Upon further review: the defense

Having watched the replay yesterday, I’ve got two troubling points to make about how the defense played.

First, Paul is spot on about this:

Our young, unproven defensive backs had not participated in any contact of any consequence for most if not all of the summer drills.  If you don’t practice tackling, you don’t tackle well.  And here’s a news flash for the tone deaf…if you’re in green you’re not practicing tackling.  Even our proven DBs were missing MASSIVE amounts of time in non-green jerseys.  Of course they weren’t going to tackle well.

Think about two crucial non-tackles – Swann’s whiff on Watkins’ 77-yard TD reception and Matthews’ failure to wrap up Peake on the fourth-and-one conversion that immediately preceded the wheel route TD pass.  How different is the game if those two plays are made by the Georgia DBs?

That’s stuff that can be fixed over time.  Far more worrisome because it seems to be more of a structural problem was Georgia’s failure to stop Clemson’s running game.  Grantham came out very aggressively on the Tigers’ first series, but had to dial it back once Clemson established the run.  If you predicate your defensive strategy on pressuring the quarterback but have to hold that down out of respect for the run, bad things are bound to happen.  Which doesn’t bode well for this week’s opponent.

Two points for optimism, though.

One big reason it will be nice getting Josh Harvey-Clemons back this week is because that will allow Grantham to play Leonard Floyd closer to the line of scrimmage where he belongs.  Floyd played much of the game at the star position, which is remarkable when you think about it, and acquitted himself fairly well there.  But he was a much more disruptive factor when he lined up elsewhere.

Secondly, and it was probably bound to happen once Cornelius Washington left, the defensive line did a markedly better job with outside contain than I’ve seen in a while.  Of course, it would have helped on more than one occasion if once the play was turned inside, the defense was there to bring the runner down.  But keeping Shaw from beating them with his feet on outside run plays could be big this Saturday.

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54 Comments

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54 responses to “Upon further review: the defense

  1. @gatriguy

    I’ve given up any hope of a college 3-4, except Saban’s, stopping the run. I love Grantham’s fire and passion, but I have serious reservations about scheme. There will always be a small part of me that wishes Chavis hadn’t simply leveraged us for a raise (yet another DC that said he wouldn’t seriously consider the job unless Garner was gone.)

    • Yeah I get what your saying but we were in a 4-3 base for much of the game as well…

      I’m a little disturbed about the non-contact as practice. Don’t we have this issue every year? Richt figures out the practice needs to be more physical (after a game loss) so he dials up full contact practice. Why don’t we start like this every year?

      • @gatriguy

        Fair enough, but I was speaking in generalities. I don’t know that NFL defensive schemes, again, Saban excluded, are a good fit for college ball. They are overly complicated and assume that fundamentals are already good to go.

        BVG and Chavis for example: not super sophisticated, but super sound and didn’t miss tackles.

        • Dawgwalker07

          Auburn last year doesn’t support your BVG hypothesis.

          • @gatriguy

            I realize that, but that team quit. What I do know, is that his boring, sound tackling defense gave up 26 points to Clemson last year.

            • Bulldawg165

              Yep, Auburn gave up 26 points to Clemson while LSU and South Carolina gave up 25 and 17, respectively. Auburn had much less talent at their disposal and it was their first year in the system. They didn’t do so well the rest of the way on defense though.

              I remember reading a stat about VanGorder that blew my mind… The Dawgs never lost a game in which we scored at least 17 points with him as our DC.

              • @gatriguy

                Yup. BVG should receive royalties from every paycheck Richt gets from UGA.

                • RocketDawg

                  BVG should go and kiss Jim Donnan’s ass for leaving him a stocked cupboard. The Porn Stache hit the road when it became obvious that the talent level was down and the result was 3rd and Willie. Martinez always got a bad rap IMO, he played the same scheme as BVG just with less talented players.

                  • @gatriguy

                    +1000 For all the shit he gets from fans, Donnan was a damn good evaluator of talent. He mismanaged the OL recruiting too, but probably would have been ok b/c he was good at plucking up JUCO talent.

                    We agreed to disagree on Willie though. 2005 Auburn was the canary in the coal mine with him, it was just that no one wanted to see it.

              • Go back and google news articles from UGA’s 30-0 defeat of Clemson with BVG as DC. We were missing 5 starters on defense due to suspension and injury for that game and we started 3 freshman. I don’t recall BVG having to make any excuses after destroying Clemson.

                • @gatriguy

                  Boom. Roasted.

                • Headline from Macon Telegraph from August 31, 2003:

                  “DOGS D-ELIVER, INJURED GEORGIA BLANKS CLEMSON
                  – Call them the Limping Dogs if you will. Or, the Suspended Dogs. But, don’t call them the Dead Dogs. Despite eight players on suspension and 10 others out with injuries, Georgia showed it’s still among the nation’s elite as it put a 30-0 whipping on Clemson here Saturday afternoon.”

            • ScoutDawg

              I like CTG, but what if the timing had been different on that terrible head coach Ellis Johnson.

          • If you are doing to dismiss BVG due to one year at Auburn, then Grantham should definitely be fired by your standard. He has had 3 years of lackluster defense, and now we are “rebuilding.”

      • mp

        The team did contact; the members of the secondary who were injured (they were practicing in “green non-contact jersies” means) did not.

        • It’s not just “contact” but also tempo. If you don’t practice at a fast tempo you aren’t going to be ready for these spread hurry up offenses.

    • Will (the other one)

      Stanford does it with a normal-sized NT. But my problem with watching them is then I see their OL run block and pass protect and wonder why we can’t have that.

  2. timphd

    My biggest concern with the D was the lack of “force” on the tackle. I am used to seeing runners go backwards when hit by our D but it seemed all game that the runner moved the pile after being hit. There were several times when the tackler had the chance to hold the gain to a small one but got pushed backwards. Either that or whiffed on the tackle. I am hopeful that JHC will impact positively on this as players should be in their natural position which includes Norman will be on the bench.

  3. TennesseeDawg

    Harvey-Clemons is back yet he’s listed as #2 behind Connor Norman. If Norman starts over Clemons break out the “Fire Grantham” website

  4. Always Someone Else's Fault

    I can see the issues of players being out of position because (A) it’s early and (B) they’re young. However, i do not understand being physically beaten once you’re in position to make a play.

    Last year in the SECCG, Swann and Jones were both in position to stop Yeldon on a 3rd and 5 in the 4th. A defensive time out was spent prior to the play. Swann was there to stop Yeldon for no gain, and once Yeldon was able to get his momentum directed up field with Swann on his outside shoulder, Jones was there on the other side to help stop him prior to the 1st down marker. Jones couldn’t get off his block (an H-back, I believe). Next play: McCarron over the top to Cooper for the winning points.

    In other words, we’ve seen all this before, and right now, this year’s defense looks a lot like last years. The talent will play on Sundays, but how are we going to remember the Saturdays?

  5. Help

    2 BIG DT did not play, one did not even make the trip. Juco DB did not make the trip. Please EXPLAIN.

  6. Normaltown Mike

    Nonsense Senator.

    The reason the D was so bad, is that they’ve spent all camp going against Bobo and Murray. The two worstest offensive minds this side of Sylvester Croom.

    UGA should find a way to scrimmage with the Stone Henge Raiders or maybe the OCYFL Packers so that they can face some REAL talent.

    • 69Dawg

      Not very far off Richt never lets the 1s go against each other in the fall. This is find if you open with the little Sisters of the Poor but it has and will get you beat when playing a team with a pulse the first game.

  7. Very worried that USCe’s offensive line is just going knock the middle of our line and the inside linebackers five yards off the line of scrimmage consistently. If there was game for Grantham to do a lot of well-designed and disguised run blitzing, this week is it.

  8. WillTrane

    I was impressed with Matthews and Langley. They can play. Thought the D played real well against a team that ran over 100 plays against a top coached and top personnel LSU team in the Dome. I’d cut the D some slack. Here is why. If the O builds on its lead, and hell it never does under Bobo, then the 3-4 it going to really click. You have to look at the field both vertically and horizontally with a spread team [see Urban Meyer, coaches at A&M, OSU, OKSU]. The 3-4 shuts down the field more horizontal plays…your LBs and corners have more lateral speed than a 6-4 300 pound NG or T. Langley for his size can play. If I was a DC I would not recruit one player under 6’1″. See Saban’s players on D at corners, S, and LB. Think Dawgs LB and Safety coaches do a very good job. What would help UGA alot if some of those guys did not leave early and spent one more year in college development.
    This USC game will be a test for this D in many ways…top coaching by Spurrier and co., a very solid and big O line [theirs came for Appy State 3 years ago and he is damn good], and they run great routes with timing and speed, plus one solid play book. Bobo can not put this young D behind the ball with poor field position and turnovers.

  9. Bulldog Joe

    Saturday’s performance was one of the saddest days in this once proud program’s history. Never did I ever expect our defense to take a dive like that. They did it over and over because we got outprepared and outconditioned. This was worse than Spurrier’s Florida Flop. Erk Russell and all our departed Dawgs are rolling in their graves.

    These players deserve better.

  10. IveyLeaguer

    I get that you have to practice tackling to be good at it. And some of our guys (like Matthews, Fluker, and others) missed a lot of live work.

    But Swann didn’t miss a lot of work, and he’s supposed to be the leader back there. Actually, we got plenty of live, physical, contact during camp. That was one reason for a lot of the injuries.

    And BTW, Swann didn’t whiff that tackle attempt. He actually hit Watkins, or at least bumped him. He just didn’t bother to involve his arms. Matthews should have run through the ballcarrier, as he undoubtedly is capable of doing.

    But is lack of live, full-speed tackling in practice the reason those two plays happened? I don’t think so. Did Matthews not KNOW he is supposed to run through the guy? Since he hadn’t practiced, did he just forget? Did Swann forget he is supposed to use his arms when making a tackle?

    The point is, they could have TRIED. If they tried to do it the right way (the Georgia way?) and failed, then yeah, you wonder of you got in enough fundamental work. But in these two cases, they didn’t even try.

    The other thing is perhaps they have done these things in practice and gotten away with it. That, to me, seems more likely.

    Whatever it is, it better get fixed in a hurry. We’ve been down this road before.
    ~~~

    • IveyLeaguer

      BTW, this is just speculation. But if Matthews’ shoulder isn’t 100% healed and/or hasn’t been tested, or for whatever reason it affected his fundamentals, then he gets a pass on that play, IMO.
      ~~~

  11. PTC DAWG

    38 points allowed is too many, end of story.

  12. DawgPhan

    so everyone knows that the offense is supposed to gain yards and score points and the defense is supposed to not allow the other team to score points and gain yards, right?

    I just want to state the obvious because it seems like most everyone on here has missed that point entirely.

    The defense gave up 200yds on the ground, 38 points, and didnt generate turnovers. The offense rushed over 200, Murray threw for over 300, they scored 5 TDs and averaged more than a first down per pass attempt.

    • IveyLeaguer

      But that is why stats mislead, and even lie. Yes, they gained those yards and scored the points. But the things the offense did to self-destruct negated a good bit of that.

      Not only did those rookie mistakes cost us points, but helped Clemson score points. Murray’s fumble inside Clemson’s red zone can’t be counted against the defense, for example. That’s 31. Take away Swann’s faking a tackle attempt, and it might have been be 24.

      Regardless, add all the other sloppy mistakes in, and that’s what cost us the game. It’s like a scratched record, the last 8 years. The defense has problems, the offense too. But take away the self-destructive stuff, or even half of it, and we still win.
      ~~~

      • IveyLeaguer

        P.S. The offense was supposed to play like they were in midseason form. Bobo and Richt both said that repeatedly all summer. They area a veteran group, as good as it’ll ever get.

        That didn’t happen. If it had, despite the other shortcomings, on both sides of the ball, we win the game.
        ~~~

      • Not sure I agree with you re: stats. Stats showed that Georgia moved the ball better than Clemson, but made more mistakes. Isn’t that the basic story of the game?

        • IveyLeaguer

          ["Not sure I agree with you re: stats. Stats showed that Georgia moved the ball better than Clemson, but made more mistakes. Isn’t that the basic story of the game?"]

          Basically, yeah. Most of the mistakes were on offense, where we should have been solid. The only critical mistake I recall on defense was the fake tackle. The ST mistake hurt bad (but even it followed a very poor offensive series from 1st and goal at the 5. First down was fine, but 2nd and 3rd down .. goodness).

          Give credit to Clemson, but the loss was a team effort, and coaches are in there too (the two delay of games, the opening drive of the second half, etc.).

          I just don’t see how the loss can be pinned on the defense, that’s all.

          Also, the game is rapidly changing. The days of holding teams to 15 points and under, and good offenses to 24 or under, are all but gone, because of rule changes favoring the offense.

          An offense like Clemson’s, with a talented senior QB, holding them to 31 playing all those freshmen is not that bad, IMO. I thought the defense had a number of good moments, maybe something to build on for this week.

          Whether it’ll be enough, I don’t know.
          ~~~

      • Cosmic Dawg

        But you can’t cherry pick when the defense is supposed to prevent points. We are comparing the GA defense to all the other defenses in the country, who also have to deal with turnovers by their offenses, bad punters, whatever. And about 90-100 D-1 schools probably have offenses that put them in a worse position than Georgia’s offense does to Grantham’s gang.

        And Swann plays defense, so no fair “taking away” this or “taking away” that. All the plays from Saturday night count.

        • IveyLeaguer

          Fair enough. But just because turnovers hurt all teams, doesn’t in any way justify us doing it. Murray’s two TO’s were very likely a 10 to 14 point swing in the game. And huge momentum killers.

          There were plenty of other mistakes, beside the turnovers, that hurt the offense. As I said, that’s where most of the mistakes were. That costs us points, points that we knew in advance we would very likely need.

          So there again, it’s not fair to pin the loss of the defense, IMO. It’s a team thing. Yet most of the sloppy ball happened on offense – where we are most experienced.
          ~~~

          • DawgPhan

            how is the dropped INT and the whiff on the TFL not “TO” for the defense.

            Both times we should have had the ball, but didnt get it because the defense can’t win the big one.

            • IveyLeaguer

              Sure, they both are TO’s. I’m not saying the defense played well. Just that they held their own in this game, considering everything.

              IMHO, the offense did not. The offense is much older and experienced. They should be able to execute what they do much better than the defense.

              It should have been no problem. Other offenses come out of the gate firing, without beating themselves. Yet we sputter right and left, and give Clemson 7 points to boot. Then, when they try to give us something, we give it right back, and take points off of our board.

              Like I said, it’s a team loss. But the offense is the unit that didn’t hold their own in this game.
              ~~~

  13. SouthGaDawg

    You don’t coach tackling technique after the season starts – you do that in the spring and in August. We get Harvey-Clemons back but I suspect we’ll be on our heels the whole SC game. Heck, Clemson didn’t even run much read option. Spurrier is going to take Shaw and try to wear us out with it. The OBC also saw Clemson throw the bubble screens – we never defend that worth a cuss. I hope we can score points against SC…we’ll need ‘em.

  14. I found this ABH interesting from an interview of Jermaine Phillips and BVG on Nov. 27, 2001, about the improvement in UGA’s defense over the previous season under Donnan:

    “The key to improved play has been improved practice. What you see out there is how we prepare in practice,’’ said senior rover Jermaine Phillips. “I think it’s the way we are practicing that’s made the biggest difference.’’ Said VanGorder: “As coaches, it has definitely been a big part of our mission statement to create a tempo in practice that carries over into the game.’’

    Now when VanGorder sends in a play, each player on defense has a better grasp of his responsibility. “I think everybody knows now what to do and what their assignment is,’’ Phillips said.

    After losing starting defensive end Bruce Adrine to a season-ending knee injury and, in a more devastating loss, starting defensive tackle David Jacobs to a stroke, the defensive line is left with very little depth, but still the plan is to have another week of physical practices.

    “That is a tough thing in making that decision,’’ VanGorder said. “That tempo issue is so important, you don’t want to lose that edge.’’