared ideas with Georgia's coaches during the offseason in recent years, and the two programs used similar defensive concepts.

"I'm familiar with the family and the success that they've all had. And all being defensive coaches, we all share ideas and ask for advice," Martinez said. "They've been just a great resource, so that's the great thing about this is you get a chance to meet a lot of great people and the Stoops family has been really great to us."

"Our schemes have been very similar," he added. "There's some things obviously that are different. I guess that's the attraction that Bob had for me, and also for me for Oklahoma."

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