What’s first-year verdict on Grantham’s defense?

Was it just a personnel problem, or should the Georgia defense have made more progress this year? (Brant Sanderlin / AJC)

Was it just a personnel problem, or should the Georgia defense have made more progress this year? (Brant Sanderlin / AJC)

Whether you tend to spin these things positively or negatively, Mark Richt pretty well summed up the defensive picture for the Dogs this week when he said Georgia still has “a ways to go” and “we’re still not playing championship-level defense right now.”

Since the end of the regular season, there’s been a lot of discussion among fans about the Georgia defense this year and the fact that its only real improvement over the Willie Martinez era was in takeaways.

All the offseason talk about a more “aggressive” style of play got fans excited about the arrival of Todd Grantham, but overall, the stats this season weren’t much different from the year before. Aside from Justin Houston, the Dogs weren’t very successful pressuring opposing quarterbacks. And Georgia ended the year dead-last in the conference in third-down defense.

Granted, the personnel wasn’t ideal for Grantham’s 3-4 scheme, particularly on the line, but it’s kind of alarming that there wasn’t any real improvement shown over the course of the season. And Grantham didn’t appear to have a clue how to defend the option running attacks that the Dogs increasingly face.

Should Georgia be feeling buyer’s remorse over spending big bucks for Grantham instead of opting for others who were available at the time, such as Tim DeRuyter, who has turned things around at Texas A&M, or Manny Diaz, who wound up at Mississippi State?

I put that question to a few fans this past week.

“I didn’t really feel like I saw the 3-4 I was expecting with lots of pressure and pressure coming from all over and confusing quarterbacks,” my son Bill said. “We played a lot of 4-2-5 or sometimes it looked like even just 4-3. Houston was always rushed from the end and that seemed to be our only blitz.”

Bill thought it instructive to look at Texas A&M, our bowl opponent last year, which also replaced its defensive coordinator after the season.  “I watched Texas A&M, which switched to a 3-4 this year when they hired Tim DeRuyter from Air Force, who was floated for our D-coordinator job last year. A&M does a lot more varied blitzing and looked more like a 3-4 defense. They have Von Miller, a Justin Houston type player (they were both finalists for the Dick Butkus Award, which Miller just won) and he was rushed from different positions, so the QB didn’t always know where he was coming from, despite being an outside linebacker.

Was Todd Grantham's NFL experience perhaps not the best background for a college defensive coordinator? (Brant Sanderlin / AJC)

Was Todd Grantham's NFL experience perhaps not the best background for a college defensive coordinator? (Brant Sanderlin / AJC)

“It’s possible A&M just has better personnel to run a 3-4 than UGA. It is also possible that hiring a college D-coordinator made more sense than hiring a pro one, where those spread type offenses aren’t around as much. We also had an inability to adjust to covering a wheel route for way too long this season. Couple the collapses with the wisdom of giving a choke sign to a college athlete on an opposing team and I wonder about Grantham. Sure enough that hire will help determine if 2011 is the end of the Richt era.”

My friend Joel said he tends to think “it’s a personnel issue more than coaching. DeAngelo Tyson and Abry Jones should be playing DE, not nose tackle, especially in the 3-4, where (I’ve heard over and over) you need a really big space eater at the position. I wonder about the development of Kwame Geathers and Justin Anderson, both of whom are big bodies.”

But watching a replay of the Tech game particularly bothered Joel. “Bob Davie was pointing out that the interior gaps in the 3-4 defense are very wide, and Tech was simply running through those gaps. I’m no expert on defense, but I would assume that the linebackers are supposed to fill those gaps and they clearly were not. Maybe Grantham was willing to give up the inside runs to protect against the pitch, but they hurt us outside as well. I’d also note that Duke held Tech to 100 yards less offense that we did and, more telling, Tech only converted four of 13 first downs against Duke, while converting seven of 12 against us. Nobody can tell me that Duke has better personnel on defense than UGA.

“I do think Grantham is a smart coach — I remember Wade Phillips saying he was the most overqualified D-line coach in the NFL — and maybe with a year under his belt we’ll see some improvement. I also remember reading an article in the preseason that quoted some former players as saying that fans should not expect an immediate turnaround on defense, that it will take time to learn the new scheme and get the right personnel in place. I’d say that so far he’s been proven right.”

My old buddy Dan said he saw “little to no improvement on the defense this season other than the turnovers. Clearly that was due to a more attacking defense in place of the Willie Martinez style of waiting (until the other team was in the endzone, too often) and reacting.”

But, Dan said, “I am inclined to give Grantham one more year with his style players. I do fault any coach that coaches to his preferred style over the talent he has. … For Grantham to point to a lack of a nose guard for failure of his defense raises the more basic question of why was the defensive coordinator running a defense he did not have the personnel to play. He knew after spring practice what he had. His job is to design a defense with what he has.”

My brother Tim thought the biggest problem on defense was the lack of size on the line. “We were just overmatched by the big offensive lines we faced. All the deficiencies in the defense this year can be attributed to the line. (This is true for offense as well.) If you make plays at the line or behind the line it makes the other parts of your defense better. Defensive backs don’t have to cover as long, and you get more pressure. If it takes two offensive linemen to take on your defensive tackle(s) then your linebackers can make the plays.”

The outlook isn’t that bright either, Tim said. “I don’t think you can recruit enough players to turn it around in less than two years. Grantham was pretty much stuck with the players we signed last year, which mainly consisted of light, fast defensive end/linebacker types and defensive backs.”

My friend Carl over in Athens agrees. “I do think it’s a bit early to make any judgements on Grantham. He’ll need AT LEAST two years to get it turned totally around. Manny Diaz had considerably more talent at MSU. I have never been comfortable with the JUCO route, but right now I don’t see much other way to go. At least in the short term. I heard David Greene on ‘The Bulldog Brunch’ say that in 2002 the defense was so deep that Thomas Davis and Greg Blue were second stringers. Now, that was some fast defense in 2002. Boss Bailey, et al. All we have now on defense is fat, slow guys. Hopefully, this new move in S&C will be a big help. Couldn’t get much worse.”

Not a very encouraging picture, is it? What’s your take on Grantham and the Georgia defense?

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310 comments Add your comment

NFLDAWG

December 11th, 2010
10:52 am

First! Needs big improvement!!

DIT

December 11th, 2010
10:57 am

I know a lot of people have been disappointed. I’m one of them that thought we would be a little better. At saying that I do remember many people on these blogs just wanting to get rid of Willie! When CTG was hired everyone was saying that yes, it would take a couple years to get it going. One year is not a couple and as bad as this year was, we need to let CTG get his players in place.

I personally feel that there will be a large improvement next year on the defensive side of the ball. Championship quality, probably not, but we will be back up to 9 or 10 wins next year. Just being a realist here. I would love to win it all next year, but more than likely it will not happen. Give CTG some time. Our defense will be much improved.

I also remember at the beginning of the year that, again, many were on here saying that Aaron Murray is not a good QB and should not be the starter. I kept telling y’all to be patient. Living in Tampa I have seen this kid play and KNEW that he is/will be special. If it were not for him we would not have won 6 games this year. Let’s just hope I’m right about the defense next year as well!

Merry Christmas!!

TommyP

December 11th, 2010
10:58 am

Manny Diaz has considerably more talent on defense than Grantham? Huh??????

pete

December 11th, 2010
10:59 am

Time will tell. I’ll be shocked if Richt can turn the ship around …. but I hope he can.

jumbeauxtiger

December 11th, 2010
11:05 am

Certainly little improvement if any was made by Grantham. In fairness to him, not much should have been expected the first season. However, in 2011 there has to be a turnaround or it could be another long season.

He will be challenged right off the bat with Boise State and South Carolina.

J Clay

December 11th, 2010
11:07 am

I’d say Grantham has been less than impressive but also deserves more than one year before a full evaluation is done. This year was more of the same – with secondary most times not even in the picture on wide open pass plays and holes all over in the running game. True, more turnovers created this year – which is step in right direction – but much more improvement is needed. Here is the main stat to look at – if the offense is putting up 30+ points per game we should not lose period.

SoCal Dawg

December 11th, 2010
11:09 am

UGA has issues, it seems, when it comes to recruiting.

CPODawg

December 11th, 2010
11:10 am

I think we will see improvements, Jarvis Jones and Richard Samuel will contribute AND they have had a extra year in Grantham`s system.

Hopefully the dawgs can lure in a a JUCO nose tackle, someine who can contribute right away

RAID

December 11th, 2010
11:12 am

The 3 huge linemen we lost off of last years squad would have been perfect in this scheme……Give him time…….although we did give up some big play I still saw improvement….Turnovers,fewer penalties etc……I enjoyed seeing a more aggressive style and for the most part they were’nt too bad for the first parts of the games……but we tired late….It will take time to get some big bodies in place and when we do then we will see a good 3-4 defence in its truest form…….Hopefully Kwame or Justin Anderson steps up next year and a couple Juco guys as well………I think we’ve missed on some DB’s though……

Chris Cook

December 11th, 2010
11:13 am

For Richt’s safety, Todd’s defense better improve next year. Or else it will be bag packing time for both. If he cannot get significant improvement in year two, we are really in trouble.

Coffee Bluff DAWG

December 11th, 2010
11:20 am

I’ll add to Richt’s statement Georgia D still has “a LONG ways to go”. I don’t think it’s the coaching or the scheme as much as UGA needs to recruit some big time, shut down D players.

Outside of Houston who made a major contribution game in and game out this year?

layinlow

December 11th, 2010
11:21 am

Bill, I’m finally glad that you are looking at Georgia’s team with an unbiased critical eye and not rose colored glasses. I am in the camp that understands the dramatic shift in personnel that it takes to move to this 3-4 defense, but also realizes that there should have been some kind of organic improvement.

I too was stunned at the lack of adjustments in the Georgia tech game. I also remember the comments of bob davie during the game. At one point he said he couldn’t understand why the Georgia coaches were not getiing the DE to collapse down inside more. It would have been a very basic and simple adjustment. That was the moment that I began to have serious reservations about Grantham.

Next season is going to be no better if Grantham insist on using the personnel excuse. Because how many true freshman ever step in and contribute right away? I think Mark Richt is going to be in big trouble next year unless Grantham decides to deploy our defense based on their strengths instead of his scheme only. Grantham just needs to figure out how to hold the fort down until he gets all the right personnel in place.

ATL XMAN

December 11th, 2010
11:23 am

the defense will be just fine. give these players time to mature. uga was vey young upfront this year with mostly sophs and red shirt freshmen and add in that they were learning a different scheme to boot. miss state i believe had jrs and seniors mostly on their def line.

i really like the energy and expereince coach Granthem brings to the table. during the tech game the players were most of the time in the right spots, just a much bigger anthony allen was breaking tackels and im sure that the fact our defense was out there for most of the game didnt help. uga offense scored really fast thus the defense didnt really have too much time to rest.

Vance Duly

December 11th, 2010
11:23 am

We definitely had personnel issues and maybe Grantham will have to adjust better to the college offenses. BUT, our inadequate strength and conditioning has to be considered as a big factor. For several years, according to trainers in Athens, players would have to ask non-football trainers for advice for workouts, some players would cut workouts short, and others skipped appointments. Oversight was lacking.

Our defense gave up 85 4th quarter points (the only quarter where our offense was outscored). Also, we were clearly overmatched on the line in games against solid offensive lines. Hopefully, a renewed focus on S&C will give Grantham some stronger, more tenacious players for 2011. Go Dawgs!

layinlow

December 11th, 2010
11:28 am

I just saw the three finalist for S&C coach of the year. And Miss. st. and Auburn S&C coaches are finalist for the award.

ATL XMAN

December 11th, 2010
11:31 am

next year these same guys will be stronger and about 15 to 20 pounds bigger and add there natural born talent and speed ugs will be hard to score against. uga will alos have some nice red shirt guys coing up to help out for a play or 2 while the other guys rest. just give it some time uga fans. the talent and coaching is there just need time to gain experience and some strength.

[...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by AJC , franklincalhounwhite, SECFootballGal, Andrew DeMillo, AJC Junkyard Blawg and others. AJC Junkyard Blawg said: What’s first-year verdict on Grantham’s defense? http://bit.ly/h9iPMP [...]

ATL XMAN

December 11th, 2010
11:31 am

and i suck at typing so excuse the mistakes..:)

Sanford Drive

December 11th, 2010
11:33 am

(((((42-34)))))

Give it another year, and if we still do not see vast improvements, then I will complain.

On another note, I think we need to explain the definition of “Rivalry” to our Tech beretheren in the hood. It ABSOLUTELY cracks me up to hear them say things like “Oh, big deal in beating us, we were are only 6-6″. You Techies want to act like if the tables were turned, and you beat us, you wouldn’t have vandalized out Hedges andhad rings made foryour seniors. Instead you wouldn’t have mentioned the game because we were just 5-7 right???

WRONG!!! Do you Nerds think for a second that Yale and Harvard do not talk smack to one another, despite not EVER being mentioned on the National level? Do you think Ohio State fans have given Michigan fans slack the last few years because they are down? DO you think Texas A&M Seniors are not getting tattoos for their win at Texas this year?

Rivalry: Throw out the books. Throw out the record. It’s a chance to beat up on the program you hate, and gain bragging rights and smack talk advantages for 365 days.

It sure is easy to downplay it, when you lose it. But had you won, you would be acting MUCH worse than we are.

(((((42-34))))) ALL. YEAR. LONG.

Just Hopin

December 11th, 2010
11:34 am

I actually believe we showed improvement in all areas of defense this year. It may not have looked like it, but we did. Our main problem is that we lost 3 NFL DT’s. Deangelo Tyson is a beast but he is not a nose tackle. He would be a sick DT but without a great NT (John Jenkins) he has to work his tail off to be the “big” guy in the middle. Next year the improvement will start to show. With a good NSD and an NFL lockout (which im not sure I want cause it will only bring cam back too) this is what i hope our dawgs will look like.

NT – Jonathan Jenkins (JUCO 6′5″ 340)
DE – Deangelo Tyson
DE – Abry Jones
OLB – Justin Houston
OLB – Ray Drew
ILB – Richard Samuel
ILB – Jarvis Jones
CB – Nick Marshall
CB – Sanders Commings
S – Alec Ogletree
S – Bacarri Rambo

Even without the lockout we will still have sterling bailey as well and we would be very stout at the line. I think S&C is a problem on both lines and im sure Coach T will have a solution to the problem.
The dawgs will rise again. Give Grantham a break, he has to rebuild what CWM destroyed. His defense will be successful and personnel has everything to do with it. Its lookin good for NSD so keep the dream alive guys lets keep it positive in case any potential recruits are googling their names today. Go Dawgs!

RJ

December 11th, 2010
11:36 am

Our D-line is way to small for 3-4 and it showed this year.Georgia will have to go the JUCO route to see a big improvement and then recruite some big strong young guys to come in and play too.Next year should be better.we should win atleast 8 games and 10 if we are lucky.The best Christmas present would be a NFL lockout and that AJ Greene and Justin Houston decde to stay,but I serious doubt that will happen.

5150 P.O.A.D

December 11th, 2010
11:37 am

I love it.
MSU loves it.
The Gators love it.
Colorado loves it.
Hell every team in the SEC loves it.
Tech even loves it.
Please don’t change a thing at UGA.

Rick

December 11th, 2010
11:37 am

UGA’s defensive backs are undisciplined. You can’t coach up stupidity.

Dawg Tired

December 11th, 2010
11:37 am

Not as much improvement as i expected, given how pitiful the ‘09 defense was. My biggest concern is the inability to adjust to what the opposing offense is doing. Exhibit A in that regard is the inability to make adjustments against the Tech triple option. When Duke does a better job than we do against a team’s offense, you can’t put the blame on “lack of personnel.” Duke’s defense is horrendous (see Alabama statistics against Duke). Any D-Coordinator should be able to come up with a scheme to at least slow down the triple option, which despite its name, is basically one-dimensional, That is especially true with two weeks to prepare.

We did not play as aggressively as I was led to believe based upon CTG’s preseason comments. Our blitz packages were pretty unsophisticated and too conservative (IMHO). I am a firm believer in disrupting college offenses by showing various looks and constantly attacking the offense. I think you must stick with the attacking style even though you know you will occasionally get burned. When we got burned, we tended to become more vanilla on defense instead of taking the pressure to the next level.

With these spread offenses, your only hope on defense is a stable of lock-down DBs (no one has that), or pressure. pressure, pressure (any one can do that).

Bottom line: I am concerned that CTG may not be the right guy. Of course, I hope I’m wrong.

bruce mac

December 11th, 2010
11:40 am

Time will tell, “long way to go”, everyone is on the same page. I feel fairly optimistic but who knows after 2 poor years. Thank goodness our rival is so bad or CMR and company would be unemployed as of today.

5150 P.O.A.D The Richard Head

December 11th, 2010
11:43 am

Sucks to be a techie doesn’t pooad!

5150 P.O.A.D The Richard Head

December 11th, 2010
11:44 am

No, I take that back. It just sucks to be YOU!

who knows

December 11th, 2010
11:45 am

Texas AM hired the Air Force DC at he same time we hired ours. He also installed the 3-4 and they are an improved defense. CTG has had spring practice, summer camp, and 12 football games plus the extra bowl practice to get it right. The only excuse left is personnel.

lastgrad

December 11th, 2010
11:46 am

The takeaways are a huge improvement. When you have someone like Aaron Murray resting on the bench and waiting to get back to work, nothing could be better than to help get him back in the game as soon as possible without giving up any points. The rest will come. There will be some changes in the recruitments for the defense. Understandable. Coach Grantham knows the type of players suited to make his defense work. That is his job and he knows how to do his job. Hang on folks; the Dawgs are going to make us proud.

El Centro

December 11th, 2010
11:47 am

Give it time people. Mark Richt will right this ship. Willie Martinez has also turned out to be a shotty talent evaluater.
I thought our defense was much improved this year. Willie’s D made you want to pull your hair out! Give Grantham time to recruit the much-needed players and you will see great results. Go Dawgs!

Sanford Drive

December 11th, 2010
11:47 am

Let us all not forget the Alabama Crimson Tide’s record the first year Saban brought a 3-4 to them. And Alabama has never been short on talent. Just ask their fans.

Richard Samuel and Jarvis Jones will be VERY common names next season. Just wait.

DIT

December 11th, 2010
11:48 am

I’m just giving him until the end of next year. I would agree if there is not great improvement then we would have to question his abilities of being a DC. However, I still feel good about CTG turning it around!

who knows

December 11th, 2010
11:51 am

Do you guys think CMR has to go the JUCO route for some defensive players. Does he have 2 or 3 years left for CTG to get it right and how many games does CMR need to win next year. Also, what happens if we lose to C. Fla.

who knows

December 11th, 2010
11:53 am

Let us not forget Texas AM record the first year Sherman brought a 3-4 to them. Very good 9-3 I think.

ceph

December 11th, 2010
11:54 am

who on earth would pay any attention to anything Wade Phillips says? Look at all the head coaching jobs he has had and he wasn’t worth a flip at any of them, so obviously he doesn’t know too much about coaching talent. The pitiful thing about all of this is that Diaz called UGA to try and get an interview to no avail. He said this himself. I guess Richt doesn’t want anyone to come in who is more articulate or brighter than himself, on second thought this applies to just about anybody!!!!! The biggest joke is Richt saying,”the last seven games we played football the way Georgia football should be played” If anyone believes that is the way UGA football should be played then fans we are for along stint of mediocrity. But that is what Richt would like for us to believe..
This way there is no pressure for him to play for any kind of championship just be mediocre and let us think this is Georgia football, HOGWASH!!!!!!!!!

squat

December 11th, 2010
11:54 am

rambo needs to go to the nfl so he can pass out the h2o bottles instead of watching the wr’s run free, my peewee team could get free with him covering…

RJ

December 11th, 2010
11:57 am

Enter your comments here

GradDawg

December 11th, 2010
11:58 am

SInce when does Manny Diaz Jr. and Miss St have more talent than Georgia on defense?? That’s an absurd assessment. The fact of the matter is Manny Diaz did more with his defense this year than Grantham.

ATL XMAN

December 11th, 2010
11:59 am

squat..whats the name of your peewee team?

Joe

December 11th, 2010
12:01 pm

GradDawg,

Please keep in mind that Miss St. did not change their scheme – big reason why Georgia’s D wasn’t that good in 2010. It will be a different story next fall.

ATL XMAN

December 11th, 2010
12:01 pm

i dont think miss st has more talent..just more experience with pretty good talent.

Keith with the magic wand

December 11th, 2010
12:01 pm

Release CTG and immediately hire Kirby Smart for $1.5 million or whatever it takes. Name Smart as successor-in-line to replace CMR when CMR retires. This will resolve so many long-term problems. First, we get a winning, tested SEC DC that will make an immediate difference. Secondly, Alabama is killing UGA in recruiting blue chippers from Georgia; this due in no small part to Smart’s recruiting ability. Recruiting immediately improves (Crowell, Rome etc.) Thirdly, Bobo will hit the road and go be HC at whatever high-school will hire him. You can write this in stone – OC at UGA will be Bobo’s best coaching job ever. Lastly – we get to bring home a UGA man who knows what it means to be a Bulldog and knows how to WIN. Smart will bring the sense of urgency, passion and tradition that we so badly need.

Sanford Drive

December 11th, 2010
12:01 pm

If Georgia played Texas A&M’s schedule we would be 9-3 as well

Coffee Bluff DAWG

December 11th, 2010
12:01 pm

UGA definitely has to go the JUCO route to at least get a couple big, tough D linemen. Even the the secondary didn’t exactly overwhelm anyone they were young and they’ll be OK.

I thought Sanders Commings looked pretty good at times in the secondary.

Ed (The Original)

December 11th, 2010
12:03 pm

It’s primarily a coaching problem, and it starts at the top with Richt. It’s a shame that we’ll have to go through this in ‘11 before the powers that be convince themselves that Richt needs to go, but barring a 4-touchdown loss to UCF in the bowl game, that appears to be the case.

ATL XMAN

December 11th, 2010
12:08 pm

ed..whats the name of your peewee team? you really have no clue what your talking about and your coach Paul johnson has his own problems

richt will coach at uga until he retires in about 15 or so years so get used to losing to uga for 15 or so years

ATL XMAN

December 11th, 2010
12:10 pm

richt will be needing a raise here about 2 or so years as uga will be playing in the next 3 sec championships and possibly the NC game here real soon..

RJ

December 11th, 2010
12:11 pm

Richt and Gratham have 1 and maybe 2 years to get it right.As a seanson ticket holder for the last 12 years from what I hear if CMR does not show improvement next year he will get the speech that there must be atleast 10 wins in 2012 or he will be gone.

AT

December 11th, 2010
12:12 pm

Definitely feeling buyer’s remorse over Grantham. The defense gave up WAY TOO MANY big plays during the season. Grantham had a major issue making in game adjustments. It’s sad to think that $750,000 isn’t enough to get real results on defense.

Bottom line – 2011 is a make or break year for Richt & company.

Dostoyevskiy

December 11th, 2010
12:12 pm

You’ve heard here first. If SEC were smart about expansion, they would support APP St. in ascending to DIV-I, then invite them into SEC. App would become the darling of the state of NC, and open the NC market wide up for the SEC. Boone is Denver east. (Problem is, they would be mopping up on SEC teams in short order soon.) This would not work in ACC, because NC is already flooded w/NC teams. Remember, you heard it here first.