Now, about the defense…

It’s a 6-6 year.  It was supposed to be no worse than a 9-3 year.  So, there’s plenty of blame to pass around.  We’ve talked about the playcalling on offense in the wake of the Auburn and Tech games.  Let’s take a look on the other side of the ball.

Matt Hinton offers an assessment of how things went with Georgia’s 2010 defense here.  It’s hard to argue with any of his individual points:  for all the talk about being more aggressive, there really wasn’t much of an increase in pressure to speak of; things did improve fairly dramatically on the turnover front; they got shredded by good running offenses; Ryan Mallett had a field day against Georgia’s secondary.

But I think he misses the big problem.  This year’s defense was brutally inept on third downs.  Check out this chart that Bulldog in Exile compiled:

Defensive Metric 2009 Total 2010 Total Difference ’09 SEC/Nat Rank ’10 SEC/Nat Rank
Scoring 25.9 ppg 23.1 ppg +2.8 ppg 10/63 7/49
Rushing 126.15 ypg 150.25 ypg -24.1 ypg 3/36 7/59
Passing 213.2 ypg 185.8 ypg +27.4 ypg 9/51 6/19
Total 339.4 ypg 335.8 ypg +3.6 ypg 7/38 4/30
Sacks/game 2.31 2.0 – .31 3/36 7/56
TFL/game 6.89 6.25 -.64 2/22 9t/47
Int/game .77 (1TD) 1.17 (3TD) +.4 10t/83t 5/33t
Fumbles Recovered 2 10 +8 12/120 6t/40
3rd down conv 37.7 % 42.59% -4.89 % 9t/45 12/87
Redzone Conv/TD % 82.93%/

In the red zone, these guys couldn’t get off the field to save their lives.  They weren’t dramatically better anywhere else on the field, either.  So, yeah, there’s a big problem there, Houston.  The issue that Mark Richt has to analyze in the offseason is where the blame falls for that.  Some of it lies in personnel, the defensive line in particular, and it’s clear from some of his recent comments that Richt is pushing hard to address that in this year’s recruiting class, most likely with an infusion of JUCO talent.  But it’s certainly a fair question to ask whether the coaching has been all it could be.  With the exception of Belin, that’s hard to say.

Back to Matt’s piece, I have to say that I disagree somewhat with his conclusion:  “At best, 2010 was a sideways step from the season that got Martinez fired…” That ignores one big positive development, the end of the trend in defensive scoring under Martinez.  Lest we forget, here ’tis:

  • 2009:  25.9 ppg
  • 2008:  24.5 ppg
  • 2007:  20.2 ppg
  • 2006:  17.6 ppg

With due respect to Matt, that’s what got Martinez fired, not just last season in isolation.  And Grantham has reversed that trend, despite this being a season in which overall scoring is up, he’s installed a new scheme with the resulting learning curve issues and he has areas where the personnel aren’t a good match for what he and the position coaches like to do.  So I can’t sit here and say beyond a doubt that he’s a failure.  But so far, it hasn’t been the home run hire we hoped for, either.



Filed under Georgia Football, Stats Geek!

44 responses to “Now, about the defense…

  1. heyberto

    Does anyone think Kirby Smart could have done any better? I don’t mean that to sound like a smartass question… It’s a serious one. To me, the big question will become, is the 3-4 going to work at Georgia? I just feel like we haven’t seen it run at full strength. I do think Grantham was a lot better in the 2nd half than Martinez with adjustments. I’ve also thought the defense looked gassed towards the end of the game far too often.


    • gastr1

      You’re exactly right. You make a big change with a lot of moving parts and a sideways step, rather than a huge dip, is what you hope for during the transitional period. Let’s see where we are in two years.


    • 69Dawg

      One of the problems with the D being gassed was the lack of quality depth. If we are getting burned with our first stringers in how do we sub them out and it not get worst. Tyson, bless his heart had to have played 80+% of the snaps at Nose against Tech. Tech had 90+ plays where they cut blocked him and doubled him. He would have had to be Superman to not be gassed. We just had very marginal personnel on the D this year.


    • Keese

      I think the saving grace on the defense was the increase in turnovers this year.


    • heyberto

      Thanks guys.. perhaps our S&C issues are being addressed now with Van Halanger moving on.


  2. NC Dawg

    I thought the defense looked outmuscled, and unable to get off the field most of the time. That can leave you gassed every time.


  3. Barry


    One point I’ve never seen mentioned is the most basic: our 2010 defensive philosophy violated the essence of good coaching. If I’ve heard it once, I’ve heard it a thousand times – it’s not x’s and o’s, it’s Jimmies and Joes. Good coaches adapt their schemes to their personnel, not the other way around.

    And it seems to me that this was CMR’s basic mistake, and his calculated gamble. Rather than utilize a 4-3 defensive scheme that matched current personnel (and recruit for the 3-4 for the 2011 season), CTG matched an inadequate defensive line to a new format. Failure (or lack of success) is inevitable under these circumstances.

    Hopefully 2011 will be better.


  4. Turd Ferguson

    A few scattered thoughts:

    1. I’m hesitant to form any conclusions about Grantham’s defense until (1) he’s got himself a big, powerful, and disruptive NT, and (2) the secondary has finished un-learning everything that Willie taught them. For now, I’ll say that I love the guy’s intensity and knowledge of the game. If he strikes gold on the recruiting trail this year, I expect 2011’s defense to look much, much better.

    2. The more I think about it, the more inclined I am to think that we need Justin Houston to come back every bit as much as we need A. J. Green … and perhaps more so.

    3. Have we talked about Grantham’s familiarity with spread-style offenses? I sort of got the sense this season that he was either learning, or re-learning, how to defend non-pro-style offenses … and doing so the hard way. Against teams like SC and Arkansas, our guys just didn’t do what they were clearly supposed to do (e.g., poor tackling, blowing coverages, etc.). But against Florida, Auburn, and Tech, it felt more like they weren’t even sure what they were supposed to be doing. Hopefully that changes next year, too.


    • MT

      I generally agree, although if you look back at all the Grantham-speak in the offseason, a lot was made of the fact that his version of the 3-4 DIDN’T need a hulking NT to be successful


      • WFdawg

        Right, this is what drives me crazy. Our expectations should have been honestly managed.


      • Spence

        What it does need is someone who is strong and can shoot through and draw double teams. Traditional 3-4 DTs are lane cloggers, but our scheme needs guys who can penetrate and outmuscle people. So, yes, we don’t need a 380lbs monster, but we do need someone who can demand attention and get through the gap.

        Would sure like to see Gathers develop into that.


    • gastr1

      Branden Smith needs to be relegated to special teams (if he can catch the ball). Certainly he can’t play defense.


  5. kckd

    Actually, they seemed to be pretty good at getting off the field in the redzone. For the wrong reasons though.


  6. Otto

    I can not see blame being palced on Grantham. The defense improved and was on par with year one of Saban at Bama.

    The offense however showed very marginal improvement and I see no reason to look for bigger gains next year. Points maybe up but dropped balls, fumbles, and not being able to produce a game winning clock killing drive is still a problem.


  7. jferg

    There is little doubt in my mind that we didn’t have the jimmie’s and joe’s to be uber-successful against the run–regardless of scheme. We were just a little light and/or a little young this year. Had we had 2009’s DL, I’d bet things looked a LOT better this year. Had we had the line we will have in 2011, I’d bet things looked a LOT better this year. My point being, the timing may have been perfect for the DC and scheme change will the loss of NFL caliber DL and young’uns replacing them. If my hypothesis is correct, and I think it’s close, 2011 will be better because of the maturity of the vast majority of our DL (regression to the mean upping the average tenure of the DL to as close to 4th year as possible–this year we averaged 3.0 in tenure years and we need to average closer to 3.75 to be successful imo).


  8. BCDawg97

    Is the downward trend in scoring for this year’s D the result of less turnovers and short fields by the previous years offenses?


  9. thewhiteshark

    Belin did a good job with the linebackers. I thought we had the best line backer play we’ve seen in years. I’ve heard some good things about Jones and Samuel playing for the scout team so next year we should be strong there. The down linemen just aren’t stout enough nor do I think we have enough that can play yet. We have some bigger bodies coming back in Anderson (losing him early hurt) and Geathers that will help. I don’t think conditioning is as big an issue as having enough guys who can rotate in and out — hopefully the Juco route can help with that. Against Auburn and Tech it would have helped immensely if we could have run more fresh guys in there. In the secondary Boykin played good (made a couple of great plays against Tech) although he did blow some assignments earlier in the year that led to some big gains.

    But in my humble opinion the thing that hurt the defense the most was the play of our safeties. I really thought with Rambo coming back and Hamilton coming back we would be stout — they were both busts. Bad safety play turns four yard gains into ten yard gains and ten yard gains into long gains. I expected them to have a learning curve with the defense but when I watch safeties that don’t want to hit and seem afraid to leave their feet a change needs to be made. I couldn’t help watching Sailors on special teams and thinking he’d be a better safety than either one of those guys. I think Ogletree will be a player so that’s encouraging.

    Hopefully Grantham will watch film and continue to adjust in the off season. I think he knows his stuff. His philosophy is based on confusing the quarterback but when facing the triple option the play is called and the quarterback is going to go through his reads. There’s just not much to confuse there. It’s man on man assignment football. They tweak, you tweak but that’s pretty much it. I still think Grantham was a good hire but he has a lot of work to do in the off season.


    • thewhiteshark

      meant to say Hamilton coming in …


    • King Jericho

      Pulling out Branden Smith for Hamilton during the Tech game was a really good move and showed me a lot from Grantham. Also, I think when we have two safeties that our corners can feel comfortable passing certain routes off to, you’re going to see more men covered down field and more time for our rushers to get pressure and force bad decisions. Right now it’s either the rushers get there quick or someone is open somewhere.

      And having a good, solid, anchoring line that can disrupt the run is going to help too. I honestly have seen and heard enough from Grantham to know he knows his stuff and I can trust that he’s truly limited at what he’s able to do with what he has. That and getting a refresher on the spread is going to help him this offseason just as much as the players.


    • Julie

      I think Lakatos should make Sailors his personal safety project for next year. The speed is there, the height is serviceable at 5’11”, and an economics major surely wouldn’t take long to coach up. Sailors is the MAN on special teams.


  10. Macallanlover

    I understand the call to be patient with CTG and our new defense, not like we have another choice, but I remain skeptical. I was greatly disappointed about the defense this year, not because of the traditional measurement of points scored, as I expected a more dynamic blitzing scheme to bring pressure and disrupt the offense. For some reason I expected blitzes from all angles and a swarming defense, boy was I wrong! Not blaming CTG for my ignorance, just saying when you are expecting a new laptop and get another calculator it’s hard to put on a smiley face.

    And I was especially disappointed with the defensive backs. We continued to provide soft cushions while getting beat deep, never have figured that out. We also continued our streak of falling for every single play fake and hitch and go pattern called.

    CTG certainly has the sideline demeanor UGA fans crave, and says all the right things in interviews, but 2010 was no improvement to me on defense. In fact, I feel it was the worst defense of my time as a UGA fan (not statistically, but in making a stop, or a big play at critical time. The stop on GT at the end could qualify as a “critical time” but come on, it was GT needing to pass their way down the field with zero timeouts. Can you really count that?)


  11. W Cobb Dawg

    Along with everyone else, I had high hopes for CTG. What concerns me most was the lack of push on the D line. Tyson, Jones, Geathers, Lott & Wood were highly ranked recruits and could have gone to any top football school in the nation. As many others have already said, we’re not very strong or tough in the trenches. This is a desperate need for the Dawgs recruiting, and the returnees need to gain some muscle.

    At OLB, C. Washington may be fast, but strength is a big problem. At ILB, C. Robinson is undersized and often gets pushed around. Dawgs need LBs almost as desperately as they need D linemen, particularly if Houston leaves early.

    The Dawgs need muscle. I’d hate to see a finesse approach to D, like we’re stuck with on offense.


  12. Greg

    There is two reasons the defense “reversed” the points per game scoring trend, going from 25.9 points per game in 23.1 points per game in 2010. Neither of those reasons had anything to do with improvement in this year’s defense. The two reasons were the schedule and the offense’s reduced propensity to turn it over, particularly deep in our own territory. Look at Murray’s interception total versus Joe Cox. As for the schedule, we substituted Louisiana-Lafayette for Oklahoma State and Miss State for LSU. We had a pathetic home schedule besides Arkansas…and they scored 30+ on us and that’s what we gave up on average away from Athens.

    I’d like to think our D is heading in the right direction, but won’t believe it until I actually see it.


  13. LCDAWG

    Richt needs to move Branden Smith over to Offense FT. He can’t stop anybody on D and his ST fumbles are terrible.


  14. 69Dawg

    Unfortunately the D coaches are hampered by players who are not the sharpest blades in the package. The 3-4 is a thinking man’s D and if your players are not smart then you have a large hole in the D. Our DB’s for the most part are still incapable of playing their assignments. A quality QB that can make even the slightest fake can freeze our DB’s. Our LB’s can’t grasp that they need to at least pay a little attention to the TE’s and RB’s out of the back field. Bump them do something to disrupt their routes. If I’m the opposing OC I run the Wheel Route until UGA stops it. Twenty hours a week is not enough time to teach the 3-4 and I’m still of the opinion that in college the D needs to be kept as simple as possible. TCU has the perfect D in that regard.


  15. aious

    We had players last year say that they did not go to all meetings, players that got KILLED physically, and wide-open opponents in big moments


  16. Junkyard

    What troubles me about the decrease in average points scored by opponents is that this stat is skewed by our performance against the Little Sisters of the Poor. This year, we shut out Vandy, held ULL to 7, held Idaho State to 7, and held Tennessee to 14. This dramatically improves the points scored average.

    Perhaps I’m wrong in that we didn’t have four such games in recent years, but the only one I recall where we really stopped anyone last year was Tenn Tech.

    Certainly, its good to play good defense in those games. We finally got the “blow outs” that fans have been calling for. However, I personally did not feel that the defense played any better in taking on teams with a good offense. So, I can’t really give credence to the reduction in points against, given the four pancakes included in the average.

    In retrospect, our best games on defense may have been USC or Arky. They shredded us, but we did hold them to point totals which, if the offense had produced as they did later in the season, we could have won. However, it seems as though with the offensive improvement as the season went on, the defense went in the other direction.

    Having two weeks to prepare and allowing almost 500 yards to a team is unacceptable. Some years the triple option is admittedly extremely difficult to defend. This year, with no passing threat, and much more pedestrian blocking, they rang us up again. We are talking about a team that Clemson and Miami pretty much shut down.

    I think the watershed game where people decided Willie should go was the 2008 Tech game where they ran all over us. I didn’t see much improvement on Saturday.