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August 21, 2011

Martinez: A fanatical pursuit of perfection

If you ask Sooner fans the trait they most like to see in their coaches during the Bob Stoops era, the answer would likely be passion.

Fans love seeing Stoops pacing up and down the sidelines, snarling like a mad man, while he rips off his headset and points it in the general direction of an official.



Brent Venables is just as well known for grabbing players as they come off the field, or running as far as possible on to the field to shout last minute instructions to his defense before the ball is snapped.

Even last season when Jay Norvell was flagged for 15 yards by an official against Cincinnati, in a tight ballgame, some fans were just happy to see offensive coaches hopping aboard the hothead train.

So when ESPN prominently featured defensive backs coach Willie Martinez during their All-Access look into OU football camp, fans couldn't help but smile.

SCOOP HD: Demontre Hurst talks about Willie Martinez and ESPN experience



Fans haven't had a chance to become familiar with Martinez and his coaching style since he arrived in Norman before last season. But what they saw during ESPN's coverage of OU's fall camp was an intense, vocal, technically demanding, disciplinarian who conjured up images of Mike Stoops during his time in Norman.

And having that type of coach in the program, coaching Oklahoma's secondary, is exactly what many fans have been clamoring for since the departure of Stoops to Arizona almost seven years ago.

"He's pretty much a twin of Coach Venables, basically," said starting cornerback Demontre Hurst. "They're both intense and energetic. He's a great coach. He's really that guy that is about being fundamental and using technique and he's passionate about the game."

"He's awesome," added Venables. "He's a fabulous coach, a great motivator, a super teacher."

For Venables, Martinez brings back the type of coaching relationship he shared with Mike Stoops over 11 years between Kansas State and Oklahoma. You could call it a relationship built on the fanatical pursuit of perfection.

When Willie Martinez showed up for lunch after all the golfing was over during OU's Media Golf outing this year, he was asked, "Hey Willie, don't you play golf?"

"Yeah, I do. But this is football season. I don't have time for golf. We have practice tomorrow," he answered.

Over the last two summers, SoonerScoop.com has been able to get a good feel for Martinez's coaching style due to his involvement in OU summer camps.

And much like Venables, Martinez coaches top prospects and third-string high schoolers with the same intensity during those camps. Martinez does coach hard, but he's also fair. And like Venables, he knows when to let up.

During a recent interview following practice, Venables was listing the positive traits about Martinez.

Then Martinez walked in the room.

"He's bald," Venables quipped.

"He's got a great mind for the game," he then continued.

When Martinez was asked to list the similarities between himself and Venables, he answered, "He's shorter. I'm taller."

Venables and Martinez may not have 11 years working together, but with just one year under their belts together, you'd swear it was more. But as Venables describes, even though Martinez was a quick fit on the field, he's still figuring things out about how the Sooners' program operates.

"You ask him," Venables said. "He's been amazed at how we're able to have the kind of success we've had. When I say that, dealing with recruiting and things like that where you have to go against some pretty big dogs that have a lot to offer."

With Martinez coming from the SEC, where coaches don't want to give off the impression they coach as hard as they do at Oklahoma, he's just now finding out that it's okay with this program if ESPN shows him yelling at his players in practice.

Just as fans are excited by the example Stoops has set with his headphone flinging on gamedays, the staff embraces players who are excited by the prospects of being coached as hard as anyone in the country.

"I think (our approach is) good because once the kids are here, they're not all of a sudden mind-tricked and all of a sudden they've got their lip stuck out because you promised me I was going to the starting returner when the season started even though I dropped 15 balls the first week," explained Venables.

"It's gonna be tough. If you're not willing to work hard, if you're not willing to pay a price and earn your job, this is the wrong place for you."

You also need to look no further than one of Oklahoma's best players to get that reinforcement. Starting cornerback, and rising star, Demontre Hurst said of Martinez, "For us defensive backs to have a coach like that, that really know his stuff and is really passionate, it makes us become passionate and really makes us the best we can be."

If Sooner fans take one thing out of ESPN's inside look at Oklahoma football, it may be that they finally have a coach who mirrors the passion of Mike Stoops.

And a coach that fits right in with Bob Stoops, Brent Venables and their demanding, yet effective style.

"He's got a great mind for the game," said Venables. "He's a great guy to work with, unselfish guy, knows what it takes to win and play great defense. He's really good at dealing with people and young people."

"He's worth his weight in gold."


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