This time last week, we were examining what little we’d heard so far from new UGA defensive coordinator Todd Grantham and getting excited about his pronouncements that he favored an aggressive, attacking style.
Over the past few days, Grantham has been making the rounds of the sports talk stations and sat down Friday with reporters to elaborate. And he’s still saying what we want to hear. Of course, it’s often a big leap between talking the talk and producing on the field and we’ve yet to see how Georgia’s players will execute what Grantham wants.
But from what I’m reading and hearing, reaction across the Bulldog Nation has been very positive to what he’s saying. Grantham thinks recruiting successfully close to home is the answer to winning the SEC and beating elite teams like Florida. He embraces the passionate, impatient fan base and says he understands who Georgia needs to beat.
And he is stressing to his players that they’re going to have to compete and produce if they want to take the field for the Red and Black.
He said his first message to the team is “we want to be physical, aggressive and relentless in our approach. … To do that, you’ve got to be in great condition and I think you have to have great preparation.”
More importantly, he said, “I think it’s important that you find ways to get your best players on the field. … Ultimately, you have to make plays on defense and to do that you have to have guys that are playmakers. I think you do that by getting your best players on the field.”
And players won’t be on the field just because they’re a senior or have started in the past. Grantham says he’s opening up all the positions and playing time will be earned. “I think competition makes everybody better, and I think you have to work to win a position before you can help us win a game. … The bottom line is you’re going to put the players out there that are going to be the most productive.”
As for which current SEC defense Dog fans can expect Georgia’s D to resemble, Grantham said exactly what I wanted to hear: “Alabama.”
All good stuff. Now we’ve got to see if he coaches as good as he talks.
WILL RICHT EMBRACE SPECIAL TEAMS?
On another note, Grantham also said that while it’s “not etched in stone right now,” the final member of the coaching staff still to be hired likely will join him in coaching linebackers, meaning no full-time special teams coach.
Considering the task ahead in fashioning a new defensive scheme, I can understand that thinking. I assume the special teams coaching will still be split up among various coaches and one of them will be asked to be the special teams coordinator in addition to his regular duties, as has been done in the past.
But what that really means is that if Georgia’s special teams play is going to improve and become more consistent, the onus is going to be on Mark Richt, who to date has never appeared to attach as much significance to that aspect of the game as some other coaches do. If Georgia’s special teams play is going to improve, that means more time spent on it in practice. Upgrading the personnel on the kickoff coverage team. And demanding a higher level of execution.
It’s not enough to have a terrific placekicker and punter if you’re populating your kick coverage team with walk-ons and regularly give up great field position on returns. Or if you consistently fall for fake punts. Or if your return men don’t seem to know when to run it out of the end zone and when to take a knee.
At the schools where special teams are truly special and viewed on an equal footing with the offense and defense when it comes to winning games, that mindset starts at the very top.
Richt needs a come-to-Jesus moment with himself about what he’s going to do to make sure that special teams play becomes a strength for the Dogs across the board.