The new UGA defensive approach: Attack, attack, attack

Justin Houston meets the media, confesses affection for DeMarcus Ware. (Photo by M. Bradley)

Justin Houston meets the media, admits an admiration for DeMarcus Ware. (Photo by M. Bradley)

Athens — Meaning no offense, it’s fair to call Mark Richt an offensive man. He’s the kind of guy who thinks a fast-food napkin — he’s fond of Wendy’s and Chick-fil-A — is best used for sketching a play. But he admitted Monday he’s spicy-chicken hot to see his new D.

“We’re all intrigued by it,” Richt said, speaking at Media Day. “Fans want to see it. I want to see it. Even the offensive players want to see it.”

Some unscientific data: In a quickie poll in this space earlier Monday, 80 percent of 1,350 respondents named Georgia’s newfangled defense as a more pressing topic than new Bulldog quarterback Aaron Murray.

In nine seasons as Georgia’s coach, Richt’s teams have used the same basic defense — a vanilla 4-3 that became less filling over time. In 2010 the Bulldogs will position themselves in a 3-4, and with its four linebackers the new scheme offers more angles and much more possibility.

Said DeAngelo Tyson, a defensive tackle in the 4-3 but a nose tackle in the 3-4: “We’ll really be attacking more and having more fun — as soon as we learn what to do and how to do it.”

Todd Grantham is the defensive coordinator, and we all know why’s he here: Because Willie Martinez’s bend-but-don’t-break defensive approach had become utterly inoffensive. Georgia took the ball from its opponents 12 times in 13 games last season, which ranked the Bulldogs next-to-next-to-last nationally in turnover margin.

Said Darryl Gamble, who was primarily a middle linebacker in 2009 but who is learning all four linebacker posts now: “It’s good to change. It seems like we’re going to be a more aggressive defense. That’s something we’ve needed here.”

Well … yeah. There was never an excuse for a defense staffed by such big and fast men playing so passively, and now the passive is past.

An example, courtesy of Tyson: “Last year I was supposed to control a gap. This year I’m supposed to be more physical. It’s more about attacking and getting upfield.”

In 2010 Justin Houston was a defensive end, which means, in football argot, that he aligned himself by sticking his hand in the dirt. Now he’s an outside linebacker, and not just any old OLB — he’s the weakside backer, which was Lawrence Taylor’s position and is DeMarcus Ware’s.

Ware has had 64 1/2 sacks over five NFL seasons. Not coincidentally, he plays for the Dallas Cowboys, where Grantham was previously employed as the defensive line coach. Not surprisingly, he has become Justin Houston’s model.

“I watch DeMarcus Ware almost every night,” Houston said. “I’ve got my own personal cut-up [a  DVD that isolates Ware].” Then this: “If I could be half as good … ”

There’s a chance Houston, who had 7 1/2 sacks as a down lineman in 2009, will double that number in 2010. If the 3-4 is built for anyone, it’s for big men who can come hard off the corner. Asked how often he figures to blitz this season, Houston said: “It all depends on the game plan.”

Were he designing the game plan, how often would he have himself blitz? Said Houston, laughing: “One hundred percent of the time.”

It must be emphasized that Grantham’s defense is a work in the earliest stages of implementation. Spring practice was mostly spent showing guys where to line up and teaching them terminology. August will offer more teaching, not all of it from coaches. Said Tyson: “I’ve been able to show other people what to do because people showed me what to do. This is a team; we don’t have secrets.”

Not every Saturday is apt to be sunny, D-wise. Games 2 and 3 offer tests against Steve Spurrier’s and Bobby Petrino’s teams, and nobody knows how Grantham’s men will respond. Said Richt: “That’s part of the reason there’s a little more energy and anticipation. There’s something you’re not sure of.”

This much, however, is a given: If Georgia’s D fails, it won’t be for lack of effort. You’ll see Bulldogs running hither and yon, and they figure to be happy Dogs.

Said Tyson: “People who look to attack have more fun.”

102 comments Add your comment

How2fish

August 2nd, 2010
2:41 pm

Great articel Mark!

How2fish

August 2nd, 2010
2:42 pm

Article even..now GATA!

F-105 Thunderchief

August 2nd, 2010
2:44 pm

Third and short!

Mark Bradley

August 2nd, 2010
2:45 pm

Thanks, How2fish.

Hidden citrus drink jokes rock?

August 2nd, 2010
2:48 pm

“Not every Saturday is apt to be sunny, D-wise.”

Heh, heh.

[...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Mark Bradley, Abby Drake. Abby Drake said: RT @MarkBradleyAJC: You readers demanded it (kind of), and here it is: #UGA's new defensive approach — attack, attack, attack. http://bit.ly/aHvh1p [...]

Mark Bradley

August 2nd, 2010
2:49 pm

Sometimes I crack myself up, Hidden citrus … What can I tell you?

asheville dawg

August 2nd, 2010
2:50 pm

Anything has to be an improvement over last year’s defense. Thank God!

JayDawg

August 2nd, 2010
2:52 pm

Soooooooooooooooooooooooo ready for football! GO DAWGS

hammerhead

August 2nd, 2010
2:57 pm

I love the new flavor Grantham has brought to Athens.

Rimfire

August 2nd, 2010
2:57 pm

POAD

August 2nd, 2010
2:58 pm

How2fish? it is so easy a dawg could do it. Sling bait and wait.

George Stein

August 2nd, 2010
2:59 pm

Should be a good system most of the time. Could be trouble if they don’t get to the passer.

JIm

August 2nd, 2010
3:00 pm

Controlled aggression beats controlled passivity every time.

FIGHTING DOGS IS MY BIDNESS, AND FELLAS....BIDNESS IS BOOMING

August 2nd, 2010
3:01 pm

Look out for Cornelious Washington to match Houston sack for sack. Kid is a beast

POAD

August 2nd, 2010
3:03 pm

UGA’s D can not make MURRY a .500% winner this year. UGA’s D could keeo the other teams to 14-21 points and still lose. UGA can’t count on 50 yrd field goals to win 8 games.

RJM Dawg

August 2nd, 2010
3:04 pm

GO Dawgs!! There can only be improvement from last years defense…

destin dawg

August 2nd, 2010
3:05 pm

I am sure of one thing… this aggressive… defense will be much improved… we have the players… did best last year against Texas A & M in the bowl game without any D coaches… glad WM.. didn’t coach the bowl game ??!!

11Dawg

August 2nd, 2010
3:07 pm

I can’t wait to see the D in action. I’m almost foaming at the mouth.

Uga/Tiger

August 2nd, 2010
3:08 pm

“Attack, attack, attack”, heck, I would settle for “tackle, tackle, tackle”!

GADAWG88

August 2nd, 2010
3:09 pm

CANT WAIT FOR FOOTBALL SEASON! HOUSTON AND WASHINGTON WILL BE EATING QB’S FOR BREAKFAST, LUNCH, AND DINNER! GO DAWGS!

#1 BAMA FAN

August 2nd, 2010
3:10 pm

The three most important things for the 3-4….coaching…athletes…depth. Waiting on some CFB. RTR

Vodka

August 2nd, 2010
3:10 pm

Hidden citrus drink jokes rock?

August 2nd, 2010
2:48 pm

“Not every Saturday is apt to be sunny, D-wise.”

Heh, heh.

It will be if I’m around before the noon kickoffs.

Stockdog

August 2nd, 2010
3:10 pm

Georgia always lived and died on their defense. This year should be no different. Fun article to read Mark, I can’t wait for football season.

JTH

August 2nd, 2010
3:11 pm

Rebuilding seasons are always tough but I have faith in Richt to turn things around. He got lucky Damon Evans’ panty party took the spotlight or he could be feeling some serious heat right now.

DScottGT91

August 2nd, 2010
3:13 pm

I think the UGA defense is going to really surprise this fall. You guys always had too many speedy athletes on that side of the ball not to play an attack style defense. The biggest perceived weakness of the defense is the ability (or lack thereof) to stop a strong running game between the tackles. This is why it worries me that we are also installing this defense on the flats. I guess we’ll see what develops.

As always Dogs, good luck in all your games except the last one of the regular season… and please kill Florida this year……

Bryan G.

August 2nd, 2010
3:15 pm

I like the idea of attacking the ball on D. It was so frustrating – especially the lat two years – watching us sit back in soft zone or two deep and getting burned.

WonderDawg

August 2nd, 2010
3:16 pm

Good stuff, Mark. Glad you got the assignment.

Lowcountry Bulldawg

August 2nd, 2010
3:17 pm

Well we will find out quick against the two passy happy teams if the ‘backers can get pressure and help the secondary from having to chase the receivers all day.

WonderDawg

August 2nd, 2010
3:19 pm

I look for improvement (no more 40+ points allowed) but remember even Saban took some lumps at Bama the first year…

Mcdawghna

August 2nd, 2010
3:23 pm

Coach Grantham is a proven coach at the highest level who won’t put up with the nonsence with the same attitude as Van Gorder…….Finally, if the defence does’nt make great strides this year it won’t be du to lack of effort,not being coached up, etc……I also believe that an end will come for all the stupid late flags being called on the dogs…….he won’t put up with it……..a breath of fresh air….

mackdaddy

August 2nd, 2010
3:24 pm

I agree with Uga/tiger….tackle, tackle, tackle….did anyone notice how under WM’s D nobody tackled, they just tried to put a shoulder on player and knock em down….let’s wrap up and tackle I hope is TG’s D motto!

D Fence

August 2nd, 2010
3:26 pm

50% better than last year is a world’s improvement. With few exceptions, we havent been physical enough on either side of the ball for my likes, but especially on defense or lack thereof. Time will tell but UGA does have the talent to pretty good this year on D.

gadawgs

August 2nd, 2010
3:36 pm

I’d much rather have an attacking style defense give up some points vs. the soft reacting style defense we have employed recently give up the same points. Atleast it would look like we were trying. With that being said our D this year will not allow as many points per game as we have the last two years. Our average points allowed per game will be reduced by ATLEAST 10 -13 per and you can write that down.

Don't you mean...

August 2nd, 2010
3:39 pm

…that Willie’s 4-3, bend but don’t break, scheme had become “offensive” (not inoffensive) in that it stunk up the place?

meh

August 2nd, 2010
3:39 pm

GATA!!! gonna make some QBs wet themselves this year!!

anybody but GT

August 2nd, 2010
3:40 pm

Unfortunately the same old offense will be present. Throw it 50 yards downfield into the hedges then punt. Use less than one minute of game clock. Those of you who think our offense will play to our strenghts of a veteran offensive line coupled with two decent running backs must not have been paying attention lately. Chunk, chunk, chunk, will prevail. UGA will not be physical again this year. Our HC is a finesse, trick em coach. Good for an annual also ran in this league!

dream on

August 2nd, 2010
3:41 pm

dream on dawgs, the vols will rebound and get back to the sec title before you will.

AltamahaDawg

August 2nd, 2010
3:43 pm

I have a feeling that we are all going to nudging each other about half time of the game and saying..”hey man, I thought we were supposed to be running something called a 3-4.”

From what I have seen, it’s (scheme) not going to be as obvious as we all think, and nobody running the 4-3 is telling thier fans that they think attacking the other team is highly over-rated. Of cource they want to put pressure on the QB. We wanted to do that before.

Now the attitude and energy could certainly stand some improvement, and that will probably be what’s most obvious. I doubt till he gets the players he needs, Grantham’s expertise in the actual Xs and Os is going to be on display.

GATA

August 2nd, 2010
3:43 pm

GATA = God Awful Tacklers Again

AltamahaDawg

August 2nd, 2010
3:46 pm

anybody but GT, are you suggesting that Richt has been far more likely to pass the ball over running it, percentage wise?

GATA

August 2nd, 2010
3:49 pm

the problem is with the quality of defensive players at uga. they are stupid, they wont grasp the 3-4 scheme

Belinda

August 2nd, 2010
3:51 pm

AJC headline: UGA named the nation’s No. 1 party school

This is NOT news. The Cesspool of the South has been known primarily for partying and drunkeness for decades.

Something to be proud of, especially since UGA can’t beat Florida or win the SEC.

Oh my goodness, look at those red panties falling from the sky!

rEnNiE cUrrENcY

August 2nd, 2010
3:51 pm

I say give the dawgs more money than we got last year. $100 handshakes….wink wink

Athens > Hotlanta

August 2nd, 2010
3:51 pm

GATA= Gay Absurd Tech Alum

JoeFan

August 2nd, 2010
3:53 pm

Party, Party, Party….way past time to bring the hammer down on this image. What a waste of taxpayers money. Well at least UGA is # 1 in something. Everyone can be proud of that, right?

AltamahaDawg

August 2nd, 2010
3:55 pm

gadawg, thats a great point….”at least they look like they are trying.” I think the effort will be more obvious to the fans. I know the guys thought that they were giving it thier all before, but it just didn’t have the appearance at times.

I don’t know if valiantly giving up the same points is really going to pacify the fans for long though, but I do think they are likely to give up just as many yards per game this year, and still be seen as a “better” defense.

And its not too difficult to reduce the points given away by 10-13 points. Grantham just needs to walk over the offence and tell them to stop giving that away every game, before his guys even hit the field.

Ga boy

August 2nd, 2010
3:55 pm

How proud all the Dawg nation must be- finally number one in something.

The nation’s top party schools, according to Princeton Review’s 2010 survey of 122,000 students.

1. University of Georgia, Athens, Ga.

2. Ohio University, Athens, Ohio

3. Penn State University, University Park, Pa.

4. West Virginia University, Morgantown, W.Va.

5. University of Mississippi, Oxford, Miss.

6. University of Texas, Austin, Texas

7. University of Florida, Gainesville, Fla.

8. University of California-Santa Barbara, Santa Barbara, Calif.

9. University of Iowa, Iowa City, Iowa

10. DePauw University, Greencastle, Ind.

Rolf

August 2nd, 2010
3:55 pm

It’s kind of sad to see all the Dawg fans getting so excited this year (just like the year before, the year before that, etc.). How long is it going to take for UGA fans to realize that UGA is simply no longer relevant in the SEC? In the national picture, UGA isn’t even a blip on the radar, and hasn’t
been since the preseason #1 ranking two years ago.

Sit back and be grateful for the seven or eight wins you’ll get every year. Coaching genius Mark Richt may take you to 10-2 or even 11-1 occasionally, but Florida will still win the SEC, meaning no BCS bowls and no top 10 final ranking. Most years, UGA will be very lucky to finish in the top 25, and only after a big bowl win over a nobody opponent.

It’s a different world now, and Dawg fans, like Miami and Ole Miss fans, need to adjust their expectations downward to reflect reality.

Unfortunately nothing is going to change until UGA changes its mediocre coaching. That’s where the difference is, and that’s why everyone outside Bulldog Nation just laughs at Dawg fans getting so excited year after year about what a great recruiting class UGA gets. It doesn’t matter how many
blue chip high school players go to UGA, they simply don’t get the coaching they would get at Florida or Alabama, to name two schools whose programs are far ahead of UGA. And that’s not going to change as long as Mark Richt is in Athens.

Get your heads out of the sand and face reality. And mediocrity and irrelevance.

And 42 players arrested in the last three years. 

Buck Belue

August 2nd, 2010
3:56 pm

Easy Rennie, suppose to keep that hush, hush cuz!