Start the drill.

Progress of a sort, I suppose:

Since the Tennessee game, the Bulldogs allowed 10 second-half touchdowns in seven games — half of those coming when opponent scoring started at the 50-yard line or closer because of errors by Georgia’s offense or special teams. In the last month of the regular season, the Bulldogs allowed seven second-half points to both Georgia Tech and Kentucky, zero to Appalachian State and 16 to Auburn, although the final six came on a 73-yard Ricardo Louis touchdown catch for the game-winning score after Bulldogs safeties Josh Harvey-Clemons and Tray Matthews failed to bat down an off-target pass.

So the theme in the first half of the season was that the defense finished slowly and the second half of the year saw the opposite.  If it’s not a conditioning question – and it’s hard to see how that’s the case given the comebacks – what’s it going to take to get the defense to play a complete game against a decent opponent?

I’m not asking rhetorically.  I’d like to hear what you think.  And let’s keep it off replace the coaches, because (a) that drum’s already been beaten here plenty and (b) Richt ain’t listening anyway.  So tell me how you’d fix things.

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73 Comments

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73 responses to “Start the drill.

  1. ScoutDawg

    Consult a VOODOO woman from Hahira.

  2. The defense clearly played better, but they were still getting beat on big plays due to blown assignments. That, to me, is a direct result of youth. I know Grantham is the fan base’s punching bag (and perhaps he should be), but the youth UGA trotted out this year on defense was staggering.

    However, the one thing that worries me the most is the DB play didn’t improve all that much (in my opinion) from week-1 to week-12. Now injuries played a part in that for sure, but that is just a small part if you ask me.

    One thing we need to realize, however, if how many good, quality QBs UGA played this year. Boyd, Shaw, Mett, Franklin/Mauk, Marshall…and while I think Lee isn’t good, his system makes him dangerous. Next year, however, SoCar and Clemson both lose their leaders at QB, we drop LSU for ARK (who will be tough on the road), we get Marshall and a loaded AUB offense at home and Mizzou will have Mauk alone, not Franklin, who is clearly better.

    • My only reason for optimism on the secondary is the jump that our secondary made from 2010 to 2011. I agree with you that it seemed like they didn’t show much improvement throughout the year this year, and I remember similar complaints towards the end of 2010. But then they came out in 2011 and it was significantly improved. I’m hopeful Lakatos can do the same this offseason.

      As for the point of this post, how to get the guys to play a complete game, man I don’t know. People seem to forget but our D tended to start slow all the time under BVG too. Me and my buddies used to joke that as good as BVG was at making in-game adjustments, half the time it felt like he hadn’t watched any game film of the opponent at all during the first quarter. The first couple of drives teams would just come out and fly down the field against us. BVG seemed to adjust quicker than Grantham though. He would usually have us in the groove by the 2nd quarter, whereas it often times seems Grantham needs the halftime break to get things going.

      Which is my long way of saying I have nothing of substance to answer the Senator’s question. But I hope someone on our staff does. :)

    • GaskillDawg

      The issue of “db play not improving from week 1 to week 12″ is complicated by injuries from week to week. How many games did the starting 4 dbs all play at the same time? How would the 1 st quarter at Tech have gone if Matthews and Wiggins been healthy? That would have been a better measure of improvement over the season.

    • Will (the other one)

      While the improvement was mostly limited to “they were properly lined up most of the time at the end of the year,” I don’t think we had too many games with same secondary, compounding the youth.
      Yeah, they looked terrible against Tech, but how much of that was not having Mathews and Wiggins out there? (I’d say some, but until Shaq spends some time in the weight room and our nutritionists get him on a clean bulk, I will worry about him in run support a bit.)
      We should have experienced depth back there, if not yet quality depth, next season. I think Harvey-Clemmons, Mathews, Wiggins, and Swann could be a very good back four…it’s the guys behind them that still worry me. If they step up, particularly maybe a bigger CB, and Swann could play more nickel/star…then maybe Lakatos looks like a great coach again.

      • William

        I trust Mauger a litle more too now. He seemed to have a pretty good game against Tech. That hit he put on Godhigh (at least I think it was Godhigh) was absolutely text book. He had lapses, sure. But name a player that didn’t in the secondary.

  3. Erskine

    I will taking a shot at this. I point to the revolving door at safety. Matthews, Mauger, & Moore were juggled game by game due to youth an reoccurring injury. So there was never a consistent 11 on defense. Dealing with youth on the back end of the defense is one thing but adding the lack of a cohesive unit not use to playing together creates communication and other intangible problems. To fix this kind of problem, solve the injury bug.

    • Will (the other one)

      Yep. But we really need to substitute more in games, especially if we get a big lead late, on D next year.

      • Joe Schmoe

        This requires that you first get a big lead which didn’t happen very often this year.

        • Will (the other one)

          True, but in 2012 there were games with great-sized leads (most alarmingly, given the risk of injury, Tech) where we weren’t subbing much on D.

  4. Injuries and reduced number of reps with the ones in practice slow player development. CTG penchant for Jack of all trades Master of none player development hurt them because of their youth. Playing/practice time was spread over a bunch of kids. Missouri was pretty beat up last year. A fairly manageable schedule and fewer injuries went a long way for them. On the flip side, the competition they did face stayed pretty beat up.

  5. Easy, before the game Richt tells CTG “Man! That was a hell of a first half. Lets hope the D tightens up in the second half ok?”

  6. William

    Cohesion. And this would need to apply to the O-Line as well. I know they rotated to keep kids fresh, but it seems to me and my untrained eye, that these units need a chemistry to function. You have to not just know, but trust the guy next to you to do their job. I would argue Swann never truly trusted those players in the beginning of the year. Likewise with the O-Line. I don’t know that they trust each other entirely to pick things up or recognize things at the line. Some of those sacks on Murray were due to one guy trying to help another and only throwing a partial block on someone. I know it wasn’t always the case (poor Houston got beat constantly it seemed), but I wonder how much it affected things.

  7. Russ

    I don’t know. Maybe we should be more aggressive to start out. Don’t let the opponent get comfortable out of the gate. Make them adjust before we do. At least it would be something different.

    I think the key is that Grantham needs to admit the defense has problems and detail to Richt how he is going to address them. Last year we played just a few defensive linemen and our DL sucked. This year for some reason we rotated many and the DL was a strength. I don’t know what I’d do about the DBs but I know I’m not a fan of the 10 yard cushion we seem to give them. I like being aggressive.

    • Joe Schmoe

      The problem was that our DBs hadn’t had years in the S&C program to bulk up and were therefore terrible at jamming receivers at the line. That led to us playing soft IMO.

  8. Bright Idea

    Practice habits. The first half at game speed is like a practice should be. Too much “THUD” practicing at Georgia IMO.

  9. Rusty

    I don’t think anyone knows what to do other to keep working on improving skills. That and continue recruiting. I would bet that every D Coordinator that ever lived would probably say the same thing.

  10. Actually, now that I think about it, there is something that comes to mind. I’m throwing it out there for people who know more than me. If I’m not mistaken, in practice, scrimmages, etc, we always play 1’s vs 2’s. I can’t think of specific examples but I know I have read in places that some schools go 1’s vs 1’s, they feel like it makes them better on both sides of the ball.

    Anybody know which is more common, and why? It does seem to me that logically, you would be better prepared going 1’s vs 1’s. Though during the season I guess you are really going against the scout team more than anything, which does make sense to simulate the opponent. Is the 1’s vs 2’s just a preseason practice thing that wouldn’t have much impact during the course of the season?

    • Macallanlover

      I think bowl practice, all of spring practice (including the Spring Game), and the first part of summer camp should be 1s versus 1s. How else do you know what the player is capable of at the SEC level? Having good technique and knowing your assignment doesn’t necessarily mean you have the talent against better players. I like the way TN divides their Spring Game with all the offense on one team, and defensive guys on the other, then they play 1s against 1s and 2s against 2s. They have a unique scoring system but the competitiveness and pride of the two squads are evident. And you get to see how your talent really projects for playing time.

      • Cojones

        1s on 1s can up the injury rate if they practice balls out. Mac, your suggestion to practice them together at those time lines makes a lot of sense because it gives time for nagging injuries incurred to heal. That’s the first reasonable and to the point suggestion that I’ve seen in some time.

  11. This might be a bit meandering but stay with me:

    In basketball there’s often talk about players “forcing” and not letting the game “come to them” as an excuse for why a given star athlete is underperforming.

    I think the opposite effect holds sway in football and specifically in this year’s Dawg defense.

    Too many players (or the entire unit) waiting for the game to come to them instead of going out and making plays. Call it the “1st Quarter Prevent Defense” if you like.

    I think you hit on the other day, Senator, noting the fact that Ramik Wilson didn’t really even see the field last season and this year he’s filling up the stat sheet. Part of that could be last year’s personnel, but why did we stick with the exact same lineup if it didn’t get results.

    I’m conflating two seasons, but the theme is the same: find a grouping that produces aggressiveness whether that’s playcalling, personnel or whatever. It’s a little chicken/egg, IMHO. Get better playcalling and the personnel will respond. Get better groupings of players (or healthy/eligible/non-freshman[Good luck!]) and the playcalling will improve.

    The frustration is just that we have the talent and the ability, so why not the consistency? All I can say is that practice doesn’t make perfect, practice makes permanent. Maybe now is the time for that indoor facility. (I kid)

    So I don’t have any answers, just the sense that it’s a little bit of everything at play and (hopefully) another year of consistent coaching, personal growth/development by the players & luck (Awbun!) and this should be an improved group. How much improvement remains to be seen.

  12. Boston

    Force more turnovers. Grantham usually does great here, 2010-2012, can make up for a lot that way. Since 2012, UGA is 7-0 when winning the turnover game, and 1-9 when losing it. Case closed. Nuff said.

    • Joe Schmoe

      That is an outcome (the what) not a strategy (the how). To link this to earlier posts, it seems like this defense was much better when it was being highly aggressive and blitzing a ton rather than playing cushions and trying to keep the play in front of them. Said another way, go make a play rather than trying to stop the offense from making a play.

  13. Irishdawg

    “How many games did the starting 4 dbs all play at the same time? How would the 1 st quarter at Tech have gone if Matthews and Wiggins been healthy? ”

    People forget this. I’m not defending Grantham per se, but with an inexperienced, injury riddled defense, I think it took him out of his game plan. Grantham’s aggressive and likes to blitz, but with too many freshmen that will get you torched.

    • Bulldawg165

      The defense wasn’t riddled with injuries nearly to the extent the offense was.

      • SCDawg

        Not season ending, but the secondary was beat up all year. Guys missed a lot of practice time, plenty of game time, harvey-clemmons was suspended for a game, etc.

      • Irishdawg

        But it did have them. Having Matthews and Wiggins out for Tech was a big deal. Matthews was also out for a stretch in the middle of the season, and it cost us.

      • W Cobb Dawg

        But the injuries on O didn’t seem to hurt us all that much. Guys like Douglas, Green, Davis (all true freshmen) stepped in. It’s hard to say we weren’t as explosive, because we still had a huge year offensively. So I think we circle back to sucky coaching on D.

        Okay, I’ll tone it down and say the D wasn’t prepared like the O was. CTG needs to prepare better so he has a better idea of the opponents tendencies going into the game.

        • Offensive injuries didn’t hurt that much? Three game stretch after LSU suggests otherwise, as ypp steadily declined. Then you get the jump against Florida with the return of Bennett and Gurley.

          • adam

            Looking at that, it was no surprise at all to see that Vandy was the offense’s worst game of the year.

            And I think the 4 turnovers against Mizzou were related to the injuries as well. Certainly Douglas’s fumble wouldn’t have happened if Gurley and Marshall could have been playing instead.

          • W Cobb Dawg

            I’m comparing our O preparation to our D preparation. Again, Green, Douglas and Davis all appeared to be prepared when they were needed. Subs like Mauger, Dawson, Moore got burned big time. The O backups were prepared. The D backups – even an experienced one like Moore, were unprepared. My constructive wish is I’d like to see our D players be better prepared – they should know the dang defensive calls and be able to tackle – the basics.

  14. Our best safeties are Matthews and JHC. When we have those 2 at safety what we are trying to do works better. However, JHC rarely played safety due to suspensions, injuries and depth problems at other places. I don’t think he’s in the best position to make plays at Star.

    We need another CB to step up. Swan is better at nickel. Wiggins is good on one side. The other CB position needs a Sanders Cummings physical presence which JHC can’t be on the edge….just in the slot or deep. In other words, we need Langley to find the key to his doghouse. But I don’t see that happening.

    Our youth was rarely healthy and the backup safeties were horrible.

    We need Floyd to mature.

    We need to give 52 and 51 a blow during games to develop depth, and improve late game freshness.

    And we need someone to emerge at NG. Really Ray Drew and Garrison were the only playmakers at DL. And they mostly played DE. The NGs were the quietest in years. We need someone to play like John Jenkins did in 2011……not 2012.

    We will be better next year. Realistically, we could shave a TD off the scoring D per game with less stupid Special Teams play, less horrible luck, regression to the mean with injuries, and the most modest of maturity related improvement.

    The O shouldn’t experience much of a drop IF someone will play a competent LT as we will miss Gates badly.

    Shave the Defensive PPG to 23 and keep the O relatively hot with a healthy Gurley and Mitchell added to the mix and you have an 11-1 record and a trip to the Dome which next year will be a playoff Quarerfinal Game.

    PS – auburn and Sc return a massive amount of talent. Absolutely massive.

  15. Granthams replacement

    1) Practice tackling in full pads alot more
    2) Simplify the coverages
    3) Start games with more aggressive playcalling

  16. If Mason’s offense can score 41 in every ball game next season, I will be happy if the Defense can keep the opponent scoring 40 at most. Just saying.

  17. Will Trane

    Surprised this young & injured D played that well down the stretch. Frosh generally do not have the “right make-up” to close a D1 season due age, experience, 1st year classes, & etc. I’d be interested in what Smart & Saban’s strategy is on giving a big pass play and FG return in under a minute. Everyone claims they are the defensive “brain trust”. As I recall Aaron Murray & Company hit several sideline passes in the “almost score” at end of SECCG. Apparently not much changed in a year with the Tide. Let me think about it, but I say first get more quality depth and stay injury free.

  18. Will Trane

    Hutson Mason and Mike Bobo are pondering how quick they can run this offense next year if all those WOs are in top condition and injury free. Plus, if the O line returners plus new guys play up. SEC East opponents had better have a some experienced Ds or they are going to get lite-up.

    • Will (the other one)

      We could see some Baylor-esque stuff next season hopefully.
      Picture 4 WR with MM, JSW, RD, CC (or whoever our fastest 4 WRs are that can also run block) plus Gurley in the backfield. I just hope if that happens Bobo goes with the extra wide WR splits.

    • americusdawg

      It that happens, Saban is gonna be pissed! In his words … “That sh*t isn’t real football!”

  19. uglydawg

    Quit the practice of kicking off (when you win the toss, which it seems like UGA is good at) and giving the other team the ball first. Offenses have scripted their first series…it’s HARD for a defense to get into the flow while bring attacked…esp by a hurry-up. Hoping for a turnover or a stop so you can get the ball back is dumb when you can take the ball after the coin.

    • americusdawg

      While pondering what to post in reply to the Senator’s request, I was thinking about Tech’s first drive of the game.

  20. Tim

    Despite the criticism of Grantham I do think we should acknowledge that his players played hard for him and he did make adjustments over time. I do wonder though if he shouldn’t simplify some schemes while increasing his aggressiveness. The D seemed at its best when blitzes were common and teams had to adjust to his calls rather than the more vanilla approach. I haven’t been “in the theater of operations” but my impression is he started off vanilla early in games then often became more aggressive and more effective in the second half. Just my thoughts.

  21. HVL Dawg

    No more drug testing until September.

  22. JRW7

    If we can’t say replace CTG, I ain’t commenting!

  23. Scorpio Jones, III

    You know, it is almost like on defense especially, and the o line to some extent, we were playing for next year. Nobody needs to explain to the offensive staff the value of having a cohesive offensive line…sustitution there is generally not a good thing, but there has to be some way of finding the best players under fire…

    There were a TON of injuries on defense, mostly behind the linebackers, but 52, for instance, played Tech with his arm in a cast the size of his leg. I am certainly not saying the coaching staff made a “next year” game plan, but for many reasons, we could not seem to settle on a secondary…I don’t see other defenses substituting the way we did behind the linebackers.

    Grantham may not be Erk Russell, but he is not an idiot. There simply has to be a method to this apparent madness…injuries, growing pains, something.

    I hate to keep harping on Marshall, but think about our secondary with Marshall and Swann at corner….

    I think losing Marshall and others, and injuries stunted the growth of this defense in complex ways you have to be a towel guy to understand.

  24. Cojones

    Suggestion: TG works on a communication scheme that will be child’s play for the on-ffield players. Commo was the largest problem and it contributed to all the other problems. Certainly a computer guru could work with him such that each game, with new Os thrown at him, TG and the players could get changes in as quickly as others try to thwart him. Color cards to designate what they(the players) are facing lets the players think more for themselves, along with letter codes for individual play/players. The play is called from the booth when the O comes to the lineand going immediately to the sidelines for display. Yep, with hurry up Os it could be a clusterfuck, but the second or two advantage for the players to think as the play starts could be a big difference.

    And as ytou can see. I don’t know the heart of the commo problem, but would think that TG could get it ironed out over this off-season.

  25. Slaw Dawg

    Slow starts and seeming lack of preparation have been a recurring, head-scratching theme in the Richt years, at least since ’06. Seems like every year there are 2-3 games in which I say “who exactly were they prepping to play this week? It wasn’t the team they’re playing!” Examples include UT ’07, ‘Bama ’08, any number of teams in ’10, Boise ’11, SC ’12, AU this year. They sometimes win those games (e.g., the slow start phenomenon with cupcakes), but more often not. So I don’t know that we can hang the slow start thing purely on Grantham.

    So how do you get guys to play hard from the coin toss in every game? I don’t know that you have to make a big point of juicing them up if your fundamentals are sound and consistent. And, sorry, but that is coaching. If you’re in the constant habit of tackling well, of getting between the QB and the receiver at the right time, of blocking blocking blocking every play, of protecting that punter at all costs, of setting up downfield blocking for KR and PR, then you don’t have to make a big deal about pumping the guys up every game. No one’s going to truly be 100% all the time, but behind the best coaches are sound, consistent fundamentals.

    • Midtown Dawg

      I have to agree with SlawD. UGA’s teams have grown progressively “sloppy” for the past half-decade or so. Once or twice a season, the team seems to come out firing on all cylinders, but that’s the exception, not the rule. I don’t know what it takes to put an edge on this team, but I’d sure like to see one.

  26. My impression is that most offenses come out with an effective gameplan to attack this defense and are usually more successful in the first half until we adjust and settle down mentally.

    I’ve also been impressed by the accuracy of just about every QB against us. Our corners and Dbacks are not shut down, and any little bit of separation between them and the receivers seemed to get exposed all year by accurate passing. Sad to say, only experience and more talent will alleviate this.

  27. hinesword

    Two words: Hurdler’s stretch.

  28. Derek

    Convincing Corey Moore that his eligibility has expired might be a good start. Too often it seemed like it was 10 vs. 11 when he’s on the field. For every good play there were five bonehead plays. Watch the first TD of the second half vs. Auburn and see what he does. Watch the long TD run vs. Missouri where he just whiffs a tackle. I could continue. Unfortunately, injuries required that he continue to play a lot of snaps.

    I think that the main thing defense requires is desire. On that measure, I think we are in good shape. The guys out there look like they care about getting the job done.

    There is a lot of adjusting to the speed of play from HS to the SEC. There is a lot of learning keys and being disciplined with your eyes. Our back 4/5 have struggled with those things, but there is no reason to believe that they won’t get better and I really look forward to watching Josh and Leonard as they develop.

    I think that CTG’s defense is designed to pressure qbs mentally and physically. That does require a little help from the offense in that a chasing team can be a one-dimensional team. Balance kills defenses. If an offense can run/pass with equal efficiency, they are very difficult to stop. One way of stopping the run is scoring at will. The offense will be capable of that next year if healthy.

  29. Midtown Dawg

    One thing that would help us all-around is to designate ONE special teams coach. We continue to lose out on both sides of the ball in that area.

  30. W Cobb Dawg

    The improvement is probably because CTG started hearing screams for his scalp – and acted accordingly. No doubt CTG was on the top of CMR’s sh#tlist at half time of the mizzou game.

    I agree with others that we could come out of the box more aggressively. Generating ANY turnovers would be a huge improvement, as would better tackling. CTG promised an aggressive D when he was hired. When are we going to see it?

  31. Mayor of Dawgtown

    The schemes on D are too complicated, particularly pass coverages. Simplify, simplify, simplify.

  32. AusDawg85

    Get the O and ST to not turnover the ball deep in our own territory, or fail to respond to an opponents score with other than a 3 & out.

  33. I have stopped fighting it. I am just accepting that we will have a sub-par defense abd continued holes on special teams. We can look forward to an 8-4 or 7-5 record next season and will be 4th in the SEC East behind Missouri, SC and Tenn. More of the same 2015, and for 2016, Richt finally severs ties with Grantham. Basically the program slips back to below what it was even under Donnan.

    • RandallPinkFloyd

      I can assure you Grantham won’t be around past 2014 if this trend were to continue. Get off the ledge, it will be alright.

  34. Bulldog Joe

    Like our competition, perhaps we can recruit enough athletes to enable our scout teams to prepare us at full SEC speed instead of walk-on speed.

    This way, it doesn’t take us a full half to adjust.