Former head coach, Kelly disciple takes on challenge to improve secondaryPublished 11:25pm Wednesday, August 18, 2010
By AARON MUELLER
Niles Daily Star
For Chuck Martin, it’s all about the Fighting Irish.
Martin, who worked as an assistant coach under Brian Kelly for two years at Grand Valley State University, chose not to follow Kelly to his next two stops in Central Michigan and Cincinnati.
But when Kelly offered him the defensive backs coach/recruiting coordinator job at Notre Dame, it was a no brainer.
“I’m a lifelong Notre Dame fan,” Martin said. “Brian and I were both Notre Dame fans.”
And Kelly knows he wouldn’t have gotten Martin, who was serving as head coach of Grand Valley, to leave to any other school.
“If it wasn’t for Notre Dame, he wouldn’t be working with me,” Kelly said. “Our Lady, Notre Dame. There was something about that.”
Martin inherits what was last year a suspect secondary.
Winner of two NCAA Division II national championships and more than 91 percent of his games as Grand Valley’s head coach, Martin believes his head coaching experience will help him at a big program in Notre Dame.
“Once you’ve been a head coach, it’s a lot easier being an assistant coach,” he said. “Because when you’re an assistant, you don’t understand a lot of what is going on big picture, long term. Once you’ve been there, you understand what a good assistant really is, because you know what you wanted.”
Safety Harrison Smith said Martin has been a big asset to the defensive backs so far.
“You can tell he’s been around the game. He’s been on both sides of the ball so he can tell us what offenses are trying to do to us,” Smith said. “That’s something you don’t always get in a coach.”
Martin knows the secondary is seen as a question mark thus far, and he says consistency for the unit is key.
“We’re trying to get all our guys to play at the highest level consistently,” he said. “The difference between good and great is the guy that can do it every down.”
Martin is not overly concerned about where a player’s highest level of play is at but his ability to play at that level for four quarters.
“We’re not considered about the ceiling but the floor,” he said. “When you don’t have you’re best snap, what does your worst snap look like?”
One of the guys who will need to step up in the secondary is cornerback Darrin Walls, who returns after he decided not to enroll last year in what would have been his senior season.
“I think he has a lot of God-given talent. He has all the physical tools necessary to play at a high level,” Martin said of Walls. “He’s a very intelligent player. He has very good instincts. Everything is there for him to have a great year.”
Another player key to the secondary’s success is Smith, who will need to readjust to the position after playing much of last season at outside linebacker.
Smith said the criticism of the secondary has made the group hungry.
“As far as what people are saying, judging from last year, that’s what they should say,” he said. “We take that personally and try to correct that. So far we’ve made a lot of progress.”