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Willie Martinez Out, UNC’s Charlton Warren In as Defensive Backs Coach

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A rough year for Tennessee’s secondary leads to change in Bob Shoop’s defense.

NCAA Football: The Citadel at North Carolina Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

After adding Rock Gullickson as strength and conditioning coach, the changes on Rocky Top continued this morning with the announcement of Charlton Warren as Tennessee’s new defensive backs coach. This ends Willie Martinez’s tenure after four years with Butch Jones.

Warren comes to Tennessee from North Carolina, having served as their defensive backs coach the last two seasons. Before that he was on Bo Pelini’s final staff at Nebraska in 2014 in the same role after spending nine years at Air Force, including the last two as defensive coordinator.

The Tar Heels gave up only 11 passing touchdowns last fall, tied for the fourth-fewest in the nation, and only 17 the year before. The official release also states his first UNC defense made the greatest improvement in yards per attempt allowed in the nation (8.5 in 2014, 121st nationally to 6.1 in 2015, 15th nationally). The Tar Heels were more pedestrian by that measure in 2016 (7.2, 60th). The 2016 numbers are a little skewed because the Tar Heels faced only 328 pass attempts all year, tied with Michigan and Florida for the fewest for any bowl-eligible power conference team.

Tennessee’s secondary play was hampered by injuries all season, but there seemed to be a negative consensus on Martinez. The Vols had only 11 interceptions and were hurt by big plays all year, surrendering 24 30+ yard pass plays (102nd nationally). In particular Tennessee was vulnerable against lower-tier quarterbacks: Jake Bentley completed 75% of his passes on 8.4 yards per attempt in his second game ever to beat the Vols in Columbia, and only Marcus Mariota and quarterbacks from Alabama have thrown for more yards per attempt against the Vols this decade than Kyle Shurmur did this year (11.9).

This is likely a move that had Bob Shoop’s fingerprints on it as well, as Tennessee’s defensive philosophy looks to carry more of his identity going forward.