Rehabbing Georgia’s secondary, one step at a time

Okay, okay, I know that Mark Bradley quoting Tom Luginbill about the level of talent on the Georgia defense might as well be entitled “Troll dem Dawgs”, but, still, I think I’m gonna have to offer a corrective suggestion to this:

It’s as down talent-level-wise on defense as I’ve seen certainly in Mark Richt’s tenure. They don’t have depth. … I don’t know outside one or two guys that would have started for Florida State last year. Coaching is one thing, but they’ve got to replenish their depth and talent pool.

Only a fool would say that there hasn’t been a talent drain out of Georgia’s secondary during this offseason, but I’m hard pressed to see a lack of depth on the line and with the linebacking corps.  But even in the case of Georgia’s defensive backs, how much of that perception should be chalked up to pure talent and how much to a failure to develop and deploy the talent effectively?

Which brings me to this rather intriguing piece about the ups, downs and potential redemption of one Damian Swann.  There’s a lot there, so you should read it in its entirety, and I can’t say I buy in to all of his observations, but I won’t deny that this does ring true:

Swann’s inconsistencies in tackling usually stemmed from neither dropping his pad level nor wrapping up at the point of attack. He also has a habit of not implementing the nuances that come with being a sound tackler, from time to time.

He goes on to illustrate that with the very play – Swann’s whiff of Sammy Watkins in last year’s opening game – that popped into my head as I read that.  Anyway, it’s a long piece.  And Swann is just one defensive back.

It’s worth keeping that in mind as we watch Jeremy Pruitt rebuild the secondary.  It’s not going to be an overnight sensation.

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62 Comments

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62 responses to “Rehabbing Georgia’s secondary, one step at a time

  1. Scorpio Jones, III

    My system won’t allow the scripting invasion by SB Nation’s site, so I can’t read the other piece, but knowing that we are down on both numbers, and according to some, talent…how is it possible we can still be a contenda?

    It would appear Pruitt is a much-needed tonic for the back end of the defense and maybe for the whole team.

    But I agree that this defense is like a peach…gonna take a while to ripen.

    • Mayor

      I’m not as sure that it will take a while to ripen. We have SEC quality players in the defensive secondary. Do they have the natural talent of JHC and Matthews? Probably not. But I would much rather have a well-motivated team player doing his job to the best of his ability than a self-absorbed prima donna underachiever who won’t/can’t tackle and who is out of position at all the worst possible times trying to steal an interception from a teammate. If Pruitt can get the youngsters to form tackle and cover, we’ll be fine in the secondary. That would certainly be an improvement. Besides, WTF does Tom Luginbill know anyway? The guy doesn’t know anything that someone else hasn’t told him.

    • But I agree that this defense is like a peach…gonna take a while to ripen.

      That’s a good analogy, Scorpio. And occasionally, the peach ripens fast, almost overnight.
      ~~~

  2. The other Doug

    I see a strong and deep front 7 and a young secondary. All Pruitt has to do is get the DBs in the right place at the snap and covering the right guy. Sure, some guys will still get open, but the QB will need to see him and make a good pass. Last year most teams were chucking it to a wide open guy.

  3. Spike

    I’m not sold on Swann at all. He has good and bad games I suppose. But he got trucked at the Clemson game.

  4. Goat Balls

    I’ve seen Swann miss tackle after tackle, be consistently out of position, get beat on the long ball and hurl himself himself at runners and miss completely. And then there were the arm tackles. Really atrocious stuff. I mean bad, really bad. The kid seems to have the athletic ability without the smarts to use it. The coaches talk about how hard he works and the press talks about the returning veteran starter Swann as if it’s somehow a plus. I knew when they were claiming that at least Swann is returning next year that we were in trouble. And that was for the last two years.

    There’s a very good reason why Swann didn’t go for the nfl draft after last season.

    • Murray didn’t leave either.

      • Goat Balls

        That’s different. Murray’s got a lot of heart and guts and smarts but lacks the size and other attributes the nfl looks for. But Murray could play and I love that kid. Swann..not so much.

        And whoever thinks that Swann had a couple of decent years must be looking at stats and not on the field play. It was terrifying to see the ball move in his direction on the ground or in the air.

    • There’s a very good reason why Swann didn’t go for the nfl draft after last season.

      Indeed. Just as there was a good reason Rambo and some of his classmates didn’t go (hint: it wasn’t to stay and bring Georgia a championship).
      ~~~

  5. I Wanna Red Cup

    I am predicting Swann will bounce back and have a very good year. He certainly had decent Frosh and soph years. He obviously is willing to listen and learn, and I have faith in Pruitt’s teachings.

    • Skeptic Dawg

      The reason Swann was ok his first 2 years had more to do with the talent surrounding him than with his own ability. When place in a position to shine…well, we all know what happened. We have zero reason to believe the secondary will be improved this season with his return. The heavy losses from this position group, the lack of experience, and a new system all add up to yet another subpar season from the secondary. Defensive woes + a struggling O-line = another disappointing season.

      • I beg to differ sir. It’s in the film and film don’t lie.

        :-)https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4hTsSJlhVu8

        • Skeptic Dawg

          I find it a little amusing that your example of Swann’s solid play is vs GT. What’s left unsaid is that Swann and his band of merry DB’s were torched by the Jackets stellar passing attack.

          • I am cheered that you were finally able to derive something amusing during one of your visits here at GTP. Allow me to retort. As for myself I found nothing amusing about a Nerd team that threw for more yards against the Dawgs than they had anyone else during their entire season. 232 yards to be exact for two touchdowns no less. On the bright side there were 2 ints and the long balls were on our safeties. But if you really wanted to brighten your day you would have taken a moment to watch the 2nd you tube video in my post. It is Swann against other teams. I have included it again below. Last year is in the books. Right now the Bulldogs are unbeaten. The 2014 season starts in 51 days. I see some skill sets and athleticism in a player that is also a senior. And Pruitt can build on that.
            Keep on smiling.

  6. Rebar

    Hopefully, the front 7 will give the secondary some time by rushing the quaterback like their hair is on fire, and hopefully, Coach Pruitt will coach the secondary up.

  7. Our D line better step up while we get our house in order in the secondary.

  8. DawgPhan

    Pulled up the depth chart for 2002. Take a look at the defense. That might be the last time UGA had that much talent on defense.

    http://www.georgiadogs.com/sports/m-footbl/spec-rel/060602aaa.html

    Its all about recruiting. Recruiting numbers, recruiting talent, recruiting depth. UGA has not done what it needed to do in recruiting for a long time.

    And fixing just the recruiting issues so that there is talent and depth across the board is a 4-5 year project and I am not sure that UGA has even gotten started. I am not sure that CMR even knows that he needs to start.

    Every problem that we gnash our teeth over every year all go back to recruiting.

    Want to fix the culture. Make people work for their spot. Make sure that they know the next guy might just be hungrier than they are.

    Want to be hard ass with discipline, well you better have a top quality talent behind him with some experience in the system.

    Want a better OL. Recruit more guys and find the ones that work.

    Recruit 24-25 players every single year. No classes of 36 and then one of 17. 24-25 guys every single year.

    6 or 7 players have left since NSD. We wouldnt have an issues with over signing. We would be making promises we can’t keep. We wouldnt be greyshirting or anything like that.

    • Rp

      With the exception of Alabama, UGA has recruited as well as anyone in the nation over the last 10 years. I don’t see where this “lack of talent” and “poor recruiting” talk is coming from.

      We have two areas that are weak due to a whole lot of bizzare and unlucky circumstances: OL (Tunsil, Brent Benedict, K Houston, Chester Brown) and secondary (Marshall, Matthews, JHC, etc). Some of the problem on the OL is poor recruiting, but other than that position we recruit very well.

      I think Luginbill is being a bit dramatic on this one. Tell Lorenzo Carter about our lack of talent and depth after he barely sees the field this year.

      • Macallanlover

        Luginbill isn’t man enough, or professional enough to evaluate UGA objectively. You have to wonder about an organization that hires folks lim him, Granny, or F Bomb

        We have questions on defense but they have nothing to do with the front 7. I think we will be a little better on defense this year, mostly because we cannot be much worse. Secondary will be better but will they be better early enough? Close call.

      • DawgPhan

        My complaint with the recruiting is specifically about the numbers. The talent is fine, there just isnt enough of it. It is why UDA fans always talk about “avg. stars” when looking at the recruiting rankings, because our totals dont match up with the other SEC teams.

    • Dog in Fla

      “I am not sure that CMR even knows that he needs to start”

      I am not sure that CMR even knows that he needs to increase the speed of the plane because if Nick Saban didn’t exist, Father Time wouldn’t want to invent him

      http://www.al.com/alabamafootball/index.ssf/2014/07/tracking_alabama_football_recr.html

    • Pulled up the depth chart for 2002. Take a look at the defense. That might be the last time UGA had that much talent on defense.

      I would agree.
      ~~~

  9. Cousin Eddie

    Something seemingly lost in the discussion of the defensive backfield was the “coaching” last year. If I remember correctly Lakotas was out a great deal last year with his personal issues which left GAs, I assume, to coach the secondary a good bit last year. Or maybe I am remembering wrong as age tends to do that, or I think I was told that.

  10. Will Trane

    Right on Skeptic Dawg. Even a casual watcher of the game would rate last years Dbs as below average. Torched by Tech, Missouri, Auburn, and Nebraska. How many big play pass plays did those guys give up last year. Notice much chance of improvement this year re recruits and a new staff. Coach Pruitt has his work cut our for him re attitude, skills, and desire to get the ball.
    Incoming OL Edwards out before season even gets here with, you guessed it, torn ACL. Dawgs have that injury down pat. How does this program have to so many?
    Let us take that before the Democratic controlled Senate for review and inquiry. Sure Booker and Claire have a question about that. Sorry time does not allow Ayotte to ask because it would take her to damn long.

    • Cojones

      Democratic majority, but not Democrat controlled. They need several more D Senators to be labeled “controlled”.

  11. Cojones

    Yeah, here we go again with the “stupid-ass coaches” talk. What we have seen of Swann is a pittance compared to how much the coaches see and review his practice and game film. He must have something or we all have been fooled by all the cfb coaches out there who deploy their best people for best purposes of winning the game. I’ve seen what you all have seen, but judgement of what I saw is abated by the confidence that his coaches have in him. He doesn’t have to be “given another chance” by us fans. Until I see different with other than Grantham’s confusing communications coaching, Swann fits the bill well in the secondary and judgements should be left to coaches. Yep, he’s missed a tackle or two (show me a D player who hasn’t), yep, he waved his hands when confused (here blame is solidly on a coach’s back), but why don’t we shine some light on his tackles made and confuse the hell out of AJC-UGA putdown artists for a change? Fuck them. They don’t have any good players to write about in Atl except at the HS level, so they screw with us by spotlighting one of our players.

    Sorry. Just don’t like to see individual players skewered who wear the red and black. Too early for a smoke; think I’ll just go kick some feather-assed chickens.

  12. Chuck

    I saw something amusing in all this: article mentioned that Luginbill played QB at GT, and I could not recall him playing there so I looked it up: One season, 1-10 record, beating only Western Carolina; transferred when O’Leary was hired. Now that’s funny. :)

  13. Will Trane

    There is always room for hope and change. Like those 5 categories and scoring. #8. Well that number plus one gets us to 9, last year CMR and Co won a conference title was 2005. Means your son born that year is probably on a JV squad. Coaching changes last year. Guess there is hope. But there are a lot of holes and questions going into this year. #8. Optimism. Hope. Borders on a long, well-thought out prayer by CMR. Time is running on CMR re another SEC title. 2005 seems like a long time ago now. On the clock. Clemson.

  14. Interesting thread. I agree with Will that “there are a lot of holes and questions going into this year.” And Clemson is now on the clock.

    Up until now, everything I’ve heard since Pruitt was hired has been positive, included the loss of 3 physically-gifted dumbasses in the secondary. But yesterday, we found out Jake Edwards tore his ACL & LCL, I think it was. Gotta feel for a brand new OL just trying to get started on his dream of playing for UGA.

    And then I saw a video of Toby Johnson from last week, and he looked as fat as ever. That was a little depressing, to be honest, since being physically soft has been one of our biggest problems. There’s been many needed changes made this year, but one of the things I’m still very much worried about is whether our Nutrition staff knows what they’re doing. Being in that field myself, I’ve been more concerned than most. Maybe Johnson has been non-compliant, but if so, that raises another concern.

    So the clock is now ticking down and reality begins to raise it’s humbling head.

    Goat Balls: I’ve seen Swann miss tackle after tackle, be consistently out of position, get beat on the long ball and hurl himself himself at runners and miss completely. And then there were the arm tackles. Really atrocious stuff. I mean bad, really bad. The kid seems to have the athletic ability without the smarts to use it.

    Have to agree with Balls here, the film shows all that. It also shows Swann’s athletic potential, although in infrequent spurts. I think what we’re talking about here is poor fundamentals. Swann, like everybody else in the secondary and generally across our defense, has had very poor fundamentals. We’ve been a poor tackling team for a long time, across the board with few exceptions, and you can pretty much say the same about all the other fundamentals. The defense hasn’t been sound fundamentally since VanGorder.

    All year I’ve talked about how our talent on defense isn’t anything like FSU’s or Bama’s. Though I wouldn’t echo Luginbill, I might agree that we have only 2 players who would start for FSU, and maybe only one – Floyd. Some of us have talked about our eval and recruiting, or lack thereof, on defense for years. Not that we haven’t signed some good players – we have. Just not enough, and often not exactly the right ones. That’s especially true in the secondary, and not just the recent years.

    IDK how many of our current 40+ players on defense Pruitt would not have targeted, but it’s a high number. And it’s the difference in top-level and second-level, as we’ve been for a long time now. So we definitely have to upgrade our recruiting (and that has been one of the exciting things that has happened this year) but I’m not sure it’s quite as bad as Luginbill makes it out to be.

    I don’t think we have the #1 group of LB’s, but we have some good linemen, and can be pretty good now, if Pruitt knows how to get everything they have out of them.

    Also, the cultural issue has a lot to do with all of this. There’s simply no escaping it. Pruitt has been addressing that all year, and even better, the whole staff is now unified and on board with it. Nothing will have more impact on our play in the long run, and I suspect it’ll pay off this year as well.

    So while both these articles point to deficiencies in our program, it isn’t news. There’s nothing new about it, it’s been talked about in great detail here. We already knew all that. Thanks to them for pointing it out (the Swann article was pretty good), but we’re way past that already.

    And we hope our team is, too.
    ~~~

    • CannonDawg

      Ivey, you’ve pointed out more than once about the cultural issues affecting Georgia’s play, and I think you’re spot on. I just hope the change underway will pay off this year. Is it the players we’ve recruited who have settled in to being comfortable with mediocrity and the easiest way out? If so, it will take longer than a year. If it’s in the messaging and expectations from the coaches, then Pruitt may be able to help change that quickly. And from the departures we’ve seen, I’m leaning toward the latter. I find it hard to blame Swann or any other player who is put on the field game after game and who keeps repeating the same mistakes. That’s a failure of coaching, of leadership, and I don’t think we’ll see much of that come game time this year. Gimme me a bunch of hyperperforming Junkyard Dogs with attitude and effort and solid fundamentals, and the rest can go to Auburn.

      • DawgPhan

        Culture is a CMR problem. If the problem is culture then the problem is the head man. But fans love to run down the guy who missed the tackle or the guy who transferred, but if you think culture is the main problem then you think CMR is the main problem.

        CJP was just what the doctor ordered for the fans this off season. I have no idea if he will actually improve the football team other than “It can’t get worse” type of platitudes.

      • I just hope the change underway will pay off this year. Is it the players we’ve recruited who have settled in to being comfortable with mediocrity and the easiest way out? If so, it will take longer than a year. If it’s in the messaging and expectations from the coaches, then Pruitt may be able to help change that quickly.

        Great question, Cannon. I think it’s both.

        Would Swann have been the same player his first 3 years had he come in this year, as opposed to 2011, when the culture was all wrong and the cancer guys were still in command? I don’t think so. No way, actually. We can’t know how good Swann might have been, but he would certainly be a better player than he has been, assuming he got the same PT.

        So, the new guys get the benefit of the opportunity to do it right to begin with. The rest have to unlearn, adjust, change, replace old habits with new ones – whatever is necessary – if they’re going to take advantage of the new opportunity they have. For some, it won’t be that difficult. For others, it might be so difficult they can’t do it.

        Swann is a good case study in that regard. Some of the worst cultural offenders were secondary players. So he got a big dose (and IMO, like the others it showed up on the field), and now has a chance to make the adjustment and take advantage of the opportunity in front of him. If he’s successful, it could mean a lot to him, as well as us.

        And BTW, “messaging and expectations from the coaches” is a good way to put it. You can’t cut kids that much slack, and expect them not to be kids. Especially kids with the backgrounds of so many high-profile SEC players. If it’s now the way it should be, the new freshmen will not have those kind of issues. Or very few. They’ll do it right, or they’ll be gone.
        ~~~

        • AthensHomerDawg

          That’s a double edge sword. It cuts both ways. They might be gone from Georgia and suiting up for LSU, Auburn or Louisville.
          That’s something to consider but I’ve no idea how we deal with it.

      • Cannon, I just reread your post, and I think it’s a great post. Couldn’t agree more with all of it.
        ~~~

    • Dog in Fla

      “Have to agree with Balls here,”

      When an IveyLeaguer agrees with Goat Balls it can only mean that there is some kind of culture growing in the petri dish that is our secondary

    • AthensHomerDawg

      TLDR

  15. charlottedawg

    The fact that JHC and Trigga Tray were on the field for the infamous play against auburn and were too freakin’ stupid to knock down a horrible severely underthrown pass should tell you all you need to know about how awful our secondary was and is top to bottom.

    Pruitt will have done a tremendous job if he can find and develop 4 dbs who don’t suck all the time. He has a complete rebuilding job in the secondary.

  16. W Cobb Dawg

    Maybe its the koolaid, but I see some potential with our DBs. We have Swann, Moore, Mauger, Langley, Bowman & Dawson returning; Wilkerson returns from injury; Davis will be eligible, Green & Terry switched over from O; Fenteng from JUCO; and freshmen Parrish, Jones & Sanders. A lot of youth and maybe not world-beaters, but a good coach like CJP can get some production out of that group. Get in position, tackle well, and we should be okay.

    Would it really be that much better if we still had mathews, JHC & Wiggins? I don’t think so. Along with getting rid of lakatos & CTG – the D is better already.

  17. Goat Balls

    I’m hoping that one of these days that my beloved dawgs will figure out that scoring touchdowns will win games and a great defense will win championships.

    I think Coach Dooley and Major General Erk could tell them this.

    I met Coach Dooley at the Masters one year, he was wearing bermuda shorts a tee shirt and tennis shoes. I love that guy.

  18. hot12dog

    Come on be honest when have we ever had a good secondary?????

  19. Cosmic Dawg

    Those of you claiming Georgia’s secondary has been a mess for years are perhaps misremembering that our pass defense was ranked very well as recently as…

    2012 – #8 nationally
    2011 – #10 nationally
    2010 – #16 nationally

    These were the teams with Williams, Rambo, Commings, and my boy Boykin back there – we did NOT suck…

    • Maybe not. But we were inconsistent. We gave up a lot of big plays, and generally were poor tacklers, often took bad angles in run support, and just weren’t fundamentally solid, IMHO.
      ~~~

      • Cosmic Dawg

        Why do you feel those shortcomings were not represented in the stats? Three years seems a pretty good indication of steady performance to me.

        • IDK, Cosmic. It’s a good question, and a fair one, so I’ll try to answer it. My guess is it’s due to the inconsistency. While we consistently had bonehead plays in pass defense, mostly from the safeties, there were also lots of good plays. We had some talent back there, nothing outstanding except for Boykin, but talent nevertheless. But it was like an obsessive/complusive thing almost .. good/bad, then great/terrible, often in the same game.

          Boykin was a stable player, for most of his career, and I suspect that was due to his natural talent and instinct for the game, because there’s no evidence I know of that our secondary coaches could develop anybody. A lot of coaches can go through the motions and teach on a board. And remember they weren’t really in command anyway.

          Williams really improved his senior year, as did Commings, but Williams really made a lot of progress in his run support. Rambo was never stable, though his senior year was his best. I think he only gave up 1 or 2 over-the-top TD’s due to eye violation, I can only remember one for sure. I point that particular mistake out, because it’s a freshman mistake, a fundamental mistake, the kind that should happen maybe once or twice to a player, if that.

          IDK how many of those Rambo gave up in his career, though it must be a big number. But as a 4th year starter he made as many of those, and other fundamental mistakes, as a freshman ordinarily should. As I’ve said before, there’s a reason it was an easy call to project Rambo very low in the draft, if he made it at all. That’s one of them, another is he doesn’t tackle well in space. And safety is such a critical position.

          Also, we can’t forget the other half of the secondary’s job is to provide run support. That’s where poor tackling, bad angles, and loafs (which make you a step late getting into the lane) really hurt. When a safety misses a tackle, or doesn’t get to the play for whatever reason, bad things usually happen.

          Suffice to say that only Williams, in his senior year, ever became consistent at run support. Commings was much improved his senior year, but not like Williams. Otherwise, it was the same old, same old, that we’ve seen for so long now.

          I don’t doubt your numbers, but the ones I found (Yahoo) seem to support the inconsistency theory. Here’s 2012, for example, the best year for those secondaries:

          NATIONAL
          Pts./G = 17th
          Yds./G = 28th
          Pass Yards = 15th
          Rush Yards = 92nd
          Int. = 48th

          SEC
          Pts./G = 6th
          Yds./G = 6th
          Pass Yds. = 4th
          Rush Yards = 13th
          Int. = 7th

          If you look, you’ll note that the SEC teams that had sound secondaries – Alabama, Florida, LSU (and to some extent South Carolina and Vanderbilt) – are consistently in the top of those categories, even nationally.

          Not saying that proves anything, they’re just stats, and there’s a lot more to consider. Stats can mislead, and if they indicate Georgia had a top secondary those years, then they mislead. Looking at the above, I’m not sure they do.

          Though it’s been a while, what I remember from the film is inconsistency and a lot of sloppy play from those secondaries. Pretty much like the rest of the defense in the Grantham years. We were just fortunate enough to have a few talented guys, like Jarvis and a few others. And even then, we were still rather mediocre.
          ~~~