Grantham seems to have a handle on the major challenge he faces with Dogs’ defense

Todd Grantham knows what Georgia has to do to improve against the run. (Associated Press)

Todd Grantham knows what Georgia has to do to improve against the run. (Associated Press)

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?

Got something you want to discuss about UGA athletics? Got a question you want the Junkyard Blawg to tackle? If so, send it to junkyardblawg@gmail.com.

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— Bill King, Junkyard Blawg

126 comments Add your comment

Joe Gaphan

February 15th, 2013
10:33 am

What is really needed for next year is some maturation and growth from our fans. Even the most Herculean effort will not have this defense ready to put up Zeros against aTm, LSU, USCe,Clemson, or a host of other teams. We have to get beyond the “Fire CMR” knee-jerk reaction that occurs everytime we are trying to rebuild. When Richt is on the hot seat, other SEC coaches (esp SATAN) exploit the discontent – and we end up with a signing class of only 15 kids. Dawgs fans – grow a pair, deal with inevitable need for growth/rebuilding, and show some damned loyalty. We have a good crop of prospects who will get there in time….but no amount of alumni/fan whining is going to circumvent the process and basic requirement for reps!!!!

Red Pants

February 15th, 2013
10:44 am

Going out on a limb….this year’s defense plays better than the 2012 crew.

Fridawg

February 15th, 2013
10:56 am

I expect to see improvement on the DL. Big John seemed to under-perform last year. I think the biggest problem this year will be communication and leadership on the field. It may be that Freshman Tray Matthews is our most natural leader, but he’ll just be too young to lead early in the season.

SimpleDawg

February 15th, 2013
11:03 am

It sure is nice to know that Grantham realizes what the Dawgs’ problems were last year on defense. It would’ve been better had he recognized them last year and remedied the situation. That defense should’ve been over-powering last year.

A new, hungrier bunch of talented players could be much more consistent….as long as they’re talented and determined. You still can’t make chicken salad out of………

davedawg

February 15th, 2013
11:15 am

I think the flirtation with the NFL did more damage than he can repair in the time allotted. And I agree with Joe about the fans attitude, but I get disgusted with Bobos play calling. It was obvious at the start of the SECCG that Bama was going to exploit Swann, but CTG never gave him any help.

WDE

February 15th, 2013
11:37 am

I’m hoping that we can avoid the multi-player suspensions this year, I think that really hurt us more than its talked about. If we can put a solid team together from game 1 and avoid a lot of injuries I think we could end the year with a better overall rated defense, we won’t have perhaps the same talent level overall but a better product is my hope.

bubba4dawgs

February 15th, 2013
11:49 am

Enter your comments here

Skokie Dog

February 15th, 2013
11:53 am

No worries…these U.Ga. coaches “know what the hell [they're] doing!”

Defense can't be worst against the run . . .

February 15th, 2013
12:13 pm

Offense should be lights out and defense can’t be worst against the run. Our pass rush should drop off some but have confidence in Jenkins and the boys to put the pressure on. Overall, very optimistic about our chances next year.

BKBroila4224

February 15th, 2013
12:13 pm

Ball control is the key…every incomplete pass, we lose 35 seconds of clock control…that’s why we have the ball 20min to Bama’s 40…you can’t win that game, boys…Gurley has 130 yards on 18 carries…should have given him the rock 30 times…

WDE

February 15th, 2013
12:16 pm

BKBroila4224 good point I just fear that if we had given him the rock 30 times instead of getting bigger and stronger in the weight room right now , he would be rehabbing…30 against that defense is a receipt for disaster..

stank

February 15th, 2013
12:30 pm

I feel better after reading that interview. I was mighty happy to hear Grantham talk about tackling!!!!!! We need to be less interested in head-hunting and more dedicated to getting the bad guys on the ground. Improving that single aspect of our defensive play will make more difference than most other things mentioned. You don’t need to look further than the winners of the last 2 NC’s for confirmation.

I also would like to see simplification on defense. Let ‘em play more and think less. Maybe a little less emphasis on schemes and personnel packages and more emphasis on fundamentals — know your job and beat your man. For years now, I have grown so weary (and often nervous) of seeing the guys on defense looking to the sideline right up to the snap. We need 22 eyes, and more importantly, their thoughts, on the offense in time to respond to the play. Just go back and look at the LB play the last few years and see how often somebody was blocked because they were still undecided, or even looking away from the play, as the ball is snapped.

RedDoggie

February 15th, 2013
12:37 pm

Against SC, Bama, and Nebraska, Grantham gave up over 30+ points a game, did hold Florida down, but he has to learn how to stop more than 1 of 4 of the big 4 games from scoring 20+, 30+ is to invite Willie Martinez comparisons.

Going back to 2011, gave up 30+ in all the losses, and in the big games.

He can’t coach.

Joey

February 15th, 2013
1:12 pm

I think the first half of last season’s D was like a perfect storm – suspensions of 4 players for up to 4 games insured there was a lack of cohesion, then as the players returned, it was more of the same.

But after S Williams did his thing, it was smooth sailing, right up into the 3rd Q of the SECCG, where the lack of depth showed up in a bad way.

Grantham has a boatload of talent, and another boatload coming in, (half of who are already in class) including some JC players ready to help out right away. And like Bill insinuates, there may be some real upside by having a squad full of young players who can’t wait to get on the field for UGA, compared to those who couldn’t wait to get in the NFL Draft.

For those (like me) who don’t really dive into recruiting until it’s over with, this is a good list of each of UGA’s new Dawgs:

http://bleacherreport.com/articles/1510221-georgia-football-recruiting-tracking-all-2013-commits

Bobby Blakewood, UGA '61

February 15th, 2013
1:21 pm

I’m a diehard Dawg Fan; I bleed Red & Black; there are only two times that you don’t cheer on the Dawgs – Before you’re born and after you’re dead and as my two daughters say, “Growing up with our Daddy, we learned to bark before we learned to talk” Now with that said – I’m damn sick and tired of all you arm chair quarterbacks expressing your opinions! If you posses such a vast knowledge of football why in the hell aren’t you coaching at the college level. Do you think for a minute that the Football Coaching Staff at Georgia likes to lose games? Lets cut out the negativity and throw our support behind the coaches, players and the team, let them know that they’re apreciated and see what kind of dividends this type of attitude will pay!!!

DFW Dawg

February 15th, 2013
1:29 pm

I don’t think “we need to stop the run” demonstrates that CTG has a handle on the challenges facing our Defense…every screaming-at-the-TV-while-pulling-his-hair-out Dawg fan in America knows that we couldn’t stop the run last season. Obv CTG is not going to reveal his coaching strategy in an AJC Blog post, but here’s hoping that his coaching abilities go further than yelling “PLAY FOOTBALL. BETTER.”

Either way, I think our D will improve this year. It was tough to explain why we weren’t up to snuff last year–but I think it boils down to a lot of the players believing their own hype, slacking off a bit and underperforming in the process. I’d rather have a hard working B player on the field than a slacking A player.

Bill Arp

February 15th, 2013
1:35 pm

“we gotta play more players and keep em fresh”…well, duh.. anyone remember this quote when he first got here..”we don’t need a big NT for the style of 3-4 we run..” yeah, good one. the guys been bad news since he showed up. Heck, he even has Vanderbilt wanting to beat us worse than anyone else they play, much less UF, AU, USC, GT or UT. you ask anyone from any of those schools who they want to beat, and they all say UGA.

and i’m not so sure about his scheme the last two games of having only 2 down lineman, with 2 speed rushers on both ends and his LB 7 yards deep. Didn’t seem to come close to stopping the run right up the gut, did it?

as far as Bobo, we actually score more points with him calling plays than when Richt did it himself. I will say this, I’m still looking forward to the day when we are 2nd or 3rd(or even 4th) and inches and he runs a play-action and throws it deep, instead of the proverbial QB sneak that he always does.

Natureboy809

February 15th, 2013
1:37 pm

DFW- it actually is not that hard to explain- we were thin on the defensive line (otherwise why move CW#83 who was your leading sack man at OLB in 2011 before Jarvis went crazy to DE?) and then pretty weak at ILB. AO#9 was a stud, sure, but he missed 4 games, and he can’t play both ILB positions for you. If you get a chance to go back and watch the Bama game, notice how many big runs come after an ILB takes a bad angle or misses a tackle. A LOT of them.

Natureboy809

February 15th, 2013
1:39 pm

Also, if you look at the stat sheet from the Bama game, AO#9 led the team in tackles for the game, then our next 3 leading tacklers were all in the secondary. When you face a team like Bama who lines up and runs right at you, you have to have solid tackling from your ILBs. We didn’t.

GB's Hamburgers

February 15th, 2013
1:43 pm

I think the statistics tell the story. CTG failed last year. It’s that simple. But I watched 3-4 based defenses fail across the league last year. Even the Falcons seemed lost against the few spread plays SF ran. Perhaps it’s less of a coaching problem than a scheme deal. Maybe it’s time for some innovative defensive coordinator to go back to the drawing board. What about Erk’s wide tackle 6 for example. It caused problems for offensives simply because it was rarely seen and difficult to prepare for. When the best athletes in the land can’t stop the run, it’s time to rethink everything.

Bulldawg35

February 15th, 2013
1:49 pm

I feel like we can’t stop the run. Our scheme is flawed….scamatically we can’t stop the run!!!!!! Not sold on Grantham. My dream coaching staff would have Jim harbaugh as head coach….look at the job he did at Stafford when he was there. Derek mason as dc……I would keep bobo because we set. School records with him as offensive coordinator

Joey

February 15th, 2013
2:13 pm

Natureboy809, Bama had the most balanced O in the country last season, so it’s not really a matter of stopping just the run, but a really good passing game too.

But aside from that, you think our problem was poor tackling, rather than a poor scheme, in the SECCG? If so I agree, along with the fatigue factor of our D, exacerbated by by five or six 3-and-outs by our offense in the 2nd and 3rd quarters.

Bulldawg35

February 15th, 2013
2:15 pm

Yeah moving corn Washington to de was a poor move he struggled mightily. I’m sick and tired of missed tackles and players being out of position and asking each other where to lineup right before the offense snaps the ball
I’m sick and tired
I’m sick and tired
I’m. Sick and tired!!!!!!!!!

NCDawg

February 15th, 2013
2:38 pm

I think everyone will be surprised. I don’t know if any of you have gotten a look at Chris Mayes but I have a feeling that he is going to be a monster. He is listed at 6-4 330lbs but if you look at his picture you can’t tell it. He isn’t flabby at all. If he puts on 10-15 lbs of muscle… wow. A big quick NG like that will really make defenses use up blockers to handle him. If he can attack instead of just soaking up blockers then our ILB’s should be able to get clear shots at runners as they get to the hole not after they are already through it.
If we can get a pass rush opposite Jenkins then I think we can be pretty good. The question is how quickly the defense gels not if. There is alot of talent there. Late in the year the defense might actually WIN some games for us. If they can hold their own and not hemorrhage points like a sieve early on then we might be able to win some games with our offense and keep us in the race. It could be a wild September. I just hope it’s wild because our offense is unstoppable and not because every game comes down to who has the ball last.

CMR's Preacher

February 15th, 2013
3:29 pm

Without Ogletree, Rambo and Jarvis, everyone is going to find out if Grantham can really coach or just scream obscenities on the sidelines.

Bulldawg35

February 15th, 2013
3:36 pm

We all feel better about Grantham since the interview, yeah that’s what everyone is saying. But that’s just it he is a good talker but he can’t back it up. The truth is….if our offense puts up the same numbers as we did last year….which I’m not getting my hopes up on that either. If our defense plays on fire….we have a real shot at the mnc. I’m just dreaming though….any defense that loses Jarvis jones is going to have a big drop off….I just hope it’s not in the run defense…by goly we can’t get much worse there. For the season on defense I expect we will have the same numbers as last except for scoring defense I think we will give up a few more points a game….I’m sick and tired….thanks 35

kybodawg

February 15th, 2013
3:42 pm

i hear the same thing every yeay we dont have any depth. the only way to have depth is to play guys. dont wait until youre 4 tds. ahead to get guys snaps , let them have a go at it. if somebody gets hurt you got to put somebody in, if there not good enough why did you recurit them to begin with. some guys plaY A LOT BETTER THAN THEY PRACTICE.

WDE

February 15th, 2013
4:07 pm

NCDawg good post it maybe in the first 4 games the best players for the defense might be Gurshall.

Dawggoner

February 15th, 2013
4:41 pm

Can Coach Grantham Coach?
1- His defenses has given up 30+ points in 90% of losses in last 2 seasons
2- His defense has given up 300+ yards rushing multiple times–300 YARDS!!!
3- He pads his numbers against SEC lightweights like Kentucky, Tennesee, Vandy, and Missouri and teams like New Mexico State and Georgia Southern.
4- His schemes and techniques couldn’t stop Bama–they ran the ball down his throat at will
5- Grantham is still winless and got beat 100% of the games against top tier SEC coches like Spurrier, Saban, Miles–he’s not in their league.
6- Jarvis won 2 games, bailing out Grantham, but Jarvis is gone
7- Losing Jones is tough, add Olgetree, tougher, add in Jenkins, really tough, add in Rambo and Williams, Geather gone, extremely difficult challenge, the defense with ALL THOSE GUYS couldn’t stop South Carolina, Alabama, or Nebraska from scoring 30+ points, imagine how many points the better teams will score without the all stars? Now onder Grantham was trying to land an NFL job, he saw the trainwreck coming, and was trying to get out.
8- Grantham’s VERY disloyal, never stays at one place long, jumps ship at first sign of challenge. He’s a wimp.

Bulldawg35

February 15th, 2013
7:14 pm

@ dawg goner……..best post of the day my friend……..yeah I get tired of the same ol end of the year crap. Where Grantham starts to look for another job. With all the money he is making…..he should go by himself some slim fast and egg whites. So he can get in shape and really coach these guys and stop giving up 300 yard rushing games to good offenses. Geez guys this is really getting old. Can anyone please tell me when was the last year we had a really good defense. I’m going to say 2005. But 2003 was the best defense in the Richt era…..a long time ago…..

RealTalk

February 15th, 2013
8:08 pm

@dawg goner….WOW!

hind tit

February 15th, 2013
8:58 pm

Wilson will be the key to the defense improving. Garner was an offensive lineman coaching defensive line. The only reason he was there was because he could recruit but what good is that if you can’t coach what you recruit. Look back over the Garner years and see how many standout linemen come to mind.

SSI

February 15th, 2013
9:13 pm

Blakewood….I’m with you!

Bulldawg35

February 15th, 2013
9:16 pm

Grantham lost control of the defense when he had to resort to letting Shawn willams do his motivating for him. No wonder the players weren’t motivated to play for Grantham….his schemes are to complicated and they just are not working….I am glad John Jenkins and geathers leave. They were overrated and very fat….Chris Mayes looks in shape for 340 lbs

wreckmaniac

February 15th, 2013
10:26 pm

The dawg offense will be under the same or more pressure next year than it was last year. Oh yea, UGA will hang 40 on any opponent ( am I right ?) but will it hold any opponent under 40 ? During the 4th quarter we all saw Bama running backs going through what looked like like a high school defense. This defense may look “bad” against Vandy or KY but what will it look like against
SC or Bama or LSU ?
Grantham didn’t conduct his NO Saint interview discreetly. Now everyone knows that he has a problem on his hands this fall.

wreckmaniac

February 15th, 2013
10:35 pm

” would rather have a hard working B player than a slacking A player.” I agree. The problem is that the “5 stars” know they can coast at UGA and still get their “TV time”. Why do you think that every high school player in the US accepts their UGA offer ? Two reasons:
1. Offers are sent to over 500 “stars” so CMR can have at least 200 players.
2. They all know its a easy gig.

DFW Dawg

February 15th, 2013
10:53 pm

^^^I guess it’s a “good thing” we didn’t get very many 5 star recruits this year then. Everyone will have a chip on their soldier and something to prove, which is something the entire UGA program should be able to relate to.

RedHat

February 15th, 2013
11:45 pm

Grantham gave up in the last 4 games in rush yards:
302 div 2 team
306 unranked gtech
350 bama
239 nebraska

Willie Martinez didn’t gve up 200 yards rushing in 2007 at all, and only 2x in 2009.

My how the rush defense has fallen.

Wilson’s defense (Miss st) finished in 2012 in the SEC:
11th out of 14 in rush defense
13th out of 14 teams in sacks
13th out of 14 teams in tackles for loss.

Wilson is no upgrade at dline.

DAWGMAN

February 15th, 2013
11:51 pm

Grantham got paid too much for the results. CMR got paid too much for the results. Joe G, the optometrist, the psychologist, and the proctologist all called. You are way overdue.
The slackers know that CMR is “the players coach”. I think he has been listening to elevator music on his headset for too, too many years. Who has been trying to hire him away from us? Not SC, UF.
Really now. Who?

BigWatusi

February 16th, 2013
12:51 am

Here’s Todd Grantham’s last 6 tenures:
UGA 2 years then trying to jump to NFL
Dallas 2 years
Cleveland 3 years
Houston 3 years
Colts 3 years
M St 3 years

Anyone see a trend? Anyone see a problem? Why can’t this guy stick to one city for more than 2 or 3 years, especially since he has kids and a family? Why does he move around so much–what’s the problem? Why can’t he ever be loyal & committed to a single city or team–why is something always wrong enough to leave a team after 2 or 3 years?

RED DOG 77

February 16th, 2013
12:55 am

Hey Red Doggie…………Try To be original pal…………Leave my name [or close to it] the hell alone…………….Now to the subject: Bill, another great read. Something tells me this new class coupled with last years reserves will make for a very capable D. I can see 2013 possibly surpasing last years D. The O returning “Gurshall” and the Oline should go a long way in keeping the D off the field…………Score 30 points and we win alot of games, mabe enough to go back to the SEC championship game…………….Regards, RED

HOP

February 16th, 2013
4:45 am

the defense in 2012 was more about the individuals who wanted to impress the NFL than playing their own assignments.
We finally have a very good D/line coach who will bring stability with a very good group of JUCO players who are hungry to show their stuff.

Our offense will be much stronger ,especially with a much better running game that will also help our
defense next year.

uga will get better as the season progresses ,if we can get through the first few games,the second half will take care of itself.
The SEC EAST will not be a juggernant and dawgs might be able to win it again.

the SC game will be a good test for the team.

Orlando Dawg

February 16th, 2013
10:43 am

Love my DAwgs! We will have a great year and many to come….stay hungary my friend!

My-Guy

February 16th, 2013
11:22 am

Well, we just have to see next year though, we all know it’s going to be though going against Clemson in Death Valley, South Carolina, and LSU. We’re very fortunate guys, because if Texas A&M and Missouri didn’t join the SEC, we would’ve had Alabama at home next year and LSU in Death Valley. Imagine that. At least we don’t have to. Plus Florida next year, because the last several times we’ve played Florida, we’ve struggled offensive against they’re defense, Florida is a football that will always give teams defensive battles, except for 2007 and 2010, in 2007 we scored 40+ points against Florida because of Moreno and Florida’s secondary wasn’t good that year, unlike 2008, Florida improved in all of those phases. In 2010 we scored 30+ points against Florida because of AJ Green, without Green it wouldn’t even been a close game. In 2013 our young defense is going to have to step it up against our arch-rival, and Todd Grantham is responsible for that! We all remember what happened against Florida in 2002, 2005, and 2008, and it cost us big time! Georgia @ Auburn 2013 will be closer next year, and it’s not in Athens, it’s at Jordan Hare, and the series is tied 54-54 now, and it’s gonna be a show-down of who’s gonna own the series. The odd years in the Deep South’s Oldest Rivalry is a blowout one odd year and it’s a close game the other odd year. 1999 blowout, 2001 close game, 2003 blowout, 2005 close game, 2007 blowout, 2009 close game, 2011 blowout, 2013? Don’t get fouled. GO DAWGS!

Desert Fox

February 16th, 2013
11:48 am

CTG is going to have a long season in 2013. Too much inexperience on D will result in giving up a lot of yds and points, especially, with the schedule being a lot tougher then in past several years. It’ll be up to the Offense to keep the dawgs in close games and there will be plenty of those. If CTG couldn’t stop the run in ‘12 w/the players he had no way these new players will do any better and most likely worse. They’re just too young and need several years to mature and get bigger and stronger. CTG is no Saban when it comes to coaching defenses. It also helps a lot to have the best players in the country on defense as Saban has that luxury year in and out. One consolation to this dismal appraisal is not to expect too much in 2013 from the D. Not like last season where hopes were deflated by under achieving defense more akin to swiss cheese when they couldn’t stop the run when it counted.

YA

February 16th, 2013
12:11 pm

UGA rush defense uynder Willie Martinez in Sec conference:
2007, 3rd, 109 yards per game
2008, 6th, 122 yards per game
2009, 3rd, 126 yards per game

UGA rush defense under Todd Grantham in Sec conference:
2010, 7th, 148 yards per game
2011, 3rd, 101 yards per game
2012, 12th, 182 yards per game

Bulldawg35

February 16th, 2013
1:53 pm

Grantham likes to bring up the fact that we made it to the seccg…..I’m sorry old boy but it was all because of the offense. Scoring defense at 18.1 is really okay but not with Jarvis jones and tree it’s not to good….I mean what players do Grantham needs to have a great defense

AltamahaDawg

February 16th, 2013
2:16 pm

I see somebody is taking advantage of the last blog left that allowed multipe name changes.

AltamahaDawg

February 16th, 2013
2:20 pm

Well 35 as the article JUST discussed……some addional DL.The LBs you mentioned were great, but not the point. your welcome.

And BTW, the Florida game sent UGA to the SECCG. And I believe the defense can take a lot of credit for that victory.

Bastionofball

February 16th, 2013
3:11 pm

Anyone know why Grantham hired Chris Wilson, the worst dline guy in the SEC? Geez Louise, Wilson ranked at the bottom of the conference in tfl’s, sacks, and stopping the run, no other defensive coach had a worse year than Chris Wilson did at misspippi State in 2012. Not the lowly Auburn coaches, not Kentucky, not even Tennesee. Why hire the bottom dwelling dline coach Chris Wilson? Had to be the worst hire of the off season in the SEC.