KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — After spending several years working alongside Mark Richt at Georgia, Tennessee defensive coordinator John Jancek and secondary coach Willie Martinez now are trying to beat their former boss.
Jancek and Martinez downplay the notion that their personal connections to Georgia give them added incentive Saturday against the sixth-ranked Bulldogs. Jancek spent five seasons at Georgia and Martinez was there for nine years before both were fired in December 2009.
“I’m looking forward to it just like any other game,” Martinez said. “Obviously it’s a heck of a challenge for us, trying to defend that offense. That’s been the main focus.”
This isn’t a new situation for Martinez, who faced Georgia last year as Auburn’s secondary coach. But this marks the first time Jancek has coached against the Bulldogs since leaving Georgia.
“I’ve got a lot of fond memories of the University of Georgia,” Jancek said. “I’ve got a lot of great friends still on staff and in the community. My children still have friends in the Athens area. That’s a part of my life that I’ll always remember and be thankful for. But it’s competition. It’s a ballgame. That’s how we approach it.”
Richt, who played with Martinez at Miami before beginning his coaching career, says he’s handling the situation in a similar manner.
“I enjoy seeing those guys,” Richt said. “I like them very much, and I consider them good friends. We go compete. We’re looking at tape. We’re not looking at coaches’ pictures in the media guide. We’re just looking at the film and trying to formulate a plan, and they’re doing the same I’m sure.”
Martinez coached Georgia’s defensive backs from 2001-04 and was defensive coordinator from 2005-09. Jancek was the Bulldogs’ linebackers coach from 2005-08 and a co-defensive coordinator in 2009. Georgia won at least 10 games three of the five years they were both there and finished No. 2 in the nation in 2007.
They were fired in 2009 after the Bulldogs gave up over 40 points in three games for a second straight season. Some Tennessee players believe Jancek and Martinez have extra motivation for this game.
“They haven’t really mentioned it, but I can tell they really want this game,” Tennessee safety Brian Randolph said. “They want every game, but they’re intense this week.”
That intensity may be due to the quality of the opponent. Georgia (3-1, 2-0 SEC) has scored at least 35 points in each of its four games this season with a star-studded offense that features Aaron Murray, who is 99 yards away from former Georgia quarterback David Greene’s Southeastern Conference record of 11,528 career yards passing.
“We called,” Jancek quipped. “They’re going to let us get 12 guys on the field and play them with 12.”
Jancek’s defense has forced 15 turnovers to rank third among all Football Bowl Subdivision teams in takeaways. Tennessee (3-2, 0-1) has allowed 26.8 points per game so far after giving up 35.7 points per game last year under former coordinator Sal Sunseri. Players credit Jancek for simplifying things in their 4-3 scheme after they struggled to adapt to Sunseri’s 3-4 system last year.
“He’s come in and he’s shown us that he has a simpler set of defensive rules and a simpler set of defensive words that we can go by so everybody along the defense understands what he’s talking about and what he’s doing, so you can be comfortable playing your position,” defensive end Corey Miller said.
Jancek and Martinez now enter a seemingly uncomfortable situation as they face the school that once employed them. But they say they’re treating this week just like any other game.
“It’s business,” Jancek said. “They’re coming to Knoxville, and it’s going to be our intention and our job to beat them.”