LEXINGTON — Kentucky receivers coach Tee Martin followed Peyton Manning as quarterback at Tennessee and led the Vols to a 13-0 record and national championship even though he threw for just 2,317 yards and 12 touchdowns while completing about 54 percent of his passes.
Martin, who completed 24 straight passes in one stretch in 1998, led the Vols to a second straight BCS bowl in 1999. During Martin's two years as a starter at Tennessee, the Vols were undefeated against Alabama, Auburn, Georgia and Kentucky, and went 1-1 against Florida.
Martin was drafted in the fifth round in 2000 by the Pittsburgh Steelers after completing 326 of 558 passes for 4,592 yards and 32 scores in two years. He retired in 2004 as an Oakland Raider after four NFL seasons. He spent the 2002 season in the NFL Europe.
Here are thoughts Martin shared after practice this week as UK (2-1) prepares to host unbeaten Florida Saturday night:
Question: How important will the pass be against Florida, a team that is hard to run against?
Martin: “Florida is back like when I¿played. You turn on the film and it is like, ‘Wow. The front seven guys will play in the NFL.’ That’s what you see again now. We are going to be challenged up front to block them and be challenged at receiver and running back to make plays in the passing game. That is something we have to do to win this game. It will be a tremendous challenge for us. We are putting together a really good game plan that the kids feel good about. They know how we will attack this defense and hopefully it will work out Saturday.”
Question: Will you maybe go to the pass more earlier in the game?
Martin: “I¿think we go based on how we are having success. If we are having success in the running game, then you stick to it. We didn’t go into the last game thinking we would throw the ball as much (41 times) as we did. We played it by how the game went and situations. When you get down and have to score points fast, we speeded up the offense and moved down the field pretty good. If it turns out to be that type game,¿I feel we can do that. Morgan is feeling better and more confident.”
Question: What have you seen out of Florida’s pass defense?
Martin: “They are good. They have good pass rushers up front and play a lot of guys. Very athletic. They get after the quarterback. You expect that. They have athletes who are strong and can run and want to get to the quarterback. Schematically, you know where they are going to line up. They don’t do a whole lot, but they are good. You don’t have to do a whole lot when you have good players.”
Question: Is their speed on defense as good as it is on offense?
Martin: “They don’t lack speed. It is going to look like a track meet on special teams, offense and defense. They have a lot of speed.”
Question: Since you beat Florida as a player, can you help inspire the team this week against Florida?
Martin: “What happened when we beat them is that we decided we were going to beat them. It wasn’t that (coach) Phillip (Fulmer) came in there and had his shirt off and beat his chest saying we had to do something. All we did was execute and do what was asked of us. We went into the game with confidence, made plays. It was ugly (Tennessee had just 235 total yards). It was not like we killed them. When the plays came, we made them. They made some mistakes (four fumbles), we didn’t. We win in overtime. That’s the attitude these guys have to take. They have to want to win and believe they can win.”
Question: Have you seen teams double covering LaRod King more and does the emergence of E.J. Fields help that?
Martin: “I¿have not really seen that. We have a read offense and Morgan (Newton) goes through his progressions. But it is good that he has another receiver he knows can make a play for him.”
Question: What had been holding E.J. Fields back before his seven-catch, one touchdown game against Louisville last week?
Martin: “Just the opportunity. Go back to last year when you had Randall Cobb, Chris Matthews and LaRod King all ahead of him coming off an injury year. The opportunity didn’t come, but he played a lot of special teams and made his mark on special teams. Then those guys left and it is time for him to step up. The first game he was suspended, so I limited his reps near the end of training camp because I knew he would not be with us. Then the following week he got in a little bit but the ball was not thrown to him.¿Last week he got in, the ball was thrown to him and he caught it.
“He had been doing it in practice. He had been consistent. What is tough as a coach sometimes is when a guy has not done it in a game but he is doing it in practice is to say whether he is ready for the game. The only way you find out is by throwing him out there and that’s what we are doing. We are giving guys opportunities and the guys that perform keep playing.