One thing that struck me about Todd Grantham very early on after his hire is that he has very definite ideas about what he wants his defense to be able to do. And about what he wants his players to do in the framework of that defense. So I wasn’t too surprised listening to his thoughts about some of the key personnel decisions announced yesterday.
… The most notable move revealed was Ogletree.
The 6-foot-3, 224-pound Newnan native started four games at safety last year as the Bulldogs’ highest-profile true freshman.
“He’s a tall guy, he’s got good size, he can run, he can hit, he’s physical,” defensive coordinator Todd Grantham said Thursday when the move was announced. “I feel like moving him closer to the ball is going to allow him to make more plays and be productive for us.”
Ogletree tied for 10th in the team in tackles with 34 last season, including 10 against Auburn, but he was also beaten twice in coverage for touchdowns in that game.
“Just watching the way he runs, he closes on people,” Grantham said, “the way he can blitz, I think he can be a unique player at that position.
… Grantham says he’s also excited about the move because it allows Jarvis Jones to play outside linebacker. Jones worked at inside linebacker during bowl practices, but which linebacker spot he would man was uncertain.
The moves get Ogletree and Jones “around the action a little bit more,” Grantham said.
Jones sat out last season after transferring from Southern California.
“I think it will free up Jarvis to really be aggressive,” Grantham said. “It’s going to allow him to be really productive. It gives us flexibility because he can cover tight ends, he can cover backs. That will be something we can add to what we do.”
What should we take from all of what we heard yesterday? Well, since you asked, it’s all about speed and aggressiveness, but what defensive coordinator doesn’t have those as goals? More particularly, here are a few guesses on my part:
- Grantham is all in on John Jenkins. Georgia is going to deploy one fast group of linebackers this season, but it’s going to be a smaller bunch than last year’s corps. Grantham is banking on Jenkins’ ability to engage multiple blockers on opposing offenses to keep his linebackers free to close and make plays unimpeded. If it works, there will be little question that the new nose tackle will be Georgia’s 2011 defensive MVP. If it doesn’t, it’s going to be a long hot seat year in Athens.
- Linebacking is where the action is. Jenkins will be the linchpin, but Grantham made these moves looking for more juice from the middle of the defense. “You’ve still gotta be able to manufacture a pass rush and have guys that make plays at outside backers,” Grantham said. “And I think what we’ve done is we’ve moved two guys that can make plays closer to the ball. Kind of around the action a bit more. So I’m excited by that.” That’s all good, but I’ll feel better about that the first time I see one of them competently defend the wheel route.
- The coaches really like the new recruits in the secondary. Mixed into the discussion yesterday was news that Jakar Hamilton’s move to cornerback was over. Maybe I’m reading too much into that, but to me that reinforces Lakatos’ seriousness about playing cornerbacks with size who can mix it up in press coverage. That bodes well for Boykin and Commings, but I think he intends to build depth with the new kids, who, remember, are a distinct departure physically from the smurfs that Martinez preferred. And given that it’s not like Hamilton’s had an opportunity since the end of last season to show his game has improved at safety since he lost his starter’s spot to Ogletree, the message there would seem to be that after Rambo the safety slots are wide open. All of that’s telling me that we’re going to see more freshmen play in the defensive backfield than originally anticipated.