I think it’s fair to say that Vanderbilt doesn’t have quite as many Georgia fans worried as Mizzou did a week ago. However, as the Dawgs found out two years ago, Nashville can be a tough place to come away with an expected victory.
And the way Georgia has played defense so far this season, any SEC team presents a sizable challenge.
That said, barring a bunch of turnovers or special teams meltdowns, I think even with a lousy secondary the Dogs have too much for Vandy.
Still, there’s things that need taking care of, or the Dores could score a major upset.
Having watched the tape of the Missouri game, Vandy’s defenders have declared they’re coming for Aaron Murray and have dissed Georgia’s tackles, which I’m hoping will tick off the OL enough that they’ll turn in the kind of performance we saw against South Carolina and LSU.
One good thing is that it looks like John Theus will be starting instead of the outmatched Kolton Houston. Theus started the South Carolina game and played pretty well, I thought. I never understood why Houston then moved back to right tackle and took his spot.
If the OL keeps the Commodores off Murray’s back, that reduces the likelihood of a turnover considerably. And that should allow Aaron to break a few more records against a mediocre Vandy defense that in its three conference games has yielded 39 points to Ole Miss, 35 to South Carolina and 51 to Missouri.
Vandy doesn’t have much of a running game, so if they’re going to hurt Georgia it’s probably going to be through the air. While I’m not expecting Georgia’s secondary to suddenly morph into a lockdown bunch, the Dogs can’t have the safeties wandering around Saturday like they don’t know where they’re supposed to be. Vandy has a future NFL receiver in Jordan Matthews, who leads the conference with 47 catches and has had five 100-yard receiving games this season. Together, Matthews and Jonathan Krause average 189.9 receiving yards per game, and that trails only LSU’s Odell Beckham and Jarvis Landry (201.0 yards). Georgia’s safeties are going to need to back up the cornerbacks to keep Matthews and Krause from notching big numbers.
On the other hand, the Commodores have been prone to giving up sacks this season, so if Ray Drew, Leonard Floyd and the rest of the Georgia defensive front can get to Vandy QB Austyn Carta-Samuels, that’ll take some of the pressure off the beleaguered secondary.
As Mark Richt said this week, it’s going to come down to “how well we execute what we do; the turnover margin … third down conversions and stops; those are the things I’ll be looking at.”
As will the rest of us.
Now, let’s get to some of this week’s Junkyard Mail. …
Not surprisingly, most of this week’s letter writers were concerned with Georgia’s struggling defense. Pretty representative of them is Lamar Westbrook, who writes: Hey Bill, Here we are going into week 6 and Grantham’s defense is showing no signs of improvement. Georgia has offensive players go down, yet the backups look ready to play, which tells me the offensive coaches are doing their job and the defensive coaches are not! The defense looks like they have no clue because you see guys look confused and don’t even know how to line up! … I think it’s time for everybody to quit making excuses for the defense. … The offense is scoring at an all-time high, but they can’t score every time they get the ball, so Murray feels like they have to and this is what causes turnovers! Georgia even had a NFL defense the last 2 years going into this year, but even those guys played poorly when it counted, so everybody needs to quit making excuses for their youth; it’s not youth, it’s scheme and that is where Grantham is a joke. He needs to go!! Just my opinion, what about you?
As I wrote in Thursday’s midseason report card, where I gave Grantham a D+, I realize he’s been hampered by inexperienced personnel this season, especially in the secondary, but his second-half adjustments definitely have been lacking. (I don’t buy his argument that he doesn’t want to confuse his young players with changes.) Grantham maintained this week that “the schemes are sound” and that it’s all down to inexperience and lack of execution, but the Georgia fan who, in an online chat with Greg McGarity, referred to the Dogs’ defense as looking like “a Chinese fire drill” before the snap hit the nail on the head. Grantham and his staff have been late getting signals in to an inexperienced defense, and that’s a big part of the problem. With half of the season still to play, I’m not ready to say Georgia would be better off without Grantham and his $850,000 contract, but it’s past time for him to show us something. It’s the lack of progress his young defenders have made so far this year that concerns me the most.
Craig writes: Bill, I just wanted to say what a pleasure it is reading your articles about the Bulldogs and I must say I thought you were a little easy on the defense after that poor display on Saturday. I have watched in the past few years a defensive coordinator be praised from outsiders, but everyone on the inside of Georgia football see what a disaster our defense has become. I spent some time going back and watching film of when VanGorder was our coordinator and saw a ferocious style of play (4-3, not 3-4) that would scare most teams off the field, but now it seems most teams just laugh at our defense. There has to be a change soon to the style of defense or we will continue “outscore the opponent to win.” Murray is gone after this year and I am scared to say that we may not have a quarterback lined up to fill such big shoes as his, and this totally concerns me as a UGA fan! Hope you can give me some insight that I am not seeing here.
What, you don’t think next season with Hutson Mason will be the Second Coming? There are a few regular commenters to the Blawg that will want to disagree with you there. Overall, I think the problem with Georgia’s defense is not a lack of talent but rather a lack of development of that talent so far. And, yes, that comes down on the coaching staff.
Troy writes: Here are some more thoughts on the Dawgs D: Grantham is in his fifth year at UGA … no excuses if they are “young.” He has had time to teach his system and to recruit the right talent to make sure there is continuity and depth. Coaching schemes are too complex and the calls are confusing; players still do not know where to go or what to do and are often out of position when the ball is snapped, very poor secondary assignments. Poor fundamentals — tackling is as poor as I have ever seen, year to year, team to team, player to player, angles are poor, leverage is nonexistent, poor coaching, poor teaching, period! The third-down D [when] we had [Missouri] 3rd and 10 in Q4 was sooooo bad. We had all the momentum, the stadium was literally rocking, and then [Georgia] STOPS THE PLAY because the D is not lined up correctly and/or has too few/too many men on the field. We gave Mizzou time to calm down, reset, call a play, calm the crowd and voila, they picked up a first down and eventually scored — we gave them the time to regroup at the most crucial moment in the game! Sorry, but I am jumping on the “Grantham is overpaid and underperforming” bandwagon.
I can’t argue with any of your points, Troy, and I agree that the problems Grantham and his staff have had getting the right personnel on the field and in the right spot don’t speak well about the job they’ve done coaching.
G. writes: We were bigger [than Missouri] but they were notably faster on both lines of scrimmage and in the open field. If they had been playing basketball they would have beaten us to every loose ball.
Yeah, I’ve noticed also this season that Georgia’s defense has a tendency to get beaten on the outside. With speed specialist Sherman Armstrong having been added to the strength and conditioning staff in 2012, most of us expected to see improvements in player speed. And on the offense I think we have. Maybe part of the problem on defense has been that they’re hesitating just long enough to get beaten. Hopefully, that’s just inexperience. As the season progresses, we’ll see.
Scott Spivey writes: Hey Bill, Should we put Sheldon Dawson’s picture on the back of a milk carton? It seems really odd that Dawson was next in line at the cornerback position heading into fall camp, yet we haven’t seen him on the field at all. Do you think he is suspended, and that Coach Richt has decided not to make it public? We are really young in the secondary and our defense can’t stop a nose bleed, so it’s strange to me that Dawson hasn’t gotten any playing time at all this season.
No, Dawson isn’t suspended. In fact, he’s been in on special teams, and Grantham said this week that he’s worked hard and “we’d like to get him on the field” playing defense. As for why a player who entered August as a projected starter has been used so little, no one’s said so far. Dawson’s progress was hampered quite a bit in the preseason by injuries, and perhaps that allowed other players to move ahead of him at cornerback. Still, considering how poorly the secondary has played so far this season it’s a bit of a mystery why the defensive staff hasn’t given Dawson a chance so far.
Moving away from defensive concerns, Mark Deguenther writes: Hey Mr. King! I was wondering in our squeaker against Tennessee and then again [against Missouri]: Where has the presence of Arthur Lynch and Jay Rome been? Neither registered a catch against UT, and Lynch had only two grabs against Mizzou. I feel like with UGA missing Gurley and Marshall, plus missing 3 of our top 4 receiving options we would be looking to Lynch and/or Rome in more crunch time situations. Lynch has been a leader since last year with his play and vocal leadership, and Rome has impressed me this year when he’s been on the field. Even if we don’t line them up at TE, can’t they split out wide? We need receiving options, and I don’t understand why we are looking to guys who have less experience and are less proven when we have these two guys. Thanks, and Go Dawgs!
I think part of it has to do with the spotty play by the defensive line — the tight ends have been needed in pass protection — and part of it has to do with Murray taking what defenses give him. If a Chris Conley is open downfield, you’re more likely to throw to him rather than dump it off to a tight end. Actually, the tight ends have at times been split out wide as receivers; on the play where Murray ended up throwing that first interception against Mizzou Lynch was split out. But I agree that making greater use of Lynch and Rome makes a lot of sense, especially until Michael Bennett returns and Jonathan Rumph gets some game experience under his belt. They’re big targets.
That’s it for this week.
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— Bill King, Junkyard Blawg