Recently, Reign of Troy ran a story on USC’s newest coaching hire,Tee Martin, who will be in charge of the wide receiver corps for the upcoming season. I had the opportunity to sit down with Martin and asked him about his plans for the upcoming season.
Q: What was your initial reaction when you got the call from Lane Kiffin, asking you to be the new wide receiver coach?
A: At first I just came out for an interview without a job offer, which is kind of standard procedure. I came out for the interview, spent all day with the coaching staff, and it was great. We talked football, talked about the situation with the receivers and where he sees his team going. I felt good about that part of it so I told him to give some time to think, and by the time I was getting ready to leave, he offered me the job. So, it was kind of a surprise. As a young coach you dream of having an opportunity to coach at a school like this and it came for me at this time, and I’m excited.
Q: I know you haven’t been here for that long, but you’re from the south, grew up in the south, played and coached in the south. How has the transition been from being in Tennessee and Kentucky to being here in LA?
A: For me, all I know is the walk from the Radisson to my office. I haven’t had a lot of time to do anything else. But for me it’s all about ball and recruiting, getting ready to coach my guys this spring, the day after the spring game we hit the road for recruiting so I haven’t had a lot of time to do much else. So my focus has been all ball but LA has a lot of options if you do have free time, there’s a lot you can do to enjoy yourself. Other cities don’t really have that kind of opportunity, which is also good for recruiting, you know, you have a city where you can do everything you want here and there’s good football, and that’s a great thing.
Q: At Tennessee you are a bit of a legend, having led the team to an undefeated season and a national championship. How did you make the transition from a college QB to a WR coach?
A: It’s kind of a natural progression for quarterbacks. When you play quarterback, you talk to the receivers all the time, you spend a lot of time throwing with them in the summer. They understand the concepts and you understand theirs. As a young coach you’re always learning and it will be great for me to coach a position other than one you play.
Q: In taking on this new coaching position, what did you see in USC’s receiver corps that got you excited about getting involved?
A: Greatness. Not only about what they do on the field, but what they are as people. You never want to come into a bad situation, but that’s why they call us “coach”. If there were a problem child so to speak in my group, I would’ve still looked at the opportunity to come here and help a kid, but I didn’t get that. When I asked about Rob and Marquise and these kids, they were like, “Coach, you got great kids,” and that intrigued more. Then my next question was, “are they coachable?” Sometimes you have star athletes that don’t listen, they have bad attitudes and egos. But the coaches told me that these guys are very coachable, they all came from the same high school, which was amazing in and of itself. And I followed these guys throughout their careers this far, the kind of success they [Robert Woods and Marquise Lee] had as freshmen is unbelievable. But that’s what you get with the Lane Kiffin system. He’s been great with freshman wide receivers, so it was a no-brainer to take the opportunity to coach these guys.
Q: Besides Woods and Lee, USC has George Farmer moving back to receiver and Nelson Agholor coming in. With four stud receivers, do you see USC becoming more of a spread offense team?
A: I think Coach Kiffin is just gonna do what we are capable of doing. He is one of the more creative offensive minds in the game, he’s always been that way. So I leave it up to him to come up with those ideas; for us it’s making the plays when they come to us. I don’t think we will become this “throw the ball every play” type of team, although we do have Matt Barkley and the type of tight ends that we have. At the end of the day we have to score points, and whatever we have to do to score points is what we are gonna do. I think we’ll have a game plan to go out and score more points than the other team.
Q: This season, Matt Barkley will be a Heisman Trophy candidate and some think that Robert Woods might be one, too. How does that impact the way you coach, keeping in mind that trophies are on the line for a few players this season?
A: You focus on the person and you focus on his game; all the outside stuff, it takes care of itself. Anyone of those kids will tell you the same thing. They focus on the task at hand, they focus on the team as opposed to being individuals and when you do that, then you get those awards. Nobody is gonna give a Heisman Trophy or any of those awards to a losing team, and I think those guys understand that. For me as a coach, I just focus on getting them better and when you already have those accolades, then the opportunities are endless.
Q: Going into this coming season, USC is pre-season ranked No. 1 by some sources, No. 2 by others. What unique challenges do you face as a new coaching coming into a team that is so heavily favored to do well?
A: I’ve been fortunate to have been in that situation before as a player. You know, coming off of a season ranked high with Peyton [Manning], and then in my junior year going undefeated and winning the national championship, and then going into my senior year after winning the national championship. At the end of the day though, you can’t think about that. You just gotta think about winning every game on Saturday. And I always told people, “I don’t know if we were the best team in college football that year, but we were the best team every Saturday,” and that’s all you have to focus on. You always hear that old cliché, “one game at a time,” but it’s so very true. When you’re preseason ranked top-five—and the way the BCS is so unforgiving in terms of losses—you almost have to go undefeated to make it to the championship. So, instead of taking on a big task of saying we have to get there, first we have to go out every Saturday, and be the best team week.
Q: Having played and coached in the SEC, with the team that ‘SC has going into next season, do you think with the talent USC has they could make for an interesting match up with an SEC team?
A: No question. I was born and raised on SEC ball but I always watched ‘SC ball growing up. And I can remember when Auburn was ranked a top-five team and ‘SC goes and blows ‘em out. I think the Pac-12 as a whole is an interesting conference; great athletes and a lot of speed in this league. You saw that with Tennessee coming out here to play Cal and UCLA. So people can argue whatever they want to but it comes down to scoring more points than the other guys. And I think we match up well with any team in the country, looking at offense, defense, coaching staff.
Q: USC’s biggest opponents next season will probably be Oregon and Washington, and possibly Stanford. As a coach what do you look forward to about these marquee match ups?
A: They’re big games, and coming from a conference where basically every week is championship week, I understand how important ‘SC/Stanford is or ‘SC/Oregon, or ‘SC/UCLA. I understand rivalries, and this is a league where a lot of kids come from the Southern California area so they know each other, and that only heightens the rivalry. So it’s gonna be exciting to coach in that kind of atmosphere.
Thanks for joining us, Coach Tee. For Reign of Troy and on behalf of our readers, we wish you the best at USC and can’t wait to see your presence on Howard Jones Field and the Coliseu!.