An explanation, not an excuse

Reality check for some of you from Anthony Dasher:

As poorly as Georgia’s veteran-laden defense played down the stretch last year, to somehow project a group made up largely of young, unproven players to automatically improve overnight and stuff the likes of Clemson and South Carolina … was everyone truly expecting that?

If you look at the Bulldogs’ remaining SEC schedule, both Tajh Boyd of Clemson and Connor Shaw of South Carolina have started more games than any quarterback Georgia will see in conference play the rest of the year. In other words, for as inexperienced as the Bulldogs’ defense was (is) coming into the season, it’s not a surprise that two of the best teams and most experienced quarterbacks on their schedule would have some measure of success.

At the same time, improvements obviously have to be made.

Amarlo Herrera didn’t pull any punches when he said Tuesday that Georgia’s defense has to get better if it wants to win a championship, SEC or otherwise. He’s right about that.

Opponents have rushed for over 200 yards against the Bulldogs five times in the last six games and the one that didn’t – Clemson – ran for 197.

Getting a handle on that is Job 1 for defensive coordinator Todd Grantham and his staff, who at some point are going to HAVE to figure out a way to slow opposing teams down on the ground.

That’s about as good a way of putting things as they stand after the first two games as you can say.  It was wishful thinking to expect this defense to walk out in the first game and shut Clemson down in any meaningful sense.  That being said, Grantham had damned well figure out a way to slow down opponents’ rushing games, and soon.  At this point, his rushing defense has been slashed by every offensive scheme known to man, so blaming high numbers on the triple-option is starting to border on the silly.  Get to work, fellas.

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69 Comments

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69 responses to “An explanation, not an excuse

  1. @gatriguy

    Sound tackling will help more than anything else.

    • I’m not gonna rehash last year because that was then and this is a different defense. Seems obvious to me that, through 2 games, Grantham has been mostly running his D to protect our secondary, especially the safeties. The safeties are always deep and rarely there on run support. With Matthews it often seems like we’re playing with 10 on defense. He’s rarely in on any plays, run or pass. Hell..even the ILBs are often hanging back, even in obvious running situations.

      Sure…fundamentals need to improve but I honestly believe the defense will improve a good bit IF and when the the secondary improves. We brought more pressure against USC but Grantham seems to be really calling vanilla to protect against the big plays. Of course, we’ve given up several big plays.

      We can win out with better D from here on out. I don’t mean a top 5 D, either. Maybe top 25 or so. That can happen with improvement in the secondary. These young guys that are playing so much will get better…if Grantham and co are worth anything close to their pay.

      • IveyLeaguer

        Very good points, all. Good post.

        Matthews does, indeed, look lost. He missed almost 3 weeks of camp, and that’s devastating for a true freshman at the free safety position, no matter the spring.

        Some of us pointed that out at the time. Then to face those two teams our of the box, it almost wasn’t fair (to Matthews). I don’t think anybody has given up on him. But his time to grow up is now.
        ~~~

    • My reply wasn’t meant to go here nor was it supposed to double up on my handle. Stupid smartphone. Or that’s my excuse.

      • JunkYard Dawg '00

        that was an explanation, not your excuse? :-)
        BTW, where the hell is Cojones? I’ve had to change my handle back (Big Ones III) until I know he’s okay. pomme de rue!

  2. PTC DAWG

    Well said, time to fix the run D.

  3. uglydawg

    We all knew Clemson would score those points. Avoid the offensive lapses and Georgia wins.
    Great teams have balance..and Georgia lacks it. But the offense is good enough to carry the defense in a game like last Saturday’s against SC and should have carried it against Clemson. The defense will have to improve if Georgia is to win out.
    As far as not having a long kicker for field goals…I think it has helped. CMR and the offense have learned how to get the 7 instead of 3.
    I honestly believe that if Georgia had a long field goal kicker, it would have cost the win against the Gamecocks. It would have took points off the scoreboard.
    But, yeah…got to improve that defense or it’s going to bite us…And I think it will improve.

  4. Gravidy

    Let me see if I have this straight. As I understand it, Dasher’s point in that story was to say it is unreasonable of Georgia fans to expect a better defensive performance than what we’ve gotten in the first two games. Why? According to Dasher, it is because this is the same defense we had last year – minus all the veterans.

    With all due respect to Mr. Dasher, I’ll be the judge of how reasonable my expectations are. And one of my expectations is this: With the level of talent the highly-paid, fourth-year defensive coordinator has available to him, I expect him to field a defense which wouldn’t yield 197+ yards to six straight opponents. And that ENTIRELY reasonable expectation hasn’t been met.

    • mdcgtp

      with all due respect, I agree with every word you just typed. There is no excuse for Ramik not being ready to play. None. I would also add that its the way they are making mistakes which is bothersome. bad angles and bad tackling are bothersome. you might be lined up wrong or choose the wrong assignment, but tackling and angles are fundamental, no? Am I slicing up defensive functions too finely there? Perhaps

      The only thing I would say I regret was thinking that some of these guys might play at an all-SEC level from day one. I use Thomas Davis and Odell as examples of guys who stepped into the starting lineup and were basically playing at an all american level. they did so because both were exceptionally athletic for their positions. I figured that JHC and Matthews would look that way given the buzz around them. That is probably not fair because both emerged 3 years out of high school……neither has that yet.

    • Biggus Rickus

      Agreed. Dasher’s is a strawman argument, in particular this: “…stuff the likes of Clemson and South Carolina … was everyone truly expecting that?” Nobody expected Georgia to stuff the likes of Clemson and South Carolina out of the gate. We just expected better than giving up over 450 yards to both of them. I don’t think that is asking too much.

      • So, what were you expecting? What’s reasonable here?

        • Biggus Rickus

          Against Clemson, I actually got about what I expected defensively. I think a decent defense should be able to hold South Carolina to 350-400 yards though.

        • Will (the other one)

          I thought we’d be better against the run, at least up the middle. Clemson getting almost 200 yds rushing was bad, but that most came from RB runs between the tackles was far worse to me than SCar getting 150 yards from a scrambling QB and one long run full of bad angles. Other than that one run, Davis was held in check better than we did with McDowel, but if we can’t get the poor tackling/bad angles taken care of, I worry about the D going forward quite a bit.

          • IveyLeaguer

            One thing for sure, fellas. All the stuff mentioned in this thread has got to be fixed.

            We’ve got to have guys, both up front, in the middle, and in the back that know what they’re doing. We’ve had ‘what to do’ issues on all three levels. I don’t know how much to attribute to coaching, and how much to youth. But it’s got to get fixed, and a lot of it in the next 2 weeks. We’ve got to shore up the run defense, wrong angles, big plays, all those things.

            I do think, as I thought all year, that we’ll end up being a good defense. Once the first 22-24 guys know what they’re doing, we’ll be able to play fast. Some of these new guys, including guys like Matthews, look downright sluggish at times.

            I suspect it’s mental. And we have some guys up front, who we need, who are struggling with the same thing. When things slow down for them, and we hope that’ll be fairly soon, we’ll see what we have.

            But Grantham has got to figure out some way to at least slow down LSU’s power run game. Good fundamentals and good tackling will be a must for that game.

            My patience is still there for the defense (even as it didn’t exist for the offense in Clemson .. there was no excuse for that). But the things you guys have mentioned here have to be fixed. And we don’t have all season.
            ~~~~

  5. WH

    Dasher’s really only trying to address Georgia fans with unrealistic expectations…but, I repeat myself.

  6. I hate to be a debbie downer, but I’m not sure Grantham can stop the run. I’m not an Xs and Os guy, so I can’t pinpoint why that seems to be (well…is) the case, but they couldn’t stop the run last year with any consistency. Not sure why this will be different. The biggest disappointment thus far has been the OLB play. It’s been a relative shitshow to be frank. The DL is doing well and penetrating and eating space. The LBs (Ramik including) have been downright bad.

    • mdcgtp

      I don’t think it is scheme. I think a year ago it was DL play and quite frankly, neither Rambo nor shawn had great years in run support. this year it is ILB problem. Hopefully, we can fix it and fast…..

      • I think it’s more than an ILB problem… and, to be honest, Herrera has played well. But safeties have played poorly in run support in both games.

        • Wilson has done jack, and the safety has been terrible. But we’ve had almost zero pressure from the OLB spot, and that has to change. They also need to tackle better. The OLB tackling has been poor, but due to the DB tackling being abysmal, it’s going somewhat unnoticed by fans.

        • mdcgtp

          I agree that safety play has left a lot to be desired and there are other issues.

          Ultimately, it boils down to this, our play has been poor on defense for a variety of reasons, and because of the level of competition we have played that poor play has been magnified. .

          I have to say I am worried about Wilson. He has no real excuse. It is his third year in the program. JHC, Matthews, Floyd, and Langley all have growing pains of one sort or another (first game starting, missed all of fall camp, first year startes) that suggest better days are ahead, how quickly that progress happens is almost impossible to know

        • That’s why these guys must be coordinators. Defensive Line Coordinators. They should be well schooled in art of coordinating the Defensive game as should the Offensive Coordinators too. Now..that special teams coach….He is extremely important..wait do we have a SPECIAL TEAMS EXPERT. I know a good one.

        • IveyLeaguer

          Agree. Though Ramik’s play is overrated, IMO. He hasn’t played well, and I wouldn’t be surprised if we see some of the younger guys begin to get increased PT.

          Herrera HAS played well, but we can still do a better job of smashing down on the run. Those ILB’s have to fire downhill and crash into anything that’s in the lane, often an OL. Without that you can’t stop the run in a 3-4 defense.

          They’re doing much better than at anytime previous under Grantham, at least they’ll give it a shot and not just sit back and wait to absorb the block, like Ogletree and Gilliard did. And some of these young guys, like Kimbrough and O’Neal are thumpers, and I hope they get a chance to play this year.

          I’m much more comfortable when we’re in the 4-3 front because of that. And thankfully we are, as often as not.

  7. Scorpio Jones, III

    Hell, I can think of one game in particular, if we’d a held em to 200 yards rushing, we woulda proly won the damn game…and played Notre Dame.

    200 does not worry me all that much…350 makes me want to cry like a beatch.

    • @gatriguy

      200 on the ground is going to be damn near impossible to overcome consistently. We’ve managed to do it for the most part, but that was also with our offense torching tech, Nebraska, and SCU. I worry about LSU and UT who both have big backs and great OLs.

      I’m not sure if its the ILBs not filling, or the DL not keeping them clean; I know the DL in the 3-4 is mainly supposed to occupy blockers.

      The loss of BVG as a LB coach even more so than as DC turned out to be catastrophic.

  8. Brandon

    While there is certainly merit to what this author says, I think we also have a coaching problem on defense on top of youth and inexperience, if we had been gangbusters on defense last year with all of the experience and talent we had, I’d be sympathetic to this line of thought. As it is, if you can’t stop the run with who we had last year, you aren’t going to be able to. Georgia fans need to start having half of the expectations of their defense that they have of their offense, if we were as consistent on defense during the Richt era as Florida, LSU, and Alabama are, we’d have the rings those schools do, maybe more, because our offense is consistently better than those schools offenses year in and year out.

    • NRBQ

      Remember last summer when Dawg fans were drooling over the prospect of the half-ton front three?

      Wasn’t it the summer before when we anticipated destruction by the biggest offensive line on planet Earth?

      So far, this year’s hopes for better performance via “quicker and more athletic” are in jeopardy…

      • I don’t think the front’s played that badly so far.

        • The DL has played well considering that their job is more about occupying the OL to free up the LBs than it is about penetration and making tons of plays. The LBs have to play better but it just seems to me that Grantham has the LBs(mostly the ILBs) hanging back more than last year to help the secondary. I’ve seen Wilson and Herrera 5 yards off the line a lot in the first 2 games, even in obvious running situations, and they just didn’t do a lot of that last year. It’s like dominos and the first piece is the secondary.

    • Connor

      I agree with this.I don’t hate Grantham, but he seems better at getting the fanbase excited than he does at coordinating. The anti-Bobo. Every week the coaches and fans talk themselves into rationalizing the most recent performance on defense and become excited about the next one. There’s always something, from suspensions to ‘gelling’ to scheme to a transcendent Bama team to youth… Grantham’s elite UGA defense is always just a week away. I can’t figure out why our collective fanbase is so eager to excuse the failings of our highly paid, mercenary defensive coordinator while simultaneously under appreciating the phenomenal successes of our less expensive offensive coordinator with a long, distinguished history at UGA as a player and coach.
      At this point I think it’s as likely the discrepancy is down to one of them having a name that sounds vaguely like a clown while the other’s include the letters GATA as it is anything logical.

    • Will (the other one)

      But is that coaching? We were far better against the run in 2010 and 2011 (and in 2010 had Tyson play NT at 290 all the time).
      I know it can’t be scheme, as both Bama and Stanford have put out excellent run Ds, even without Mt. Cody-sized NTs.

  9. Newt

    I have no idea what the problem was last year, but I noticed watching the replay from last weekend that against South Carolina we were in a 4-man front pretty much the whole game, playing nickel. So right away, we’re weak against the run from a personnel standpoint.

    Guys like Sterling Bailey and Ray Drew often lined up at DT with Jenkins and Floyd at DE. Garrison Smith seams to hold his ground well, but Drew and Bailey are much better suited as 3-4 DEs. With that little size up front, we’ll get mauled at the LOS. Anytime South Carolina ran power (like the first TD), they double teamed an undersized DT and moved the LOS 3-4 yards downfield. We’re fast and athletic, but we’re very undersized when we go to that 4-man front against spread looks.

    • Joe Schmoe

      I think this is an important point. We are playing a bit weak against the run because we are playing nickel to cover some of the weaknesses of our secondary. That doesn’t explain last year though…

  10. JRW7

    To be honest, is CTG’s defense any better than Willy Martinez’s defense? CTG’s defense can’t stop the run, and gave up a total of 454 yds against SC! Are we any better off now with Grantham than we were with Martinez?

  11. Bright Idea

    Another fundamental flaw with the defense is the inability to shed blocks. I would love to see Grantham get the calls & substitutes in quicker and improve the fundamentals. Too many guys still looking to the sidelines when the ball is snapped. The coaches have to realize this but it continues into the fourth year.

  12. Cosmic Dawg

    Great comments above. So expectations of freshmen may be too high, but who gave us those expectations if not the press and coaches themselves?

    I won’t repeat my litany of criticisms of CTG for the millionth time here, but it’s insane to pretend we just got dealt some random assortment of players (“geez. lookit this. all freshmen this year.”) and we sort of just have to shrug our shoulders. Recruiting and planning for the future is part of the job.

    • Joe Schmoe

      I have posted this exact sentiment before. The roster issues could / should have been seen coming a couple of years ago. We really needed the big defensive class in 2012 instead of 2013.

  13. W Cobb Dawg

    The D had better improve or the fan’s are gonna want a replacement.

  14. www

    the experienced QB point is a good one. uga could win out through the rest of the regular season due to AM being better and more experienced that any opposing QB.

    but yeah, that D is susceptible to the run so i give tech a puncher’s chance on november 26th.

  15. You guys love that word “detonate”. It sounds awful and un natural to me.

  16. Merk

    I like the part where 2 of the teams included in that 6 run the triple option, as in they run the damn ball ever damn play. Hell the only time they do not run is when they have to kick the ball.

    • Chopdawg

      And the other four teams were very highly ranked at the times we played them. I say, cut the defense some slack from these cherry-picked stats, give them a chance to grow up & get together, they’ll get better.

  17. RP

    My only positive feeling going forward for the defense is that LSU runs a lot of 2 back 1 TE sets. That will allow us to play base 3-4 which is a better personnel group for us. I expect the see the big DT’s in the middle (94,88) and JHC move back to SS. That will get Norman off the field. I hope that helps us out.

  18. 69Dawg

    Tackling is a skill that is taught. If you take out the legs the body will fall. Grab a guy like SC 28 high and he will give you an E ticket ride. Never bump a RB or TE unless they are on the side line, to do so in the field is merely an inconvenience to them. Leverage is your friend, the lowest man wins. This is not rocket science or brain surgery.

  19. Slaw Dawg

    I’m always bothered by continued negative tendencies that should be coachable. Never could understand why Willie’s D was consistently vulnerable to the wheel route. Kept thinking against all the evidence that ONE OF THESE DAYS they’re going to teach somebody how to get between the passer and the receiver on 3d and mid range or longish. Never happened. Same thing, same problem when Goff was head coach–I simply gave up on it in those days and resigned myself to the other teams’ success in the short passing game. In fact, I couldn’t understand why opponents didn’t simply do it over and over (except for Spurrier, since he knew he could go long with impunity, so why the Hell not?). Now I feel the same about 2 current Dawg tendencies: no return game and vulnerability to the run. I’m not a football coach, but back when I coached Little League if my kids slowed down running to first, I’d run a coupla drills until they learned to charge the damn bag. That’s usually all it took, even with 11 year olds. Is it really so hard to coach tackling the runner low and with both arms at the college level?

  20. I’m late to the party here, and not sure how many will even see this comment, but I think the frustrating thing is that we have actually seen a defense play some lights out, shut-down ball under Grantham. There was a stretch in his 2nd year where the defense was just flat out fun to watch. The Senator even referenced it in a post, maybe after the Miss State game I think it was, about how we were getting to the point where we actually wanted to get the offense off the field just so we could watch the defense play. It’s just frustrating that Grantham has never been able to get the D back anywhere close to that point. The fact that he has done it once would imply that he can do it again………..but man, patience is wearing thin.

  21. Stoopnagle

    …and with our most talented opponent coming up in two weeks.

  22. PlatoDawg

    Grantham is the worst defensive coordinator at UGA since Ray Goof’s failed attempt to install a 3-4 scheme at UGA. Todd Grantham doesn’t have a clue.