Bulldogs, Jackets seeking a boost from their defense

Todd Grantahm. (Jason Getz/AJC)

Todd Grantham's Georgia defense ranks among leaders nationally in several categories, but struggled last year against Tech. (Jason Getz/AJC)

Two years ago, the head coaches at Georgia and Georgia Tech, both with offensive backgrounds, fired their respective defensive coordinators.

So ended the frequent lampooning of Willie Martinez in Athens and the most often heard question at Tech, “What idiot is coaching Paul Johnson’s defense?” (His name was Dave Wommack.)

As Georgia and Georgia Tech prepare to face each other again Saturday, it’s easy to see that the biggest difference between the programs is defense.

The Bulldogs rank fourth nationally in total defense, 11th in scoring, ninth in takeaways and second in third-down percentage.

The Jackets, in those respective categories, rank 43rd, 56th, 52nd and 89th.

Now, it would be an oversimplification to say Todd Grantham is succeeding in his job and Al Groh isn’t. Grantham has better players. But after seeing some progress on defense, Tech has allowed 68 points and 827 yards in the past two weeks against Virginia Tech and Duke, which doesn’t equate to a gold star on Groh’s late-season resume.

Saturday’s game could go a long way toward affirming direction for both coordinators and, it follows, both programs.

It’s easy to diminish the Bulldogs’ defensive accomplishments because of a soft schedule. That won’t be an issue against Tech. The Dogs may have won two of three against the Jackets since Johnson’s arrival, but they really haven’t stopped his option offense.

Al Groh's defense, which allowed 37 points to Virginia Tech and 31 to Duke, will be tested by Georgia. (AP photo)

Al Groh's Tech defense has looked solid at times, but allowed 68 points to Virginia Tech and Duke in the past two weeks. (AP photo)

Consider last season. Georgia won 42-34, but the Jackets rushed for 411 yards and had 512 total. They nearly doubled the Bulldogs in first downs (32-18) and offensive plays (92-48). They held the ball for over 38 minutes. The difference in the game: Tech’s three fumbles (all leading to touchdowns) and a missed extra-point attempt (allowing Georgia to hold a 35-34 lead until Washaun Ealey’s touchdown with 1:29 left.)

When Mark Richt left the field in Athens, you could hear him exhale in Bogart.

It follows that when Richt was asked if he expected Grantham’s defense to fare better the second time around against Tech’s option, he responded, “I don’t know. I just wouldn’t predict it. If you saw that offense week after week after week after week and not just once a year, I suppose we could get pretty good at it. But to think all of a sudden that we’re going to hook it up and be good at defending it, I wouldn’t bet on that.

“Their offense is  just extremely difficult to stop. It makes every possession so much more precious than normal. … The quarterback is a runner, so everybody on our defense has a very strict responsibility. If you make a mistake against this team, that’s when the really big plays happen. Against other teams, you can make a mistake and have a free safety there to clean up the mess.”

The Dogs have held seven of their past nine opponents to 16 or fewer points. But Tech’s offense has averaged nearly 37 points and has been held under 21 just once (24-7 loss at Miami).

Groh has two problems: 1) His defense has been dented in two games since an upset of Clemson; 2) Even if Georgia plays without (or with a hobbled) Isaiah Crowell, quarterback Aaron Murray is playing his best football of the season and effectively spreading the ball around.

Groh signed a two-year contract. He hasn’t yet spoken publicly about whether he plans to come back next season.

Grantham signed a three-year contract. His agent already is pushing for an extension, earlier than athletic director Greg McGarity would like, and is making noises about other opportunities.

So in a sense, the futures of both are uncertain. Maybe one is looking for a sign and the other is looking for leverage. This game could provide either.

By Jeff Schultz

Follow me on Twitter (@JeffSchultzAJC). Friend me on Facebook (Facebook.com/JeffSchultzAJC).

560 comments Add your comment

5150 UOAD

November 25th, 2011
2:44 pm

Tech’d D will be more difficult to scor on than a UGA coed on friday night.

5150 UOAD

November 25th, 2011
2:45 pm

Arkansas v LSU who are the dawgs really wanting to win this game?

5150 UOAD

November 25th, 2011
2:48 pm

Looks like Grantham has some still perky lil MOOBS. He is young so he is just wearing a training Manzier.

calvin

November 25th, 2011
2:51 pm

Schultz failed to mentioned that Georgia’s touchdown
after Tech’s failed extra point was purposely
allowed by tech so that Tech could get the ball
back and at least have some chance to win, highly
improbable as a quick touchdown and two point
conversion would have been (to get to overtime).
AJC writers always just happen to leave something
out, don’t they?

dawgfan

November 25th, 2011
2:51 pm

“Now, it would be an oversimplification to say Todd Grantham is succeeding in his job and Al Groh isn’t.”

Its only an oversimplification because you continue to insist on making excuses for Georgia Tech football. A defensive coordinators job is to prevent the other team from moving the ball and scoring. Todd Grantham has done a better job of that than Al Groh. END OF STORY. This isn’t pee wee league where you simply get points for trying. Everyone else in the nation is measured by the bottom line and that is wins and losses. Georgia Tech should not get special treatment. I’m tired of all the Techie excuses and the AJC enabling this loser mentality.

See you tomorrow nerds. Bring your calculus books. Its going to be a long day.

Short Dawg

November 25th, 2011
2:52 pm

UGA’s great defense faced the likes of Ky,Ole Piss,etc. Its not exactly like they stopped Tom Brady…

DawgInaTruck

November 25th, 2011
2:52 pm

Every now and then the outcome of one of these games is determined pretty early. More often than not, it is a nail-biter that goes down to the wire. Life for three hours would be much easier with the former if it is decided early on in our favor but I’m expecting the latter.

Go Dawgs! GATA!!

5150 UOAD

November 25th, 2011
2:55 pm

UGA Seniors:
ISRAEL TROUPE: Born: Nov. 4, 1988; Major: Housing.
DEANGELO TYSON; Born: April 12, 1989; Major: Housing.
WESLEY VAN DYK; Born: September 21, 1989; Major: Management.
JASON VEAL; Born: May 27, 1990; Major: Finance.
BLAIR WALSH; Born: Jan. 8, 1990; Major: Speech Communication.
ARON WHITE; Born: Oct. 8, 1988; Major: Management (earned degree)/Kinesiology.
JUSTIN K. ANDERSON; Born: April 15, 1988; Major: Housing.
JOHN BODIN; Born: July 24, 1990; Major: Anthropology.
BRANDON BOGOTAY; Born: May 8, 1989; Major: Consumer Economics.
BRANDON BOYKIN; Born: July 13, 1990; Major: Magazines
DREW BUTLER; Born May 10, 1989; Major: Telecommunication Arts (earned degree)/Kinesiology.
CANDLER COOK; Born: May 8, 1989; Major: Management.
MATTHEW DeGENOVA; Born: April, 24, 1989; Major: Finance.
ERIC ELLIOT; Born: March, 2 1989; Major: Risk Management & Insurance.
BRUCE FIGGINS; Born: Dec. 7, 1988; Major: Speech Communication.
CORDY GLENN; Born: Sept. 18, 1989; Major: Sociology.
BILLY JOHNSON; Born: May 11, 1990; Major: Sports Management.
BEN JONES; Born: July 2, 1989; Major: Health & Physical Education.
GREG LANIER; Born: Feb. 19, 1989; Major: Exercise & Sport Science.
TRINTON STURDIVANT; Born: Jan. 18, 1989; Major: Finance.
JEREMY NICHOLAS SULEK; Born: December 20, 1989; Major: Finance.

Georgia Tech Seniors.
Ty Rawlings majoring in industrial engineering.

Roddy Jones a three-time Academic All-ACC selection…. served as co-President of Tech’s Student-Athlete Advisory Board (SAAB) in 2010-11… graduated from Tech in December and is playing this season as a graduate student.

Embry Peeples

Preston Lyons ACC Academic Honor Roll for 2009-10 majoring in history.

Rashaad Reid . majoring in management.

Steven Sylvester majoring in sociology.

Michael Peterson made the ACC Academic Honor Roll for 2009-10… graduated in December and is playing this season as a graduate student. majoring in management.

Tyler Melton a management major

Chandler Anderson majoring in business administration.

Jason Peters a graduate student serves on the Student Athlete Advisory Board where he chairs the community service committee. owns a degree in management.

Logan Walls ACC Academic Honor Roll for 2009-10… a two-time Academic All-ACC selection majoring in management.

Coach Paul's Johnson

November 25th, 2011
2:57 pm

If run correctly, GT will put up 500+ again this year!

Short Dawg

November 25th, 2011
2:58 pm

Schultz : 2) Even if Georgia plays without (or with a hobbled) Isaiah Crowell, quarterback Aaron Murray is playing his best football of the season and effectively spreading the ball around.

I disagree. Murray struggled against Kentucky. I was there.

Steve

November 25th, 2011
2:58 pm

I am curious about something. We all know Tech fans entire season every year comes down to the UGA game (kinda pathetic). Why is it, when the game is in Atlanta, that Tech fans sell so many of their tickets or don’t want to go? Every year, the high school stadium is literally 40 – 50% Georgia fans. Kinda sad if the game means so much to you.

Short Dawg

November 25th, 2011
2:59 pm

Magazines is a major in college ?

Steve

November 25th, 2011
3:00 pm

“5150 UOAD” I actually do kinda feel sorry for you. You are obviously the guy with no friends, no life, and no woman. You sure do post fast on these new blogs. Your computer your best friend?

dawgfan

November 25th, 2011
3:01 pm

I just looked it up. In the 3 years since Johnson has been at Tech his offense has gained 1355 yards on Georgia. That would be really really really impressive if not for the fact that UGA has gained 1253 yards on Tech during that same period. So they’ve outgained us by 100 yards in 3 years. WHOOPDEEDOO!!! Yet all we hear is how we’ver never been able to stop Johnson’s offense. You never hear how they aren’t really stopping us either.

But we have “better players” so I guess it doesn’t count. What a joke.

jay

November 25th, 2011
3:04 pm

Amazing how the Dawgs have stumbled into winning 9 out of the last 10. That Tech juggernaut is
tough to stop, once a decade.

Destin Dawg

November 25th, 2011
3:05 pm

Go Dawgs.. beat Tech… this should be fun !!!

Short Dawg

November 25th, 2011
3:05 pm

Kinesiology must be an easy degree ? Two UGA players have them already…

Techman

November 25th, 2011
3:08 pm

All rivalries mean a lot dumazz. Auburn-Alabama,Ole Miss-Miss St,FSU-Fla,Michigan-Ohio State,Texas-Texas A&M, and yes UGA-Ga.Tech.

jeffrey d

November 25th, 2011
3:10 pm

So based on these comment Jeff is somehow biased against both UGA and GT. Or maybe college fans just think everyone’s against their superior team

Destin Dawg

November 25th, 2011
3:10 pm

most Tech football players don’t graduate.. so its doesn’t matter what major ???

Techman

November 25th, 2011
3:13 pm

State bragging rights always mean a lot.

5150 UOAD

November 25th, 2011
3:13 pm

Kinesiology is what they take for graduate classes. It is about the body and they should know the basics for their weight training and S&C to play ball. It lets them stay in school to play. That is smart of UGA to let them stay. TECH didn’t do the same letting players in a grad Program. We lost some linemen that went to play at Ga State for Bill Curry and continue their education.

Steve tech doesn’t sell all of it’s season tickets. UGA fans buy picket packages just to get tickets for the UGA v GT game. you must not be a REAL UGa fan if you don’t know that.
I had a lovely day with my family. thanks for your concern. If you would like we can go to dinner after the UGA v GT game.

poopdawg

November 25th, 2011
3:15 pm

Short bus Dawg, must be. Do you own a dictionary?

Techman

November 25th, 2011
3:16 pm

Yeah, UGA players like to major in Housing & Magazines. What a joke !

Fair and Balanced

November 25th, 2011
3:17 pm

Ga hasn’t faced an offense like Tech’s. Tech has not faced a defense like Ga’s.

poopdawg

November 25th, 2011
3:17 pm

51, what was your major? That was a lot of info with no point made by you brainchild.

5150 UOAD

November 25th, 2011
3:19 pm

Destin Dawg……………….are you STUPID? Those are the Seniors at TECH that WILL GRADUATE with a BS not a BA Degree. I would be willing to say right now my 10th grade niece could get a degree in Housing and magazines right now. She could take the Jr. level courses and pass.

[...] Bulldogs, Jackets seeking a boost from their defense [...]

jeffrey d

November 25th, 2011
3:19 pm

See…this is why I don’t like college football discussion forums. It always digresses into “your teams is horrible and my team is perfect and your’re an idiot for liking those guys!!”

“Oh yeah?? Well we won by a lot one year!”

“Oh yeah??! Well YOUR school has an awful horticulture program!!”

dawgfan

November 25th, 2011
3:20 pm

Its unfair that the Green Bay Packers are the best team in the NFL because they have better players.

Its unfair that the Cardinals won the world series. They had better players!!!

LMAO. Unbelievable.

5150 UOAD

November 25th, 2011
3:22 pm

poopdawg……………what point do you want? I posted INFORMATION. You can USE your OWN MIND to decide what you THINK of the Info.

Techman

November 25th, 2011
3:22 pm

So Kinesiology basically lets players that should graduate stay just to play football ? What other made up stuff goes on at UGA to stop graduates from leaving ???

AtWork

November 25th, 2011
3:23 pm

@ 5150 UOAD

Dude, i don’t know why you want to take shots at kids and their educations. I understand you think that you are better than everyone else because you can copy and paste Seniors and their degrees from a college. I want Geogia Tech to win the game but taking pot shots at students because of their majors is sad. Take pot shots at coaches and refs if you want but i am thankful that these kids are getting an education. That is the only way the USA will get back on track is to have educated citizens. There are a LOT of M-Train majors on our football team or undecided for a long time. Schools is hard, especially when you are playing a sport. So ease off and set a good example for people instead of showing your immaturity.

Go Jackets!

please

November 25th, 2011
3:23 pm

Georgia had an easy schedule, that is true but who did tech play? answer as usual an easy schedule. they play in the acc, Fla, ten, sc, aub, were all down this year. but miami, virgina have been down for a while.

Techman

November 25th, 2011
3:24 pm

My 8 year-old son could already have a degree in Magazines. Wow, what a waste of college courses…

poopdawg

November 25th, 2011
3:26 pm

51, i think your a dumba$$ who never went to Tech , probably Kenne st for a semester or two.

Techman

November 25th, 2011
3:26 pm

Virginia Tech & Clemson aren’t “down” this year. Our schedule was much tougher than playing the SEC patsies…

5150 UOAD

November 25th, 2011
3:27 pm

dawgfan………….better players? you used Professional teams.
STUDENT ATHLETES are different. Well, they are supposed to be STUDENTS 1st then Athletes 2nd. Playing is supposed to be a means to an end. The END being a college degree not just NFL money.

ARKANSAS whipping some Tiger BUTT right now. Patrino back in the DOME?

Terry

November 25th, 2011
3:27 pm

Don’t know if it will hold up, but it looks like it could be an Arkansas upset so far.

jeffrey d

November 25th, 2011
3:29 pm

51, i think your a dumba$$ who never went to Tech

It’s “you’re,” chief. Please represent UGA better

5150 UOAD

November 25th, 2011
3:29 pm

Techman that is a GRADUATE program. No different than Tech having Roddy Jones in the Graduate program for Management.

Saban

November 25th, 2011
3:30 pm

Chaokdawg is a pig. He fits in Athens well.

Steve

November 25th, 2011
3:32 pm

To the losers constantly making comments about UGA’s schedule. Guess what? They don’t control their SEC schedule. They control their out of conference schedule and unless I am mistaken, played #5 Boise State to start the year. Now lets see, who did Tech play for their out of conference schedule? Western Carolina, Middle TN State, and Kansas. Yea, tough ones there!

Techman

November 25th, 2011
3:32 pm

I thought game was tonight ? But I see its on !

Techman

November 25th, 2011
3:35 pm

Yeah they played Boise State AND New Mexico State AND Coastal Carolina !

5150 UOAD

November 25th, 2011
3:36 pm

poopdawg……..I have 2 degrees from Kennesaw St. Thanks. I took 15, 20, 25 hours my last year to finish. That was more than a year and 2 quarters in 1 year & graduated with a 3.43. Do you feel better now.

Loves GEORGIA

November 25th, 2011
3:36 pm

5150, you failed to give the names of all the tech players taking basket weaving. I guess having your players taking such hard class is the reason tech used so many ineligible players and had to vacate wins. The players should study more and tech should cheat less. Cheaters never win. Why is your so called clean programs always on PROBATION?

Techman

November 25th, 2011
3:37 pm

Be real Dawgs fans. Coastal Carolina,New Mexico State,Ole Miss,Miss St,Vandy,Kentucky all suck !

Techman

November 25th, 2011
3:38 pm

Kennesaw State ? LMAO.

You say what?

November 25th, 2011
3:38 pm

When Arkansas beats LSU and GA beats them what will ESPN say then?