David Hale spoke with Chris Low the other day on a wide-ranging set of SEC topic, and while I’m still not convinced by Low’s explanation of his power rankings, he did have something to say about Georgia that interested me:
DH: Lots of coaching changes around the league this year, including two head coaches (Tennessee and Kentucky) and a bunch of new coordinators (Georgia, Florida, Arkansas, Mississippi State, Ole Miss) and staff shakeups everywhere except Auburn. From your travels this spring, who seems to be fitting in the best so far?
CL: Georgia, what they did bringing in Todd Grantham, he has extensive experience in college and the NFL, knows that 3-4 defense inside and out, coached with Nick Saban and coached it the whole time he was in the NFL. His approach is getting after the quarterback, hitting the quarterback, pressuring the quarterback, disguising coverages, disguising blitzes, getting into his head and doing anything they can to attack the quarterback. That will be their calling card this year, and they’re going to be more aggressive. Now, do they have the personnel right now to do everything he wants? I think he’s a little concerned about his depth at corner and whether they have enough outside linebackers.
But they’ll be more aggressive, take a few more chances and be more multi-faced in how they come after the quarterback and where they come from. If you go back and watch last year how many times Alabama blitzed Javier Arenas from the cornerback position — I think he ended up with around five sacks. I think they’re going to do more of that at Georgia this year and really put the offense in bad situations. So I like Grantham and that defense, but they are going to have to recruit to it, and they’ll probably need to have at least one more year to get the guys.
That echoes something Mark Schlabach said in his chat earlier this week.
How do you see the new 3-4 defense working for UGA, and can A.J. Green compete for a Heisman?
I think the 3-4 will be more aggressive, but Dogs still need more pass rushers and interior tackles. I think the scheme can potentially mask some of their deficiencies up front, but secondary is going to have to be good.
Any time you’re looking at a significant change in scheme, there are going to be personnel-related issues, simply because there are going to be a number of players who were recruited under the old regime who don’t fit the new style of play. In Georgia’s case, that’s somewhat undercut by how well the program recruits. That’s not to say that there aren’t areas of real concern, but it’s more of a numbers/depth game than it is a matter of being totally bereft of any talent to man a position.
All of which means we’re going to be holding our breaths about injury concerns all season. It was apparent at G-Day that Houston and Washington have the potential to excel at the outside linebacker position; it was just as apparent that there’s a pretty steep drop off at the position after them. It’s true that there’s some potential help coming in the fall, but it’s not realistic to expect a huge amount of production from true freshmen at a position like that early on.
It also means that we’re pinning our hopes on Grantham pulling off a Searels-esque mix-and-match job with the front seven and milking every drop of production he can out of them until he’s got the kind of depth he needs. Is he capable of that? His resumé suggests that he can, but a few key injuries (and/or, God forbid, some untimely suspensions) could quickly turn things in a precarious direction.