Back before last season was even over, a friend of mine was looking ahead to the way Georgia’s 2013 schedule is front-loaded with tough teams and lamenting all the personnel losses the Dogs were going to suffer on defense.
He summed up the situation for Todd Grantham pretty well:
“Next year,” he said, “Grantham is finally going to have to earn that big salary of his.”
After a Georgia defense considered one of the most talented in the nation underperformed for much of the 2012 season, the UGA defensive coordinator faces a major rebuilding project in replacing a dozen players.
Thankfully, now that he’s through with his NFL flirtation, he at least seems to have zeroed in on his biggest challenges.
Talking with ESPN’s Chris Low, Grantham acknowledged the Dogs didn’t do a good job against the run last season, especially in the SEC Championship Game, where Alabama’s ground attack racked up big yards.
“We did some good things in that game,” Grantham told Low. “We blocked a field goal and ran it back for a touchdown. We were really good on third down, and got a turnover in the red zone. The thing we didn’t do was stop the run in the second half.”
Many observers of that game singled out Georgia’s lack of substitution up front, which resulted in the DL wearing down, and poor tackling by some of the linebacking corps, returning to the form that had led to Shawn Williams’ rant earlier in the season.
Grantham has come to the same conclusion. “We’ve got to play more players up front and keep them fresh,” he said, “and from the inside linebacker position, we’ve got to learn to tackle backs like (Eddie Lacy). Those are two things we’ve got to do better.”
Of course, up front is where Montravius Adams would have been a nice addition, but even with that recruiting whiff Grantham sounds optimistic. “I like the young talent on this defense and what we have coming in,” he told ESPN. “To me, it gets back to developing players. It’s going to be an exciting and aggressive spring, but we’ve been aggressive around here for the last couple of years. We’ll coach them hard and see to it that they learn how to compete. You’ve got to learn how to win a position before you can help us win a game.”
And, who knows, maybe a hungrier defense will come together quicker and better than last year’s group, which started off the season like it had spent a bit too much time reading about how talented it was.
I’m also encouraged by the fact that, in the past, when Grantham has singled out an area that needs work — like getting off the field on third down — we’ve usually seen quite a bit of improvement.
What’s your feeling about the Georgia D in the coming season? And are there any other areas of concern you think Grantham needs to address when spring practice starts March 2?
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— Bill King, Junkyard Blawg