One by one, the new defensive staff at UGA appears to be addressing the most frequent complaints heard from fans over the past few seasons.
For those who thought Willie Martinez didn’t call enough blitzes (he actually called a fair number, they just weren’t successful all that often), Todd Grantham’s 3-4 scheme promises a blitz-your-brains-out approach.
If it drove you crazy the way the Dogs’ cornerbacks tended not to look back for the ball, we’ve already heard that new secondary coach Scott Lakatos is addressing that.
And then there’s probably the No. 1 lament about Georgia’s defense heard in the stands in recent seasons: that soft “prevent” or “bend but don’t break” zone that the Dogs played, with defenders often giving receivers a cushion of 10 yards or more at the line.
The results last year were less than stellar, with the Dogs ranking 10th in the SEC in pass defense, giving up an average of 200 yards per game.
Thankfully, the philosophy of playing back off the receivers apparently is history as well under Lakatos. Talking about the new approach in The Macon Telegraph, the secondary players say Lakatos believes in press coverage, something rarely done under Martinez. Basically, it means having the cornerbacks lining up closely on a wide receiver and “jamming” him at the snap.
The idea, Brandon Boykin says, is to “knock them off their timing and to frustrate them.”
Lakatos also is much more interception-minded, which will be a big change from last year, when the Dogs only snagged 10 picks.
The way the new coach teaches pass defense, cornerback Vance Cuff told the Telegraph, the defenders are going after the ball. “Coach Martinez wanted you to play the man, the hand and basket. … but Coach Lakatos, he wants the ball. Yeah, he wants the ball.”
There is, of course, a danger in such aggressive play that if you go for the ball and miss, you give up a big play. But under Martinez that still frequently happened, even with all that cushion his players allowed, due to poor positioning and tackling.
The key to this gambling kind of defense is execution, and it remains to be seen how it’ll work out.
But I like the more aggressive mentality being instilled in the defense now.
JUST HOW THIN IS THIN?
If there’s an aspect of the offense where a lack of depth could potentially be a big problem for the Dogs, it’s wide receiver. With nagging injuries this spring there’s often been just four healthy scholarship players practicing at that position.
Just how thin is it? When The Red and Black asked Tavares King which young wide receivers had impressed him in spring camp this far, he named two walk-ons: Taylor Bradberry and Rhett McGowan.
It’s a tough situation, A.J. Green says, “but it’s just going to prepare us for the fall. We don’t have [depth], so at this point we’re just going to have to push each other and give each other a break whenever you can.”
Those tight ends are going to be more important than ever.