UGA’s defense: From ‘average’ in 2010 to awesome in 2011?

Connor Norman (right) breaks up a pass on G-Day. (AJC photo by Brant Sanderlin)

Denial D: Connor Norman (right) breaks up a pass on G-Day. (AJC photo by Brant Sanderlin)

Athens – Under Willie Martinez, the default mechanism was to insist Georgia’s defense was actually better than it looked. Todd Grantham’s way is reality-based.

Asked after Saturday’s G-Day scrimmage to grade his defense’s performance in 2010, Grantham said: “I would say average. If you go back and look, we were fourth [among SEC teams] in total yards [yielded], and we did improve our turnover ratio.”

Then: “We didn’t play as well as we wanted.”

This from a coordinator who’d overseen a clear upgrade. In 2009, the final season under Martinez, Georgia was 38th nationally in total defense, 63rd in scoring defense and 73rd in pass-efficiency defense. In Year 1 under Grantham, the Bulldogs were 23rd, 36th and 48th in those categories. And Georgia as a team went from 118th nationally in turnover margin to 19th.

So why wasn’t Grantham happier? Because Georgia didn’t win. Defensive improvements notwithstanding, the Bulldogs slid from 8-5 to 6-7. They lost to South Carolina 17-6, to Mississippi State 24-12 and to Central Florida 10-6. You couldn’t really hang any of those losses on the D, but this remains a team game. A championship team is going to have to win a game 14-10.

Grantham’s to-do list for 2011: “Our situational defense has to improve. We’ve got get off the field on third down. We’ve got to make them kick field goals in the red zone. We’ve got to win in the fourth quarter. A lot of our losses were one-possession ballgames. We’ve got to finish, and to me that’s mental toughness — making the play no matter what.”

Speaking of which: No matter how schematically sound a defense might be, it’s only as good as its playmakers. Grantham’s 3-4 alignment turned Justin Houston from a defensive end to an outside linebacker to a star, but Houston was the only Bulldog capable of rushing the passer. (Of Georgia’s 24 sacks, Houston had 10.) He declared for the NFL draft, which means new stars must be found. Two possibilities were on display Saturday.

Kwame Geathers, projected as a backup nose tackle, wrought up-front havoc, and Alec Ogletree delivered big hits as an inside linebacker. (And let’s note that Ray Drew, the signee who figures to become the new Houston, hasn’t yet enrolled.)

Of Ogletree, who played last season as a safety, Grantham said: “There’s no question in my mind he’s a linebacker. You could see that when we went through the cut-ups [video of each player].”

Of Geathers, who was the spring’s defensive MVP and who could form a fearsome tandem with JUCO transfer John Jenkins: “It’s always important to keep your big guys fresh … You always find ways to play guys to help you win.”

Any chance that, with two such defensive tackles, the 3-4 advocate might switch to a 4-3? Said Grantham, smiling: “No.”

How will Georgia's D be this season?

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Spring games can distort, but this much was obvious: The Bulldogs now know where they’re supposed to be and what they’re supposed to do. The switch to the 3-4 forced a lot of guys to think before acting, which isn’t always the desired course. As Ogletree said: “We’ll be able to play much faster now.”

Grantham: “Anytime you have continuity, that’s good. From Day 1 [of spring practice], our communication was better. The guys were always talking to each other, and that allows you to play fast.”

Georgia’s defense in 2009 was an embarrassment. Its defense in 2010 was better but, as Grantham conceded, not good enough. This defense has a chance to be good enough. The 3-4 is no longer a foreign concept, and this coordinator has had a chance to move and recruit personnel to fit his design. (Another example: DeAngelo Tyson, a nose man last season, has moved to end.)

Last season brought moments when Grantham’s men were put on the back foot — the first halves against Arkansas and Florida; the second half against Auburn; the whole game against Georgia Tech — but much of that was a function of newness. The shakedown cruise has ended. There should be nothing average about Georgia’s defense this fall.

By Mark Bradley

125 comments Add your comment

dawggirl

April 18th, 2011
9:50 am

It would be nice to see good defense again. I’m glad Grantham wasn’t satisfied, he shouldn’t have been. It was our first year, but there should be a major improvement. Looking forward to seeing what’s possible.

WILLY

April 18th, 2011
9:50 am

WILLY

April 18th, 2011
9:51 am

the twixle

April 18th, 2011
9:51 am

MacDawg

April 18th, 2011
9:51 am

Defense wins games,

David's TWINK

April 18th, 2011
9:52 am

Heeeeeey David

the twixle

April 18th, 2011
9:58 am

firework > ET

FromtheBARstool

April 18th, 2011
10:00 am

April 17th, 2011
5:34 pm

Why would 3 people drive from Columbus to steal stuff for the UGA players lockers? That sounds odd. I would think they had to know the building would be open for the Faculty thing or they know some of the ball players. Will be interesting to see if they are Carver Columbus fans or students.

Who was a PROFIT? I Crowell could be TROUBLE before it is all over.

51WTGW50

April 18th, 2011
10:01 am

Defense can’t be as bad as the last 2 years.

1eyedJack

April 18th, 2011
10:02 am

Back to the “junkyard” dawgs.

juvenal

April 18th, 2011
10:02 am

thanks to dawggirl for a rational response…

DawginLex

April 18th, 2011
10:06 am

Yeah, Barstool idiot, Crowell is going to throw his future away for 3 idiots stealing Ipods out of the locker room.

God almighty some of you people are too dam stupid to be alive.

FromtheBARstool

April 18th, 2011
10:10 am

1eyedJack
Doesn’t a Junkyard Dawg just protect JUNK or Garbage? A JUNKYARD DAWG protects cars that were stolen and run through the Chop Shop. With that being said I guess UGA has had JUNKYARD DAWGS for years now. LOL
How many kids is UGA going to offer Schollys to from Carver Columbus now? I. Crowell why did you tell your buddies about all the GOOD STUFF in the UGA LOCKer room? DID the DAWGS LEARN A NEW TRICK? It is called HOW TO LOCK a LOCKer. LOL

DAWG NATION

April 18th, 2011
10:10 am

As usual we WILL have one of the best defenses in in the country in 2011,unitl September. February through August is when we are at our best, We are offseason NC! NC State of the SEC, baby.

B

April 18th, 2011
10:11 am

Nice recruits we are targeting. Still wanting the thug criminal. Watch crowell get kicked off the team in a year

UGA_2001

April 18th, 2011
10:13 am

They’ll give up 45 to Boise and 35 to UF, but they’ll shut out Vandy and New Mexico St.

DawginLex

April 18th, 2011
10:13 am

Anybody watch some of the other spring games?

Arkansas’s game was 45-17 with Tyler Wilson’s team up 28-0 in the 1st quarter. Arkansas is my pick to win the West.

Tyler Bray went 5-22 with 3 picks and was outplayed by Matt Simms. Doesn’t bode well when DD says “We will need Simms to help us win a game or two this fall”. I thought Bray was going to be better than Murray???????

Auburn doesn’t have a QB.

LSU has Jefferson and Mett is nowhere in sight

Bama doesn’t have a QB.

UGA has Murray and now Lemay. If Lemay learns the playbook, he will play this fall. Look for Mason to redshirt.

Encouraging signs for UGA all around.

dawglvr!

April 18th, 2011
10:14 am

Let’s just hope our offensive line is really just weak.

Todd Grantham

April 18th, 2011
10:14 am

Whata you expect from your 4th choice, good defense, a modicum of class, pant size under 46? I don’t get paid enough for that.

FromtheBARstool

April 18th, 2011
10:15 am

DawginLEX
I am not saying I. Crowell isn’t as pure as un-driven snow and would RISK anything. I am saying maybe he has more bad people around him as friends than people know. I wish the kid no ill will, but I have not stopped questioning his character. I saw him yelling at coaches when the high school playoffs were not going well. I hope that is CONTROLLED PASSION and not BAD ATTITUDE.

DCJohn

April 18th, 2011
10:15 am

I thought the Vox Populi was the way for morons to be heard, but apparently, message boards are the new medium.

PROFIT and PROPHET. Seriously?

DawginLex

April 18th, 2011
10:17 am

barstool,

And the reality is that you don’t know crap about Crowell other than he is at Carver just like the three who got caught.

Anybody from your school ever do anything wrong? That makes you guilty too right?

Troll Hater

April 18th, 2011
10:20 am

Hey “Bar Stool”. Your humor is really wasted on this blog. You should go on tour with Charlie Sheen. You’d fit right in. I swear you are almost as funny as Sheen and you might have some other similarities.

FromtheBARstool

April 18th, 2011
10:21 am

LEX
I still think Bray is the man in KNOCKSville. Simms folded under pressure from BETTER TEAMS. BRAY looked GREAT against BAD teams. That sounds like MURRAY too. BRAY will get the shot to Develop early against some weaker teams and hopefully get some more confidence. ARK is just SCARY. They SLING the ball around like nobodies business, but they still can’t stop anybody.

DCJohn

April 18th, 2011
10:21 am

No DawginLex, he is a PROFIT. He knows what is going to happen in the future. Although, he might just be the positive amount when you deduct the cost of goods sold from revenues.

Dirty Dawg

April 18th, 2011
10:24 am

Hey ‘bar-stool’, it’s ‘prophet’, not ‘profit’ – unless of course you’re talking about selling the stuff, as in ‘a profit deal’. At the same time we now know you were right about the Carver-Columbus connection. Not only were they students, they were highly sought-after recruits. It’s really getting seriously sad how these kids keep thinking that stealing and cheating is OK so long as you can get away with it – although with a role-model like Cam (Lap-top) Newton with his Heisman and all, can you really be surprised?

These kids, and assuming they won’t actually serve a lot of time, will obviously no longer be on Georgia’s recruiting board, but whataya bet that somebody’ll take ‘em – LSU, AU, UA, U of Ark, MSU, Ole Miss, hell, maybe even UF – that’s the thing about bad behavior, depending on how talented a football player you are, somebody will rationalize forgiveness…can you say Cam Newton, Georgia’s burger-kid now a QB at LSU, Ray Lewis?…the list goes on and on.

Hmmmmmm

April 18th, 2011
10:25 am

Either your good or your not so good…. Enough of this, new system crap…… You either have the talent or you don’t…. You can either coach or you can’t…. UGA recruits the talent every year. Talent is not the issue. Coaching has always been the issue. Period. We fired a coach and hired a coach with little or NO experience. We get whatwe deserve!

Hold up

April 18th, 2011
10:26 am

Bama doesn’t have a QB? DawginLex, what are you smoking son? Bama has 3 good Qb’s returning this fall. Lucky you guys don’t play us this year. ROLL Dang Tide!

really

April 18th, 2011
10:26 am

how much of the defense’s supposed good showing
was the result of the really bad Off line play.

Accountabilabuddy

April 18th, 2011
10:27 am

Connor Norman should be first string until someone proves they are better (not more talent but a better all around play maker).

really

April 18th, 2011
10:29 am

with so many Off line issues, murray will need his head on a swivel

crowell wont meet the hype with zero Off line support

JB

April 18th, 2011
10:29 am

It better be better. I’m not sold on the Offense yet. Line, WR and RB all have to prove it. QB and TE will be Ok.

PMC

April 18th, 2011
10:30 am

The Front 7 should be vastly improved, even the depth there is solid.

The secondary outside of Brandon Boykin is going to be a constant source of frustration. It’s not good. Not remotely good.

Billyboy

April 18th, 2011
10:32 am

Great defenses dominiate 1st down and 3rd down. After the first four games of the season, go back and measure this, it will tell you if the Dawgs can dominate like they should

DawginLex

April 18th, 2011
10:32 am

Arkansas will win the West.

Here is Florida’s season prediction: (My attempt at being a “profit”)

DawginLex

April 18th, 2011
10:30 am
florida 2011

Brantley benched for Murphy after 4 games

Lose to UT at home
Lose to Bama and LSU
Lose to Georgia
Lose to SC
Lose to FSU again

6-6

Muschamp hire deemed an “utter failure”

Muschamp declares “Weis destroys all you can eat buffets and football programs equally”, p[romptly fires him after one season in Gainesville.

Foley begs Mrs Meyer to let Urban come back.

Mass exodus of 2012 recruiting class from Florida to other SEC schools after determining program is in shambles.

FromtheBARstool

April 18th, 2011
10:32 am

@ DCJohn & Dirty Dawg thanks for the correction. I am not picking on UGA for those KIDS actions. I would blame the parents. I do think Schools could do better picking STUDENTS that are athletes, than Athletes that want to USE a Valued Education as a Pi.mping tool. A chance to get a COLLEGE EDUCAION should hold more value and the Colleges should only pass out those CHANCES to GOOD KIDS. Most will not go to the NFL. So, why not give Scholarships to good kids and let the trash find their own way to the NFL? Let the CRAP workout and find away to pay for personal trainers for 3 years to get a LOOK from the NFL. That would move many of the CHEATING Recruiting firms and people out of the College game.

Nerds! Nerds! Nerds!

April 18th, 2011
10:33 am

Watch out. D will be legit this year. Once we are done with Soft Willie’s recruits, UGA will be back on top. 9-3 this year, look out in 2012.

Dawgs97

April 18th, 2011
10:35 am

Mark,

Nice article – thanks. I felt very good watching the defense (and Geathers in particular) on Saturday (from my laptop, I live in Texas) & I was also impressed as well even with some of the guys you know are more second string, like Chase Vasser. That defense is going to be bullish this year, and not to be too pollyanna, but I think Georgia’s going to wake a lot of people up and really beat down Boise in the opener. If we have monsters like Jenkins and Geathers up front, that’s not what Boise is used to. The speed and the size of the SEC.

Our Quarterback depth is exciting. Murray was sharp, Mason looked very good and Christian Lemay looks more veteran than he is. That’s a deep crew and we’ll have the best group of QB’s in the conference this year. I was also excited to see Branden Smith, healthy and strong on both sides of the ball and may finally be a Champ Bailey/Hines Ward type for Georgia as a star/slash.

One last mention – Ken “Boo” Malcolme. He looks fantastic and per the norm, competiion breeds better play. Just as the Jenkins signing has clearly fired Geathers up, the hoopla around Crowell is fueling what I saw Saturday from both Malcolme and Caleb King. Running back will be a strength this year.

As much as we’ll all miss AJ Green, having a stud starting Quarterback, an amazing crew of tight ends, some real talent at RB – our offense will be just fine. Plus, I think B. Smith will be a star at receiver and we already know what Tavarres King can do. Not to mention the impressive showing out there of Redshirt Freshman, Michael Bennett. This team has real depth now.

What??

April 18th, 2011
10:36 am

FromtheBARstool

You have to be a Tech fan.

What an idiot!

FromtheBARstool

April 18th, 2011
10:36 am

What MARK BRADLEY?

FromtheBARstool

April 18th, 2011
10:38 am

Braves Red Jerseys are 0-2 this year. get rid of them and UGA Blackout Jerseys need to go too.

What??

April 18th, 2011
10:38 am

JB

April 18th, 2011
10:40 am

Dawhinlex, It IS really quiet down there in Gator land. I do know that roster is full of 4 and 5 star players, but they were last year also with Meyer and still lost 5 games. Muschamp will be in a bind if he loses 4 or 5 games this year, and heaven forbid we beat them, they will be comparing him to the Zooker and send a moving van to his house. Will is gonna find that all that love he got for living their as a child won’t last long. They’ve had a good run down there, and they won’t be patient,

What??

April 18th, 2011
10:40 am

FromtheBARstool

You are an idiot!

FromtheBARstool

April 18th, 2011
10:41 am

WHAT???
idiot???
We are all IDIOTS for our teams and against other teams. we are called FANS( Fanatics) for a reason. LOL

Nerds! Nerds! Nerds!

April 18th, 2011
10:41 am

I was shocked at how BIG Ken Malcome is. This guy is a beast. He really stood out in my eyes.

JB

April 18th, 2011
10:42 am

sorry for misspelling your name Dawginlex.

FromtheBARstool

April 18th, 2011
10:42 am

Mark Are you going to make me go to an Employees Computer and change my other name? Come on man!!!! I have been great and you know it.

FromtheBARstool

April 18th, 2011
10:44 am

LEX how are is your child doing in school this semester? Enjoy all the Fun Back and Forth until the games REALLY START.

JB

April 18th, 2011
10:46 am

Tech’s biggest problem is we beat them with two crummy teams, one time with their best in 20 years. Dawgs seem to be rebounding emotionally,physically and talent wise. Tech seems to be struggling to attract a lot of top notch div 1 talent and reeling from Gailey’s players gone. Tech better worry about Western Carolina opening day. Hate to see a upset.