Once you get past the… well, conventional wisdom of Tony Barnhart’s spring piece on Georgia, there’s some meat on its bones to chew on. Start with this stat about Grantham’s defense last season:
Statistically, last season was strange for Georgia’s defense. The Bulldogs had four starters suspended for the first two games and two of those for four games. Grantham had to mix and match players and play guys out of position to get through the first month. They gave up 478 yards to Tennessee and still won. They gave up 350 yards rushing to Alabama and still almost won. Georgia finished sixth in the SEC in total defense (357.79 yards per game) and sixth in scoring defense (16.74 points per game).
But the defense also made plays when most necessary. The Bulldogs forced 30 turnovers in 2012 (second only to LSU and Mississippi State in the SEC) and 32 the previous season. Only LSU got the ball back to its offense more often than Georgia has the past two seasons. [Emphasis added.]
Barnhart also pulls an intriguing quote out of Grantham.
“We basically only had 28 guys on scholarship last year, and then we had the suspensions at the beginning of the year and that put is in a bind,” Grantham said. “[This season] We’re young and we’re going to coach them up a bit. But we’re pretty talented. We have guys who can do a lot of things. We have a bunch of guys who want to be the next Jarvis Jones.”
So he was concerned about the numbers game at the start of last season. And he recognizes that he’s got a far different challenge this year. You’d think that would mean he would be testing out personnel combinations all through the first part of the season to find his most productive group. But it doesn’t sound like that’s necessarily the case.
“We pretty much have to have things set when we leave here in the spring,” Grantham said. “There is not going to be any time for experimenting when we get here in the fall. We have to get ready to play against a great offense.”
Hmm. I’m not sure if he’s referring to players or schemes there. If it’s the former, I’m a little skeptical, because I don’t see how some of the talent influx (particularly the JUCO kids for the secondary) don’t work their way into the mix coming out of fall camp. Maybe it’s just his way of stressing to the ones who are here for spring practice how crucial it is. But at least he knows what he’s got ahead of him and his defense.