Defensive line thoughts

Seth Emerson touches on something that deserves more attention as we try to evaluate the defense’s chances this season:

5. Front seven: Rotate like crazy up front, but not in the back

Defensive line coach Chris Wilson has a lot of unproven but intriguing options, and he’s vowed to use them. In fact, he refuses to categorize guys as nose tackles or end. He also may have more than just three spots available, if Todd Grantham emphasizes playing a 4-2-5. So it’s a sound strategy to go six, seven, eight deep on the line, whatever it takes.

Absolutely!  I think… okay, more accurately, I hope that some of the problems Georgia had defending the run last season were depth-related on the line and that committing to a rotation this season will help offset the departure of so many defensive starters.  I don’t know how much of what we saw last year was related to Abry Jones’ going out for much of the year and how much was due to Garner’s idea of who should play and how much, but it was clear to me that Jenkins and Geathers weren’t suited to be on the field for as many plays as they were deployed in the second half of the season.

I was encouraged by what I saw out of the linemen at this past G-Day.  There’s more talent than I expected and if Wilson can really fashion a decent rotation of players that keeps them fresh throughout a game, the defense may surprise us by turning out to be more stout against the run than anticipated.  It’s definitely one of the big things to watch in the opener.


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25 responses to “Defensive line thoughts

  1. Gravidy

    This is going to sound snarky, but it isn’t meant to be.

    I’ve never understood how, in this situation or in general, a team which supposedly didn’t have much productive depth at a position last year will have considerably more productive depth at that position this year. The simple fact of the matter is that the only players they have available this year are the ones they thought couldn’t play last year plus some newcomers who’ve never played in the system. I would feel differently if there were a couple of productive players coming back from injury, but there aren’t.

    That means we either think the leftovers have all markedly improved over last year (without much game experience to help that process) and that several of the newbies will be contributors along the DL in the SEC (not terribly likely). Or it means we are hoping the leftovers were good enough to play last year even though Garner thought they weren’t. Which is it?

    • Kids get misused all the time. Anybody think Geno Atkins would excel as he has in the NFL based on his time at Georgia? And some players do get better from season to season. Even at Georgia.😉

      I think it’s clear that Garner convinced himself that a Jenkins or Geathers functioning at 60% of his best due to being tired was a better option than rested backups. Maybe he was right. But maybe he wasn’t. Or maybe it turns out that Wilson is a better evaluator at game time than Garner was.

      My point here isn’t so much that it’s guaranteed the defense will be improved – I’m having too a hard time getting over Jarvis’ departure to say that – but that perhaps there are steps the coaches can take to offset the losses.

      • Gravidy

        My “which is it?” question was mostly rhetorical. I think if the DL is to be a dependable unit this season, it will be mostly because the leftovers carry the load. And if that is the case, I think it will be mostly because Garner underestimated them last year. And if there is any real depth, it will be mostly because some of the newcomers are SEC ready.

        I’m not saying it can’t happen. I certainly hope it does. I’m just saying it is a long string of dominoes to fall.

        • gastr1

          There have been rumors of Garner having favorites and improperly deploying players. There have also been rumors that Grantham didn’t much care for whatever Garner was doing. When it gets down to it coaches do mis-deploy their rosters on occasion.

        • 69Dawg

          I’m sorry but CRG was as long as he was at UGA a non-factor as far as coaching was concerned. He had some of the most talented players to ever play at UGA and for the most part got only a marginal effort out of them. If Coach Wilson can just get good effort and not have his favorites he will be ahead of Rodney.

      • IveyLeaguer

        I think it’s been a mix of all that. Some of it was inadequate depth. Part of it was some of our guys were inadequate condition.

        A LOT of it, IMO, was Garner . It was almost impossible to stay out of his doghouse for a whole career. Geno is a prime example, he was in and out, and I suspect Garner used playing time for his own purposes. Garner did some very good things with his guys, but overall I think he hurt us, in terms of DL production.

        Like you, I was encouraged by the Spring. For the most part, our DL look to be in the best shape in many years. And they’re all getting reps. I’ll be sorely disappointed if we can’t finally get a rotation going this year. The LB’s, especially the MLB’s, come into play, too. And they’re also looking good, IMO.

        As you said, it won’t guarantee a good defense. But a solid front will sure give us a chance to have one.

    • Macallanlover

      Something tells me we will miss Rodney much less than many expect. Not against strong discipline in general but I don’t recall a time his doghouse was ever empty. He may have overused the stick and kept players off the field when we had a need for more players on the field. That type of environment can have negative consequences, especially with young, developing athletes. As the Senator says, we will never know. Part of my defensive optimism is increased productivity on the defensive line with more mobile, and motivated, athletes. I like all 5 of Seth’s points in his article.

      • Mayor of Dawgtown

        +1. I always felt that Garner playing favorites and keeping people out of the game that needed to be IN the game as punishment was a net negative for the program. If a kid needs punishment then punish him. If you keep a needed player out of the game who’s really getting punished?

      • Hackerdog

        I think Garner’s primary value to the program was as a recruiter. As such, I don’t know that we’ve replaced him. As far as the D-Line, I think Wilson can probably be at least as good as Garner was at managing the roster and teaching the position.

        • Macallanlover

          I agree, Garner was critical in the years just before CMR came, and even more so as the new staff was assembled and taking their place in the early 00s. I think Richt realized he had to get others up to speed with HS coaches in the event we lost Garner. As RG began extorting the program, annually, as he was courted by other schools, this broadening of the recruiting reach was accelerated. IMO, we have been self-sufficient now for a few years so I don’t expect much fall off in recruiting with him gone.

          I am hopeful we see better utilization of our DL talent under Wilson, and earlier development. Particularly I hope we don’t see down linemen used as space blockers any longer and see some penetration. I may be wrong about why, but it didn’t seem to take long for ex-UGA defensive linemen to show marked improvement in the NFL….lot of coincidences that all point in the same direction. Fingers crossed for a new beginning.

  2. ScoutDawg

    I think that the greatest signing in last years class will turn out to be CHRIS WILSON. With all due respect to CRG, damn it was time for a change.

  3. I get being optimistic about the front 7 (I’m very much in that category), but I can’t shake the thought of not having Jones getting home. Jenkins and Deloach might be good (or better than good), but I worry about not being able to consistently get pressure. Not sacks, mind you, but pressure. The back 4-5 will need that from jump street.

    • IveyLeaguer

      That’s a big concern, IMO. Jarvis just made so many plays .. forced turnovers, sacks .. all kinds of plays that kept us in games we might not have been able to hold onto. And his play was contagious.

      We can’t expect anybody to replace Jarvis. But several guys will have to step up, because we’re going to have find a way to replace that production.

      • Love your line about his play being contagious. So true. I hope Jenkins and Herrera (whom I’m still a bit skeptical of) can lead the defense like Jarvis did. Be that inspiration to perform.

        • IveyLeaguer

          Yeah I agree, and to some extent, Swann. I think Herrera is/will be a good leader. The only thing about Herrera I worry about is his lateral movement, and ability to cover and make plays in space.

  4. uglydawg

    There is a lot of difference in a sophmore and a junior and esp. a senior. Kids that may have been on the cusp of playing last year will have benefited and grown from being in the system (on the team). It’s a rare player that is ready to play the day he checks into campus…for most, it’s a growing process and each year brings more maturity and improvement.

    • uglydawg

      and I know that’s stateing the obvious…but the pont is that just because a kid wasn’t ready last year doesn’t mean he won’t be an excellent player this year.

  5. W Cobb Dawg

    Wilson has a good excuse no matter how the DL performs. If they do well, he can say its due to his coaching. If they do poorly, he can say its due to RG’s recruiting. I think we’ll be okay and I like the way the depth is shaping up.

  6. WillTrane

    Sad days in southwest Georgia due to the deaths of the three young men in Brooks County from SUV wreck yesterday. Football players. Brooks County has outstanding players and coaches. Lower classification, but their line play is as good as it gets.

  7. Camerashy

    Anyone know how Wilson’s rotating dline at Miss St did against the run last year? I heard he got fired for finishing last in the SEC against the run. Is this true?

    • IveyLeaguer

      I forgot the story but I don’t think he was fired. And FWIW, MSU finished 11th in run defense last year, one spot ahead of Georgia.

      I believe Wilson is a really good coach. You can’t really go by any of that stuff, one way or the other.