Mark Richt: Rebuilding Dogs’ defense doesn’t mean setback in 2013

Cornerback Damian Swann, here celebrating after his second interception in the Capital One Bowl, is one of the reasons for optimism for Georgia's defense in 2013. (AJC photo by Brant Sanderlin)

Cornerback Damian Swann, here celebrating after his second interception in the Capital One Bowl, is one of the reasons for optimism for Georgia's defense in 2013. (AJC photo by Brant Sanderlin)

ATHENS – Georgia won 12 football games this season for the just the third time in the 120-year history of the program. So that is definitely a milestone to celebrate, and the Bulldogs did just that after beating Nebraska 45-31 in the Capital One Bowl on Tuesday.

But there was also a sense of what might have been as Georgia players scattered and made their way back to their homes for a short respite before classes resume on Monday. In the hours immediately after the game, the 2012 Bulldogs boasted “we believe we can beat anybody in the country” and “we still think we’re one of the best teams in the nation.”

Alas, they’ll watch the BCS Championship game between Alabama and Notre Dame on television just like everybody else come Monday.

Georgia coach Mark Richt was asked if, despite all the great successes of the season just past, does it feel a bit like a missed opportunity.

“Every year you don’t make it, it’s a missed opportunity, I think,” Richt said. “But you just don’t know.”

This much is known about the Bulldogs’ next football team:It will look radically than this last one on defense.

Junior linebacker Alec Ogletree announced shortly after the Capital One Bowl was over his intentions of entering the NFL draft. All-American outside linebacker Jarvis Jones reiterated Tuesday that he still hasn’t declared for early entry. But with consensus Top 5 projections, he’s expected to make that move before the Jan. 15 deadline. Noseguard Kwame Geathers is contemplating the same decision.

If all three choose the professional ranks, along with matriculated seniors on defense, the Bulldogs will be losing 12 defensive players who started football games this past season will not be back for this next one.

That’s an unusually large exodus even in the transient world that is college football.

“First of all, we’re not losing everybody,” said Richt, taking his usual optimistic view. “There are still some very good defensive players that will be sticking around and a lot of young ones that are waiting in the wings and working hard and preparing for their moment.

“I think we’re going to be very athletic. I think we’re going to be a fast defense. I think we’re going to have guys with the skill sets to get it done and then it’s just going to be a matter of how quickly can they begin to play, you know, championship-style defense. That’s going to be the big push.”

There are strong parts around which to build, including defensive lineman Garrison Smith, a rising senior, outside linebacker Jordan Jenkins, who will be a sophomore, junior middle linebacker Amarlo Herrera and junior cornerback Damian Swann. Georgia will fill in around them with upstart players such as noseguard John Taylor, linebackers Josh Dawson and James DeLoach and defensive backs Sheldon Dawson, Corey Moore and Josh Harvey-Clemons.

Swann joked about being the only experienced player returning in the secondary next year.

“Yeah, I’ll probably feel a little lonely for a few weeks,” said Swann, who had two interceptions against Nebraska and a team-best four for the season. “But we know we have a lot of talented players on this team who are capable of getting the job done. They’ve just been waiting for their opportunity.”

And it’s not like the Bulldogs’ defense was infallible in the season just past. Georgia gave up 239 yards rushing to the Cornhuskers on Tuesday and an average of 299 in the final four games of the year. In the end, the Bulldogs allowed more than 80 yards more per game in 2012 (357.8) than they did a year ago when they were ranked fifth in the nation.

Defensive coordinator Todd Grantham insists he’s excited about the prospects of rebuilding the defense.

“We’re going to work hard and compete and it’s going to be fun,” Grantham said. “These seniors that are leaving, they kind of went through this a few years ago. The difference is the young players we have now have already (are familiar with it). When you watch the transition from Year 1 to Year 3 now, I mean, that (Nebraska) game wasn’t going great, but we found a way to win it. We showed more mental and physical toughness in the second half to win it. That’s why you win 12 games in a year.

“That’s what we have to work on with the young guys coming up, that mental and physical toughness to win ballgames. In this league, the bottom line is winning and losing and you do it by playing every snap as hard as you can with the right mindset.”

The good news for Georgia is, depending on the decision of quarterback Aaron Murray, virtually the entire offense is returning. The Bulldogs will lose leading receiver Tavarres King and fellow wideout Marlon Brown to graduation. But the tailback duo of Todd Gurley and Keith Marshall returns, along three fullbacks, three tight ends and every starter on the offensive line.

That group just put together the most prolific offensive season in Georgia history. And Richt likes to point to them as Exhibit A in the argument that having to rebuild doesn’t necessarily mean to take a step back.

“If we all remember back even when we started spring ball, all the questions we had were about our offensive line and our offense in general,” Richt said. “We didn’t know about our running game. We had a lot of issues that made you think, ‘wow, we’re going to be in trouble.’ But I think our offensive line came through pretty good this year; I think our running game was very solid; I think that we played offensively probably better than be anybody expected. So I’m hoping that’s what we do defensively next year.”

367 comments Add your comment

Nashville4UGA

January 2nd, 2013
4:22 pm

Time for the young pups to step up!

just sayin'

January 2nd, 2013
4:34 pm

young ones got some good experience this year….looking forward to a more disciplined ‘D’ next year…

AltamahaDawg

January 2nd, 2013
4:38 pm

The most prolific offensive season in Georgia history you say? How bout that.

Joey

January 2nd, 2013
4:40 pm

Since when did giving up 239 rushing yards become devastating? for that matter, what’s particularly wrong with a 299 yd average in the last 4 games?

2 of those games were blowouts in our favor. One more was settled long before the end. And the other came down to the last second of the game.

What team in the country was good at run defense and pass defense, both.

Hell, give me a D that holds the other team to fewer points than my O, and I’m pretty sure nobody beats my team . . .

dawg4life

January 2nd, 2013
4:40 pm

Hate to say it but we really need another place kicker. At least for competition sake.

DawginLex

January 2nd, 2013
4:42 pm

AltamahaDawg

January 2nd, 2013
4:38 pm
The most prolific offensive season in Georgia history you say? How bout that.

********************************

Fire Bobo!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

:)

Stockdog

January 2nd, 2013
4:43 pm

I think that the defense is going to be pretty good next year. The run defense can’t be much worse than it was at the end of the year. Also, with a dominant offensive line, we should be able to run the ball and control the clock, which will keep a young defense off the field. Can’t wait for the Clemson and LSU games

Kwame's Army

January 2nd, 2013
4:44 pm

Kwame please come back!!!

GAFANINTN

January 2nd, 2013
4:45 pm

Any word on rumblings of the next DL coach? Getting ready to be the final push for recruiting and would love to get a big name in that could make an immediate splash.

FOOLS GOLD

January 2nd, 2013
4:48 pm

Dawgs will need to man up in a hurry when they travel to Clemson. Clemson played very well this year and didnt quit. Dawgs had lapses this year and totally quit in the SC game. Death Valley will be louder than South Carolina and hope the Dawgs wont look like Deer in headlights. Clemson Folks are already counting this as a win. I think they just may be correct. Our Defense better MAN UP in a hurry….

Tuck Fech

January 2nd, 2013
4:49 pm

The offense will be better next year, and the defense can’t get much worse. We should win at least 10 games next year.

Holy Guacamole

January 2nd, 2013
4:51 pm

If we had the defensive pups ready to step in an contribute as stated, then why didn’t we use them this year to rest the starters instead of letting them get gassed in the fourth quarter?

DawginLex

January 2nd, 2013
4:55 pm

D-line coach candidates

Giff Smith-longshot
Rumph from Bama-my pick

robodawg

January 2nd, 2013
4:55 pm

Defense is going to be thin. We’re going to be counting on some new players. It’s not ideal, but they might come along nicely. Our offense should be pretty good, so hopefully we just keep scoring while the newbies on defense figure things out.

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Max Sizemore

January 2nd, 2013
4:58 pm

So, will Georgia have inside linebackers who can actually man up against a very good running team, say, if they have to play Alabama again?

rhbDAWG1

January 2nd, 2013
5:00 pm

Fools Gold – I know several Clemson fans and I don’t thing they’re stupid enough to “count us as a win” – only you.

Holy Guacamole

January 2nd, 2013
5:02 pm

@Fools Gold – Dang, man, I was looking at the schedule and had Clemson as a W for UGA. Guess that is why they will have to play the game, huh?

Dawglasville

January 2nd, 2013
5:04 pm

We need more depth on D. Hard to do that when you replace the entire unit. Minus the tailbacks, almost all of the off field knucklehead stuff came from the defense. Maybe this group of kids will be smarter.

I do like what I saw from the young receivers. I do like what I heard from Gurley. If we could just get a few of those guys on defense. Maybe Swann will take over the leadership role left by Williams.

Put in Timeout by Ken Suguira,Filtered by Mark Bradley, Banned by Bill King, Chip Towers & only slightly loved by Jeff Schultz.

January 2nd, 2013
5:04 pm

Not impressed with the D this year.
Buffalo 347
Mizzou 371
Florida Atl 318
Vandy 337
Tennessee 478
USC 392
Kentucky 329
Geo Sou 318
Tech 426
Bama 512
Nebraska 443

11 of 14 teams put up over 300 yards against all the NFL Talent on UGa’s Defense. Yes UGa won games but by OUT SCORING teams not Stopping the other teams.

Pretty fast

January 2nd, 2013
5:07 pm

Bama only allowed 11 pts a game in 2012, Georgia allowed 20 points a game.

Bama scored 37.6 a game, Georgia scored 37.2 a game.

The defense is the weakest link right now to be a Championship calibre team.

HOUDAWG

January 2nd, 2013
5:08 pm

Great season ……. will always wish we’d gained 6 more yards a month ago. Think the D will have growing pains & I wish we’d get a special teams coach ( won’t happen, but can always hope ) ….

Yep, we need some PK competition for sure …..

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Pretty fast

January 2nd, 2013
5:15 pm

1st half defense is top 40 in defensive scoring
2nd half defense is top 7 in defensive scoring

Need to adjust faster. And play ALL 4 QUARTERS.

monty

January 2nd, 2013
5:16 pm

Announcers(david Pollack included) yesterday were even puzzled by Ga defense’s inability to stop the run game. For all the talent we had. Scheme? The O-line this year was better than last years. I think we had a finesse defense. Speedy but not prone to fight in the trenches. John Jenkins numbers as far as tackles for loss and sacks were not impressive to me.

Pretty fast

January 2nd, 2013
5:18 pm

Bama gives up only 80 yards rushing per game, where Georgia gives up 170+ yards per game.

Need to stop the run.

@Put in....

January 2nd, 2013
5:19 pm

Get a life. Your handle is an entire paragraph. Frightening. You can’t be a grown man.

Wild Dog`

January 2nd, 2013
5:20 pm

Wild Dog`

January 2nd, 2013
5:23 pm

altamahadog your scarism sucks. How about that !

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Pretty fast

January 2nd, 2013
5:25 pm

Red zone def needs some work.

Bama allowed 14 td’s in the red zone. Georgia allowed 23 red zone td’s.

Bama only allowed 27 red zone attempts, Georgia allowed 46.

Got to keep them out of the red zone, or hold them to field goals or get a turnover.

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Honey Badger Has the Munchies

January 2nd, 2013
5:27 pm

Great bowl game! Very competitve! Murray put up 427 YARDS against No. 1 pass defense. Looking forward to 2013 already…GO DAWGS!

Wild Dog`

January 2nd, 2013
5:27 pm

Altamahadog Your sarcasm sucks. How about that

Joey

January 2nd, 2013
5:31 pm

Good luck with comparing our D to Bama’s, Pretty fast.

There’s only one Saban.

Better hope we get as good as UF’s, LSU’s and SC’s defenses.

Joey

January 2nd, 2013
5:32 pm

Oh hell, just realized Pretty fast is Patrick . . .

DogFaceBlues

January 2nd, 2013
5:35 pm

Speed can beat talent on any day of the week. Oline and DLines need to be more conditioned.
Defense was lazy this year. Though Rambo was good on coverage, he rarely textbook tackled.

Wild Dog`

January 2nd, 2013
5:36 pm

Why didn’t I read any of your coaching before the game and not after. Be a dog fan or go to another blog.

Honey Badger Has the Munchies

January 2nd, 2013
5:39 pm

Well said Wild Dog

TheTruth

January 2nd, 2013
5:49 pm

Good Riddance to Jones and Ogelsby (Lack of discpline)… Alabama did rush for 400 yards on the bad teams this year. Are u kidding me! This defense was terrible!

dmr

January 2nd, 2013
5:49 pm

Georgia must find a way to focus some attention on the technique used by Its kickers. I have said it before and I’ll say it again. Blair Walsh’s rookie season in the NFL should shine a very bright light on the fact that Georgia is not concentrating enough resources on kids who can influence the outcome of games.

CALL KEVIN BUTLER. He’s always ready to help!

TheTruth

January 2nd, 2013
5:50 pm

Todd Graham (who dat!) This team could not stop a weak offensive South Carolina team……

David

January 2nd, 2013
5:51 pm

bout losing everyone on defense; I do not look at players coming or going like some people because it HAPPENS to everyone. Georgia will be fine next year; another top 10 NCAA team competing again for the SEC East with Florida and South Carolina. For Georgia, I see a lot of things to work on this spring getting better than this year because you cannot make excuses what the team did not do this year is playing for the National Championship. That should be there goal for next year by beating everyone and winning the SEC Championship game that should take you to the NCAA unless the BCS lets these lower conferences into a BCS game which is a joke to me. For example, Hawaii many years back and Northern Illinois this year; that is a joke!!!.

Moist Dawg

January 2nd, 2013
5:59 pm

Now is the time for the coaches and players to step it up. Richt should have the whole team watch floriduh tonight and then practice the plays. Same goes for the bama game. Murray needs to go on a stress training program right now to get ready. Think navy seals or working with Donald trump so when he gets clemsin he will shine.

PTCDAWG

January 2nd, 2013
6:00 pm

Don’t forget Ray Drew, with a new line coach, he is going to be awesome next year! Also look for him to take on a leadership roll! DGD

Glory Between the Hedges

January 2nd, 2013
6:01 pm

We just need more depth on defense. We didn’t have the numbers to play for 4 quarters. I think signing 35 guys will help towards getting back the depth that we need. Got to sign the juco players to stay at a high level so that the younger guys have more time to get better.

JB

January 2nd, 2013
6:02 pm

number 1, don’t expect a big name hire for the DL coach. That’s not Richt’s MO. VanGordor, Matinez, Will Friend all came from bush leagues. Expect say the MTSU DL coach to come aboard. Not bashing, just Richt’s MO, and Grantham was a must hire. number 2, we gotta learn to stop the run better. Opposing DC’s have noticed a weakness that Grantham loves to send the 2 OS LB’s wide on a pass rush and then the opposing Offense will send the RB and the TE out short and those 2 remaining LB’s have to pick them up, thus leaving the middle wide open with 3 bodies with 5 OL hats on them. Easy pickens for yards between the tackles.

Blair Walsh

January 2nd, 2013
6:04 pm

DMR, I made 40 of 45 fgs my sophomore and Junior years and was a Groza award finalist both years, ever think I may have had some off the field distractions my Senior year?

Augusta Dawg

January 2nd, 2013
6:05 pm

Maybe we could get Clowney to leave SC and come join us.

JB

January 2nd, 2013
6:06 pm

Friend doing a better job than Searles.