As Dawgs head to Nashville, Bulldog Nation frets about the defense

Georgia has to worry about Vanderbilt wide receiver Jordan Matthews. (Associated Press)

Georgia has to worry about Vanderbilt wide receiver Jordan Matthews. (Associated Press)

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.

The play of John Theus and the offensive line will be a key in Saturday's game. (University of Georgia)

The play of John Theus and the offensive line will be a key in Saturday's game. (University of Georgia)

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?

Defensive coordinator Todd Grantham has drawn the ire of fans this week. (Curtis Compton / AJC)

Defensive coordinator Todd Grantham has drawn the ire of fans this week. (Curtis Compton / AJC)

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.

What happened to projected defensive starter Sheldon Dawson? (University of Georgia)

What happened to projected defensive starter Sheldon Dawson? (University of Georgia)

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.

Go Dogs!

Got something you want to discuss concerning the Dawgs? Or a question you want the Junkyard Blawg to tackle? Email me at  junkyardblawg@gmail.com.

Find me on Facebook.

Follow me on Twitter.

— Bill King, Junkyard Blawg

170 comments Add your comment

Bulldawg35

October 18th, 2013
9:36 am

Vandy in a upset…sad but true vandy 31 dawgs 27.

Flo-Ri-Duh

October 18th, 2013
9:42 am

Dave Aranda – current DC Wisconsin (1st year)

age – 36

simply not ready for SEC – needs more experience

Declined for the DC list

Candidates for DC list are open for submission at this time:

Current list

#1 Van Gorder – by Flat Tire
#2 Bud Foster – by BS35 (aka Milk Dud)
#3 Dick Bumpas – by Flat Tire

UGA Insider

October 18th, 2013
9:53 am

Just like last week I am very concerned about this game. I have heard this week that most of the defensive players are crushed because they thought they had the game in hand last week when Franklin went out then they couldn’t even stop the redshirt freshman. Guys are blaming each other and it doesn’t look good. Vandy is licking their chops and want revenge for the game 2 years ago. With all of this going on plus a 12 o’clock game this one is going to be very close. Our ST’s are the joke of the SEC and we have virtually no punt return team or kickoff team. I know some of the staff at UF and he said all coaches purposely target our ST’s because we don’t practice it much or have a dedicated coach.

Bulldawg35

October 18th, 2013
10:01 am

Flo- ri- du,

Hey you forgot to add Marion swamp fox Campbell to that list. Haha

Bulldawg35

October 18th, 2013
10:07 am

Insider..

Richt just throws ST’s to the side…because he fears injuries on kickoffs and punt returns…he mentioned this fear years ago…truth be told Richt would like for the NCAA to do away with kickoff returns…..

old dog

October 18th, 2013
10:11 am

Time to scrap the 3-4…..it ain’t workin’, folks. It may be some magic D (doubtful) but we either cannot teach it, cannot learn it, do not have the personel to run it, or answer D: all of the above. We wait on others to catch the ball, then debate on whose job it might be to tackle them. Either our ends (and we have good ones) fly in and make something happen, or we get made to look pretty bad by average-at-best running backs. To quote an older fellow who gave me some sage advice years ago: “You might-oughta change something son. What you are doin’ ain’t workin’!”

Dawg Fud

October 18th, 2013
10:15 am

Richt is stubborn as a mule when it comes to hiring a ST Coach. Maybe this season will “Awaken the Notion” to actually go get one.

If you dump Grantham and get another decent DC at half his salary that frees up another $400K to at least do something with….

No, I would not be shocked to see Vandy beat us.

Dawg Fud

October 18th, 2013
10:18 am

51 to Mizzou, huh? Didn’t we give up 41 to Mizzou?

Flat Tire doesnt live in Delusionalville Ga.

October 18th, 2013
10:19 am

Flo

you forgot Justin Wilcox

Flat Tire doesnt live in Delusionalville Ga.

October 18th, 2013
10:20 am

so that is 4 add Muschamp that will be 5

Bulldawg35

October 18th, 2013
10:23 am

Flat

I’m still waiting on him to add the “the swamp fox”……lol

old dog

October 18th, 2013
10:26 am

Bill,
By the way I do appreciate you letting us vent on your blog. I am a true dawg fan and I do not for one minute EVER not pull for them. I am just convinced that we (and look at Tech last year with their D-guy gettin’ gone; his D was similar to ours) will never have the D we need to have under the present circumstances. Jarvis, Ogletree, and some of the others we had had to play like the superstars they are to make this D work. If VanGorder had folks like that (and he had some good ones) nobody would have scored on us period. ( A stretch, but not too much of one.) We need to go to a defense that is reliable. Then, we need to have everybody know what they are doing. In VanGorders day, even the non-starters knew pretty much what they were supposed to do. We got folks (yes, they are young, but still) who are totally lost………period! When the season starts and folks consostantly do not know what to do, whether they are top talent or not, it is time to take a look……

Flo-Ri-Duh

October 18th, 2013
10:26 am

Muschump leaving Reptileville ($$$$) for a DC job under Richt after dissing UGA when took the job with the Lizards? He’s a traitor to the Dawg Nation.

Flo-Ri-Duh

October 18th, 2013
10:27 am

BS35 (aka Milk Dud) – Why don’t I just add Knute Rockne? Idiots are born every day – how long did it take you?

Flat Tire doesnt live in Delusionalville Ga.

October 18th, 2013
10:34 am

Give me a break

I didnt see the Athletic Dept wanting to even hire the guy when he was starting out

and we had plenty of opportunities to get him from 2005 to 2008 but we were more concerned about friends being hired

so who was the real traitor

Flo-Ri-Duh

October 18th, 2013
10:34 am

#1 Van Gorder – by Flat Tire
#2 Bud Foster – by BS35 (aka Milk Dud & Mark Richt)
#3 Dick Bumpas – Flat Tire
#4 Justin Wilcox – Flat Tire (’cause he insists!)m- I don’t think he’s ready for the SEC

Flat Tire doesnt live in Delusionalville Ga.

October 18th, 2013
10:35 am

LOL

“I don’t think he’s ready for the SEC”

and the current DC has shown he is??

ARdawg

October 18th, 2013
10:39 am

Bill
You are on the mark about the OL play against Mizzou. The Georgia OL came out of that buthurt and violated. Their manhood is definitely called in to question

Flo-Ri-Duh

October 18th, 2013
10:39 am

submitted by Flo-Ri-Duh::::: and accepted to list

Pat Narduzzi – Michigan State DC 7 years

#1 Van Gorder
#2 Bud Foster
#3 Dick Pumpas
#4 Justin Wilcox
#5 Pat Narduzzi

UGA Insider

October 18th, 2013
10:42 am

I’m going to give you guys an insider tidbit today just for fun. McGarity is upset at the way Auburn handled the Rodney Garner situation and will stop at nothing when the time is right to go get Ellis Johnson. He is going to make Grantham’s contract look pathetic.

Flo-Ri-Duh

October 18th, 2013
10:43 am

Flat Tire – Now you’re whining again – so he’s on the list!

Check out Pat Narduzzi (Mich State DC) & give me your opinion – for whatever it’s worth!

*** did I say anything about Grantham being qualified or not? He’s may or may not be on the list – the jury hasn’t convened yet.

Flo-Ri-Duh

October 18th, 2013
10:50 am

UGA Insider – I’m delighted that Garner is no longer with the Dawgs.

I mentioned earlier that I would LOVE for the Dawgs to have Ellis Johnson. One of the three or four best DC’s in the SEC and top 10 in the nation (my opinion). Not sure he will leave Aubarn this soon however I see Grantham getting one more year to prove himself – mixed opinion on him returning right now. Last year Dawgs should have been better on defense but suspensions and injuries screwed up the first half of the season. This year’s fall of with the DB depth chart is understandable – to a point.

Took to long for Grantham to give Shaq Wiggins a shot…. Langley will be good but needs coaching up big time.

Andy

October 18th, 2013
10:53 am

old dog- You make some good points. I have to wonder if, like Tech’s D under Groh, Grantham’s defense is too complex for college players to learn and execute successfully.

UGA Insider- Getting Ellis Johnson would be awesome if it happens. He consistently gave us problems when he was at SC.

Flo-Ri-Duh

October 18th, 2013
10:55 am

DC coordinator candidate’s list:

#1 Van Gorder
#2 Bud Foster
#3 Dick Bumpas
#4 Justin Wilcox
#5 Pat Narduzzi
#6 Ellis Johnson

Still accepting DC nominees at this time

Flo-Ri-Duh

October 18th, 2013
10:57 am

Kirby Smart???

Not gonna happen….

Flo-Ri-Duh

October 18th, 2013
10:58 am

John Chavas – DC at LSU ???

Any chance?

Flo-Ri-Duh

October 18th, 2013
11:05 am

Everette Withers – co DC @ Ohio State – former DC North Carolina – up for nomination to the list

Flo-Ri-Duh

October 18th, 2013
11:05 am

Everette Withers – co DC @ Ohio State – former DC North Carolina – up for nomination to the list

Bulldawg35

October 18th, 2013
11:09 am

Flo- ri- duh…

All I was saying he coached here in 1994….why not bring him back for another go around….alright what about Bill Lewis? He was here too…..save that money!!! Woo hoo!

Bulldawg35

October 18th, 2013
11:11 am

Flo- ri- duh…

Okay add Derek Mason to the list…..and hurry up and it!

NoAxeToGrind

October 18th, 2013
11:13 am

The only way UGA will ever have a championship caliber program is to get rid of Richt. You can make all the excuses you want, but that is the only solution to the problem. Being a good man and a fine Christian, as laudable as that may be, does not win football games. If that were the case, the Right Reverend Houston Nutt would still be at ARK.

Bulldawg35

October 18th, 2013
11:25 am

This year mystery disappearing players:: James Deloach…..Sheldon Dawson…Quavon Hicks…..Jay Rome.

Desert Fox

October 18th, 2013
11:35 am

There is definitely something wrong w/the GA D. The front 3 or 4 aren’t doing a bad job but they’re also snake bit, they’ve missed a few tackles for loss which is not good considering the rest of the D is even worse at tackling. Even Swann looks lost and has gotten beaten badly on the long ball. No int’s yet. He was supposed to make up for some of the youth we have but he now looks like he’s one of them. Lets face it. CTG has never impressed. His D looked good when playing over matched opponents and even then they unexpectedly gave up a lot of yardage to the poor sisters of the SEC. His D schemes seemingly shout out its OK if we give up huge chunks of yardage as long as we win the game. Yet, is he earning his pay when he relies on the O to win those games? No. There are much better DC’s out there that do very well w/lesser talent. With the talent CTG had on D last year we should have shut down anyone that we played. TX had the stones to fire Diaz, their DC early in the season. Their D now is doing great and stoned OK. CMR should take a page from the TX notebook and do the same w/CTG. Give Wilson a shot at it. If things don’t turn around hire someone w/a winning resume at the end of the season. Enough.

dawgfan

October 18th, 2013
11:35 am

Until we make a change at head coach I don’t think it really matters who our DC is.

Kirby come home and kill two birds with one stone.

LuckyDawg

October 18th, 2013
11:37 am

Howdy Doody would be a step up from GrumpyDawg Grantham.

Flo-Ri-Duh

October 18th, 2013
11:39 am

Missed games due to injury:::: : Quayvon Hicks, James DeLoach, Sheldon Dawson, Jay Rome.

Flo-Ri-Duh

October 18th, 2013
11:43 am

DC candidate list:

**** Howdy Doody isn’t real & therefore is disqualified.

Flo-Ri-Duh

October 18th, 2013
11:46 am

DC LIST:

#1 Van Gorder
#2 Bud Foster
#3 Dick Bumpas
#4 Justin Wilcox
#5 Pat Narduzzi
#6 Ellis Johnson
#7 Everett Withers

*** accepting DC nominees at this time for evaluation

dawgfan

October 18th, 2013
11:48 am

You’re seeing the horrible production on defense this year because Richt has allowed things to get to this state. He’s never held Grantham accountable. After the 2008 season he actually said our defense was fine. I remember it well. What planet is this guy on? We need a head coach that holds his assistants accountable and expects results. We don’t have that.

Flo-Ri-Duh

October 18th, 2013
11:48 am

BS35 (aka Milk Dud) – Derek Mason – he already backed out after accepting the offer so – NO WAY

Flat Tire doesnt live in Delusionalville Ga.

October 18th, 2013
11:52 am

I wonder why these guys back out

dawgfan

October 18th, 2013
11:55 am

Head coaching candidate list:

1. Kirby Smart
2. Charlie Strong
3. Al Golden

Just off the top of my head…

Bulldawg35

October 18th, 2013
11:55 am

Flo- ri- duh….

I don’t remember mason being offered….you will have to show me proof bud.

Bulldawg35

October 18th, 2013
11:58 am

Flo- ri- duh…

I also want to nominate chuck dowdle and loran smith as possible DC candidates.

Bulldawg35

October 18th, 2013
12:00 pm

Why does Grantham teach such an complicated scheme when these players clearly can’t even give a book report on green eggs and ham! Haha!

NoAxeToGrind

October 18th, 2013
12:10 pm

All this talk about defensive coordinator candidates is a waste of time. Why not talk about future head coaching candidates? Richt tried to hire Smart and the guy at VA Tech. Both turned him down. Nobody worth a damn will work for Richt. I am not even sure he wants anybody worth a damn….might make him look bad.

ALB-dawg

October 18th, 2013
12:10 pm

Yep. The D sucks. Grantham is a blowhard. How about a little more insight. “Craig” mentions 4-3 rather than 3-4. Is that the key? It seems to me that the G-man wants to players to look to the sidelines for directions on how to adjust to the “O” formation. Problem is: every team’s “O” is looking to the sidelines in order to adjust to the other teams “D” formation. It seems to me Grantham was brought in to create a D that could deal with the Meyer spread (and others) that seemed to be the imminent future, but the fact is, more teams are going up tempo, pro style or some variation of the spread. Point: Perhaps the straightforward ability of the 4-3 to address a variety of situations on the fly may be a better choice now.

The future obviously holds TALL receivers. Will it hold taller Corners, as well. Floyd is an interesting player in regard to his size. I would like to see more man on man, jamming of the receivers. There seems to be a lot of miscues in zone coverages. There also seem to be issues with LBs having to switch up and take receivers. Again, maybe they should just bring the house on every play. We might get burned on a couple, but it would certainly frustrate a QB.

ALB-dawg

October 18th, 2013
12:16 pm

NOAxe? I am not sure it has as much to do with working for Richt as it constitutes a lateral move. In Smart’s case any move that is not an HC position is a downward move. Most established DCs are looking to become HCs not a DC at a different school. Sure you could throw money at them. You would essentially be throwing a couple of mil (in Smart’s case) at a guy who hasn’t coached a down in Athens and may leave for an HC position in two seasons. I would think you have to find a really good positions coach from another team or the NFL who is looking to move to a DC position. It would be great to find someone who wants to be a career DC.

Gman 84

October 18th, 2013
12:31 pm

Think CMR’s hand was forced on CWM. I don’t think he would’ve ever let him go if it was up to him. Same thing with CTG. I don’t have much hope that things will suddenly improve on D or that CMR will ever do anything about it. Sad thing is that if CTG sticks around this is probably as good as the dogs will be for the next few years.

SoCal Dawg

October 18th, 2013
12:33 pm

Remember last time we shopped for a DC, everyone used us as leverage for big new contracts. CTG was our 5th choice. Not sure it would be much better but it’s gotten tot he point where it’s worth a gamble.