One of the side benefits of defensive coordinator Todd Grantham installing a new defense at Georgia may be that the players all know that no one is assured of a starting position — unlike last year, when some spots were locked up early by upperclassmen.
Nick Williams, who’s battling for playing time at one of the safety positions, talked about the benefits of the competition with The Macon Telegraph. “It’s great because it brings a lot out of players, knowing that you might not be the starter,” Williams said. “Nobody has a starting job. You can get kind of content when you know you’re going to be playing as a starter on Saturday nights, so you don’t practice as hard.”
The italics for emphasis are mine. I think we all remember too well what it was like last year when some players held on to their starting spots despite the fact that they were being outplayed by their backups.
Williams says he thinks the uncertainty this spring is helping the team. “I like how the coaches are doing it. They haven’t set on who is starting at each position. They have swapped everybody out, keep everybody wondering really. No one knows, so you have to come out every day with your best.”
Let’s hope they keep that mindset even after the season starts. Besides poor fundamentals like tackling, complacency seemed to be a big problem for Georgia’s defense the past couple of seasons.
THANKS, A.J., BUT NO THANKS
I had not previously commented on A.J. Green’s stated desire to be considered as the Dogs’ punt returner, and Green joining a bunch of other players in trying out at that spot last week in practice, because I think the likelihood of that turning into a regular gig for him is about the same as it was for Knowshon Moreno a couple of seasons ago. But a couple of readers asked what I thought, so here goes:
I think it’s commendable that Green, the unchallenged star of the team, wants to go the extra mile, but I’m hoping the coaches decide that it’s not such a good idea. He’s just too valuable as the Dogs’ top wide receiver.
As David Hale pointed out, “Georgia has just six scholarship WRs, two wore green jerseys this week in practice, one is coming off missing the season following shoulder surgery, and A.J. … if he has a weakness, it’s that he’s been banged up most of his career.”
And The Grit Tree wisely noted that “unlike Knowshon in 2008, Green’s body is not built to take those added hits in the return game. I don’t think A.J. Is injury prone as some have speculated, but I’m not wanting to take any added chances either. I remember Fred Gibson got hurt returning a kickoff in 2003 and missed several games, notably the September game against LSU. … Green is far and away a more important player than Gibson was. There are a lot of other athletes who could be a better option other than Green or Logan Gray. If you want to utilize A.J.’s skill in the open field, throw him some more screen passes.”
Yes, the chances are pretty good that Green could break a long return. But he already has a big enough target on his back and we need him too much at receiver. Looking at the other guys who practiced returning simulated punts last week — Carlton Thomas, Washaun Ealey, Bacarri Rambo, Brandon Boykin, Branden Smith and Rantavious Wooten — it’s obvious there is a pretty impressive talent pool from which to pick a returner. No need to risk A.J. in that role.