Working remotely during the coronavirus pandemic has been an adjustment for everyone in the world of college football.
Demetrice Martin has been particularly antsy.
“I’m hands-on, very energetic,” the Colorado Buffaloes’ new cornerbacks coach said. “I’m an on-the-field coach, so you can imagine some of this stuff that I’m going through right now because we’re not on the grass.”
Hired by first-year CU head coach Karl Dorrell on March 1, Martin is making his fifth coaching stop in the Pac-12 and he brings energy and passion to the program.
“Demetrice Martin is one of the best fundamental teachers I’ve ever seen at the cornerback position,” CU defensive coordinator Tyson Summers said. “A guy that is very much a juice and energy guy, very demanding and very close in relationships with his players and does an outstanding job for us recruiting, particularly in the California area.”
Martin comes to CU after spending the past two seasons coaching corners at Arizona. Prior to that, he spent six seasons in his hometown of Los Angeles while coaching defensive backs at UCLA. He has also coached at Washington (2009-11) and as a graduate assistant at Southern California (2006-07).
From afar, he’s always admired CU and its revered stadium, Folsom Field.
“It was beautiful seeing the city itself and all the surrounding cities and things like that,” he said of his first impression of Boulder after getting the job. “When you only came here as an opponent, and just playing in the stadium – one of my most favorite stadiums to come play in – just the simple fact to get to embrace the beauty of the place and what it has to offer is a good thing.”
Martin, 47, said he welcomed the chance to join a staff loaded with experience, particularly in the NFL.
“It was an opportunity for me to come here and get around some more NFL pedigree and learn some more things and help myself become a better coach and things like that,” he said. “I had an opportunity to get recruited here. I chose differently, but always have a special spot in my heart for Colorado, because of some of the players that were here, some of the coaches in the past history. So, I’ve always wanted to be a part of it and it has come back around full circle. So it’s been good.
An all-Big Ten defensive back in 1994 while playing at Michigan State, Martin has helped many others earn honors, as well. Since 2009, defensive backs coached by Martin have collected 20 all-conference honors.
Under his tutelage, UCLA led the Pac-12 in pass efficiency defense in 2015 and finished second (to CU) in 2016.
“I’m a big technician as far as I’m a big believer in the smallest details make the biggest plays happen,” he said.
Martin said he loves the competition of recruiting and the challenge of developing players after they sign.
“Once you get them here, the development part is what I really like, so that’s what makes me a hands-on coach,” he said. “I like getting guys prepared and making them feel like they’re getting better each and every day with more confidence and just put more tools in their tool belt than they had before.”
Martin has several talented players to work with at CU, including true sophomore KJ Trujillo, who started seven games a year ago. Junior Mekhi Blackmon has starting experience, as well, and true sophomore Tarik Luckett, a converted receiver, made a couple of starts late in the 2019 season.
CU also has Miami transfer Nigel Bethel Jr., sophomore Dylan Thomas, redshirt freshman speedster DJ Oats and true freshman Christian Gonzalez. Junior Chris Miller has been a corner, but is currently expected to play safety.
“They’re all great kids, first and foremost,” Martin said. “I’m looking forward to getting out on the grass with them and finding out how they take to some of the new techniques and things like that.”
CU runs the same basic scheme that Martin played in at Michigan State under Nick Saban in 1995, although it has evolved over the years. Martin said he’s learning from the players and also giving them opportunities to teach each other so they know the scheme well when practices start.
“We’ve got kind of a group that the ice is beginning to break,” Martin said. “I think once we get out there on the field they’ll really start to take on my personality. And then once they do that, I think we’ll be throwing all these little receivers around.”