About the linebackers

Count me in the group that thinks Georgia’s linebacking corps is an obvious team strength.  (Seth Emerson lays out what he calls the team’s ice cream here.)  Some of my optimism is based on improved coaching in that I believe Pruitt is going to do a better job of deploying the talent than Grantham did – I doubt we see Floyd dropping back in coverage very much and I’ll be shocked if Herrera and Wilson are on the field together in obvious passing situations nearly as often as they were last season – but most is due to having all four starters back.  Experience, talent and better coaching is a nice formula for quality play.

And here’s some context for you to digest.  South Carolina is making noises about shifting from the 4-2-5 scheme it’s run as its base for several years to some version of the 3-4 (per Lorenzo Ward, “At the end of the season I would be shocked if we didn’t play two-to-one 3-4 to 4-2-5…”) because the strength of the defense is at the linebacking position.  And that strength is reckoned as top five in the conference by SB Nation’s SEC bloggers.

They rank Georgia second, three spots ahead, and a hair’s breadth behind what’s been the conference standard, Alabama.  I’ll gladly take that.

Let’s just hope And The Valley Shook hasn’t delivered a 2014 epitaph for them:  “This is a deep, talented unit surrounded by, unfortunately, the rest of the Georgia defense.”

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16 Comments

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16 responses to “About the linebackers

  1. Dawg Vegas

    I think we’re going to need every drop of excellence we can wring out of the LBs and D line, especially to start. Yes, Clemson loses Boyd (and Watkins, thankfully), but that is a complex offense and I’m afraid our green secondary may have their head spinning at times, leading to blown assignments.

    Chad Morris calls a good game, but I have seen the Clemson offense get bogged down at times when the vertical attack is stymied. They have a tendency to start getting horizontal and finesse-based.

    I’m hoping our strong up-front presence, including the linebackers, and maybe some physicality from JJ Green up the middle deep areas of the coverage can go a long way towards slowing them down.

    It helps a lot to have our LBs , and to have a D-coordinator that has at least called a game against them with great success. I was at the FSU-Clemson game last year, and boy was FSU’s defense ready for them.

  2. Am I the only one that worries about the ranking of our LBs being based so much on “leading the SEC in tackles?” That’s a dubious distinction.

    Herrera is a solid tackler and if I’m being fair I should note that Ramik Wilson improved steadily throughout the year. But Ramik was a damned liability when the season started, out of position and missing tackles left and right. Herrera simply cannot (and SHOULD not) be counted on to play every fucking snap like he was last year, so hopefully his coverage improves with fresher legs.

    Evaluating linebackers with tackles as the primary measure is a lot like relying on wins and losses to evaluate a pitcher in baseball; it’s not a good idea.

    Floyd and Jenkins are cause for a lot of hope, except Jenkins didn’t really do much to inspire me last year (yes, the play where he tried to jump over the guy and didn’t get to the QB looked cool, but there’s a reason that’s not an accepted technique).

    I don’t mean to be such a skeptic, and from a pass-rush standpoint our OLBs have to be up there in talent, particularly with the new additions. But the consensus love for them is in large part based upon some misconceptions which are based upon some really wonky stats.

    If you’re bored, go and look at individual tackles on cfbstats.com, then look at total defense and sort by total plays. You’ll see a pretty strong correlation between LBs with lots of bring-downs and teams who were on the field a lot.

    • You’ll see a pretty strong correlation between LBs with lots of bring-downs and teams who were on the field a lot.

      And in Georgia’s case, a DC who substituted very little.

    • Basically, if your team dealt with more running plays a game, you’re much more likely to have someone in the top 20 in tackling in the league.

      Defensive rushing attempts per game (team)/players from that team in top 20 and player rank in tackles

      Texas A&M – 41.31/Jenkins (8), Matthews (11), Claiborne (12)
      Kentucky – 40.25/ Williamson (6)
      Georgia – 40/ Wilson (1), Herrera (3)
      Mississippi – 39.5/ Bryant (17)
      Tennessee – 39.42/ Johnson (5), Randolph (20)
      Arkansas – 38.7/ Turner (7), Mitchell (18) Lake (18)
      Mizz – 36.6/ Wilson (2), Webb (12), Gaines (20)

      The bottom 7 teams in have 15/22 of the top tacklers in the league. Florida and Miss St had none of the top 22 tacklers, and Bama had one.

      http://www.cfbstats.com/2013/leader/911/team/defense/split01/category01/sort05.html

      http://www.cfbstats.com/2013/leader/911/player/split01/category19/sort01.html

    • Gravidy

      I agree with you. If you are a linebacker who plays virtually every snap for a mediocre (at best) defense, you’d damn well better have a lot of tackles.

      Full disclosure: I’m not saying that to bash the LBs. I actually believe they are pretty good. I’m just not convinced they are the world-beaters the tackle-counting-pencil-pushers say they are.

      • +15 (tackles per game).

        I’d say there’s a couple of factors in how many tackles a LB gets:
        1. Scheme. Is he blitzing, starting close to LOS, or hanging back and reacting farther down the field?
        2. Strength of defense. If your defense isn’t getting people off the field…
        3. Playing time. If you’re in every play like Wilson and Herrera, you are going to get more tackles. A more interesting stat would be tackles per play (have to be in the game and track that).
        4. Talent. Rennie could just find the damn ball.

  3. Good post there, Vegas.

    I think our LB corps has a chance to be very good, and could be a top unit in the SEC and the country by the latter part of the season. I too, wonder about how good they’ll be right out of the box, as without an A performance from them, we don’t have much of a chance to win both games, which is what we need to do.

    We’re not as good as hyped, at least not yet, as there is no way we are the best LB unit in the land right now. The only bonafide star is Floyd, who is also the only LB we have who could start for anybody. Wilson has a chance to reach his potential under this system and I’m counting on him to do that. He could be great if he does. Jenkins has ability, but has a long way to go. Herrera is dependable, if not as talented. And so on.

    So it should be a good unit, and it won’t be hindered by the system anymore. But it never ceases to amaze how something can go viral in sports media, especially college football. I’ve seen it happen many times. Somebody says or writes something, and then it spreads over the whole country overnight, and then all the media are saying the same thing. That’s exactly how Bacarri Rambo became an AP All-American. And now it’s happened to our LB corps.

    But I’m assuming they can handle the hype, because Wilson and Herrera are mature seniors, and it isn’t going to get to Floyd. Jenkins, who knows where his head is, but he has the others there with him. And I hope we can develop some depth as we go along.

    Hype notwithstanding, I do have high hopes for our LB’s. I know they’ll have every chance to be good, and should be good. Even so, I have to see it first.
    ~~~

  4. While we are on the subject of latent, depth and numbers, does anyone happen to know the current number of scholarship players on the roster? I have done some legwork and but have yet to find a concrete number. Keeping coming up with 76. Is that close?

    • Anon

      Was down to 79 then add the recent addition in Joe Ledbetter and the number is 80. After signing day the total number of recruited scholarship players was 89. Ten players have since left or never arrived. 3 dismissals, 3 transfers, 2 med DQ’s, 1 recruit failed to qualify, 1 recruit left after a week. We over signed slightly, but apparently not enough. Got 5 ‘ships left this year to give to walk-ons, my guess is M. Hall, K. Vavlos, A. Davis and 2 more is anybody’s guess.

  5. BowlDawg14

    1st and foremost i love my dawgs to death, but you said it perfectly….a 3-4 scheme plays into the linebackers. UGA excelled at the 3-4 under grantham when the linebackers included Ogletree and J.Jones…and yes Wilson and Herrera had huge tackle counts…BUT. Watching a lot of last seasons games (on DVR to get me through the off-season) watch all the tackles that our LBs were making. they were mostly running downfield with the ball carrier…= giving up yardage, time of possesion, and more importantly…points. I am hoping beyond hope, that was strictly at the hands of how Grantham deployed them…and I hope Pruitt deploys them in a way that plays better into their ability.

  6. Macallanlover

    Not to highjack this thread’s intent (I believe LBs are the strength as well) but after reading Seth’s piece about the DL and DB talent still available to us, I am getting more optimistic. I had forgotten about Terry for instance and there is a good bit of other inexperienced talent that may surprise…especially with the expected improvement in coaching. Believe I will have another round of Kool Aide.

    • Matt b.

      Agreed. Lots of talent left in the defensive backfield. It may be shaky at first, but remember that we were green in the secondary last year as well, with vastly inferior coaching.

  7. CannonDawg

    I don’t see any defense on the schedule that our offense can’t score enough points on to win. Likewise, I don’t see anybody whose offense makes me think we can’t win a shoot out if necessary, especially early on. If (and I should probably emphasize “IF” in caps) our defense makes an improvement consistent with our levels of talent and coaching, we should be on at least equal footing in every way with the West champs by Dec. 6th. Pruitt will get far more out of our players and go deeper into the bench than did Grantham, and that by itself promises to yield huge dividends. It just might be the missing piece.

    It’s never easy, but I like the way this is setting up. Our luck’s about to change, guys. Why not us in 2014?

    Send a round of Kool Aide my way, Mac.

  8. Goat Balls

    Bravo gentlemen. I’ve never understood how LB’s leading the league in tackles is a great statistic. It seems to me that our D-line is getting blocked if that’s the case. Ogeltree was long, lanky and fast. He was a joy to watch. Jarvis had instincts and hustled his ass off and he was smart. Great player at the college level.

    How often have any of our guys been in their quarterback’s face? Not very often under Grantham. And maybe that’s because our d-line guys aren’t that good? I honestly don’t know.

    I guess anything is better than Martinez bend don’t break crap that we suffered through. I almost stopped watching over that.