“The only problem with this plan was that Georgia was terrible at it.”

Yesterday, I gave you a tasty, refreshing beverage to consume.  Today, you get something a little harder to swallow and go down.

SBNation’s Ian Boyd asks a simple question about Georgia’s change at defensive coordinator:

Contrasting Georgia’s and FSU’s seasons gives the impression that Richt has stumbled upon a substantial upgrade. Is that actually the case?

The answer isn’t nearly as straightforward as you might expect.

The puzzle for me is that whatever shortcomings you want to lay at Grantham’s feet, nobody’s ever accused him of not knowing his Xs and Os.  He’s a sharp guy who came highly recommended when Richt hired him, and even if Petrino had to overpay to entice him to Louisville, the fact is that despite underwhelming defenses in Athens, he’s still in demand.  So how to explain why the 2013 Georgia defense often looked like it couldn’t get out of its own way?  Was it scheme?

Man coverage was key for the Dawgs all season. It allowed them to stay simple on defense, with straightforward tasks for their defensive backfield behind myriad different fronts. This put a lot on the linebackers to cover ground playing the edge against the run or helping in the flats against screens. It also put a lot on the line and inside linebackers to hold with only five in the box…

Because of their overall athleticism and size up front, this was actually a viable strategy for the Dawgs and allowed them to pursue a strategy with keep-’em-in-front principles on defense. They would rely on the line and outside linebackers inflicting negative plays on an offense to kill drives.

If not scheme, then, where did the fault lie?

The Bulldogs ranked only 36th in passing S&P+ and 44th on passing downs despite having multiple strong pass-rushers, safeties deep, and simple man coverages. They were rarely beat by better athletes but by their own terrible techniques and blown assignments.

Either Grantham’s charges were inattentive and sloppy, or he was a poor teacher and motivator, because this unit put some terrible football on tape. The overall rankings of Grantham’s defenses over the last four years point to a pattern of underachievement…

I think Grantham was a better motivator than the man he replaced, but I recognize that’s damning the man with faint praise.  So was the teacher not up to par, or was it his students who let him down?  Obviously, we’d better hope it was the former.  But if it’s more a case of the latter, then Jeremy Pruitt’s got his work cut out for him.

But can Pruitt develop players that have been coached by Grantham into savvy, intelligent players, like the ones he coached at Florida State? Can Pruitt develop a defensive program to churn out the kind of results that Saban and Fisher saw in their respective systems?

The Georgia front is loaded with big, athletic playmakers who should feel at home in Pruitt’s hybrid fronts, which aren’t terribly different from what Grantham utilized. The challenge will be in playing the kind of aggressive coverages the ‘Noles used to destroy passing attacks without FSU’s defensive backs. Is Georgia’s secondary a few helpful offseason lessons away from erasing SEC teams with press coverage? Or will the roster take time to develop to that level?

There’s the $64,000 question for you.


Filed under Georgia Football, Strategery And Mechanics

59 responses to ““The only problem with this plan was that Georgia was terrible at it.”

  1. Guys almost always come from the league with strong recommendations. I’m not saying Grantham doesn’t have a great mind for Xs and Os, but there’s a lot more to it than just understanding schemes. And I’m not just talking about teaching; there is a talent with being able to break down complicated things in simple parts (I’m a software developer; I understand this very well). Grantham has never presided over a pro defense that was worth mentioning. Yes, it was Cleveland (the city where talent never goes in abundance). But for all the talk that Grantham is great at that stuff there is no evidence. Doesn’t mean he’s not, could be that it was lack of talent in Cleveland and people who couldn’t grok the stuff/first time dealing with college kids at UGA.

    But I have a hard time believing it was just that. We’ll get more evidence either way the next few years, no question.

  2. Ol Dawg

    This tends to scare me, if the DB play will tell the tale of our defense.

  3. Hogbody Spradlin

    If all they do this year is improve the tackling to ‘average’ for the entire defense, that will be a difference maker.

    • Russ

      I agree. The bar isn’t set very high. It won’t be hard to improve some.

      • Spence

        I don’t really think we missed a ton of tackles last year. We just weren’t there to make them. Assignments and coverage were the issues.

        • William

          I beg to differ on that point. I recall Sammy Watkins taking a short pass play the distance because he blew some easy tackles. I recall the same happening in games against Mizzou and Auburn, and I’m sure I could go back and find others. to be sure, our assignments and coverages were at fault as well. But even when we were there, the tackle wasn’t a given.

  4. JN

    I don’t know if this was the case with Grantham or not. I did wonder about it some the past two seasons, though.

    I interviewed for what ended up being my 2nd job after college a little over a year after I graduated. Near the end of the interview I met the GM of the company. Tall good looking guy, deep voice, distinguished, salt & pepper hair, the whole nine yards. He was the epitome of what a successful business man is supposed to be like. I couldn’t have been more impressed with him. Well, three months later I thought the guy was an absolute baffoon, as did most everyone else. Needless to say, he was “allowed to resign” about 18 months after taking the job.

    I often wonder if Grantham is the same way. Comes across great at first, but simply doesn’t have it once you get down to the day to day, nitty gritty, unfun stuff.

  5. TennesseeDawg

    Some of our players on defense come across as sloppy, lazy and immature (i.e. acting as the Nick Marshall fan club at the end of last season). I tend to think Grantham could only do so much to overcome this. Now we witness the numbskullery from last week as yet another example.

    • Bulldog Joe

      We have not fixed the culture within our program that tolerates it.

      There is no fear of reprisal for this type of behavior. Only a few days off while on scholarship until the third offense sends you packing.

      By that time, the damage to the team has already been done.

      • I agree with you and Tennessee that there’s is a problem with the culture that has not yet been addressed. I’ve written a lot about it, starting around October, 2008. More later.

  6. I took a class once that I thought I’d never make it out of. The professor was tops in his field. Had the most research money and highly regarded.
    Brilliant man. His class sucked. The man was a terrible teacher. He knew his material but he certainly couldn’t explain it.

    a person who teaches and trains an athlete or performer

    a person who teaches and trains the members of a sports team and makes decisions about how the team plays during games

    a private teacher who gives someone lessons in a particular subject

  7. Noonan

    I have to wonder if JHC and Matthews are coachable.

    • Mayor of Dawgtown

      Well, Nick Marshall turned out to be–why not them?

      • Bulldog Joe

        See my culture statement above. Same thing with Mettenberger.

        • Mayor of Dawgtown

          FWIW BJ I agree with you. This has been allowed to continue for way too long because of our stupid disciplinary system. Don’t sit kids down from games as punishment. That just punishes the team, the school, the alums, the fans, etc. Run ’em ’til their tongues drag the ground and then run ’em some more–first cousin to corporal punishment which is the only thing that really gets the attention of teenage males anyway. If the violation is bad enough (like stealing), kick ’em out THE FIRST TIME! That gets rid of the truly bad apples quickly so they don’t contaminate the rest of the team.

          • Mayor of Dawgtown

            P.S. This is what you get when you have a disciplinary system for athletic teams that was designed by a guy who never wore a jockstrap before, except possibly on his head while he was drunk at a party.

        • charlottedawg

          I have a better solution, recruit and develop some depth. It certainly can’t hurt from a motivation standpoint. if you’re the starter and you know that the guy behind you is a 4 or 5 star prospect who would start at other schools and WILL start at your school if you screw up on or off the field, you’re probably going to work a little harder to keep your job. At the very least we don’t see a situation like this year’s safeties where the starters aren’t even really that great, starter gets suspended, and your second string is a former walk on who promptly gets burned by Sammy Watkins.

  8. DawgPhan

    I am guessing that at least some of the switch to coaches closer to high school level is thanks to some of the lack of instruction from last year’s staff.

    Isnt this basically what everyone has always said about UGA thought? Great players, but not coached up.

  9. charlottedawg

    I’m sorry but if we learned anything from the Willie Martinez days, it’s that the line of “i have brilliant schemes these numbskull kids just can’t execute them” is total bull. Also, let’s keep in mind that Bobby Petrino just shelled out over a million dollars asking Todd to do something he’s never been able to achieve as a DC: put an elite defense on the field.

    Will we go from can’t line up to the next coming of the steel curtain overnight? Probably not. But I have a hard time believing we just happened to recruit all the 4 and 5 star defensive prospects that are just beyond stupid and could never be coached up to play with sound fundamentals every down and execute as a unit. (jokes about this week’s current events aside). If Pruitt truly is a great Defensive Coordinator you will see improvement, not overnight but soon enough. Recruiting talent has never been an issue at Georgia, coaching unfortunately has.

    • Mayor of Dawgtown

      Insightful post, CD.

      • BMan

        I tend to agree. The one thing that stuck out to me from an interview I saw Pruitt give was him saying, “it’s not about how much the coaches know, it’s how much the players know.” If the greatest schemes can’t be learned by the players, then they aren’t as valuable. I don’t think Bama or FSU or LSU or any other team has DBs that are noticeably smarter than ours (with Myron Rolle being an obvious exception). But seeing the same hand waving in the bowl game as we saw in game one was inexcusable. And the miscommunication that leads to a 99 yard TD, despite the hand waving, should be able to be corrected pretty fast. If it’s not, then we have the wrong guy (and I think we’ve got the right guy). Because the players we recruit aren’t going to suddenly start getting smarter.

        • Bulldog Joe

          They also have to be motivated to learn and execute.

          Fear is a great motivator. We had it for a short period of time with Van Gorder.

          Pruitt will need to bring the fear factor and demand the authority to assign extra individual player work where needed.

          If not, we will be having the same discussion next season.

          • Hank

            Fear is not really that good of a motivator. Short term results at best. Turns to resentment pretty fast. Lack of fear, I grant you is a nightmare.

    • Good post, CD. It’s likely we have a few bad apples on defense, guys we should never have recruited. And we have a few who are something less than the athlete/player we needed. We certainly don’t have the defensive talent of Alabama or FSU.

      If Pruitt truly is a great Defensive Coordinator you will see improvement, not overnight but soon enough.

      Exactly. The talent level, though not ideal and perhaps something short of what it should be, has been sufficient, good enough to win with. The problem has been the teaching, i.e., the coaching.

      The article demonstrates a few examples of that, mistakes that most fans don’t see. Not to pick on Herrera, but I’m glad several examples exposed him a little, so everybody could see. Because we know Herrera has no character issues, his work ethic is good, and he’s a DGD. Plus, he was an experienced player last year.

      Whether Herrera is smart enough to handle his position, IDK. But I suspect he is. What I do know, from the film, is that the only positions on the defense that were sufficiently coached last year were the down linemen. For the most part, they seemed to know what they were doing and, overall, were motivated and coached.

      So yeah, if Pruitt is a great DC, we won’t have those problems anymore. A few growing pains, maybe. But solid play will soon appear, something we haven’t seen since the VanGorder days.

      And for extra fun, the talent level will improve as well. One of the benefits that comes with a great DC is his ability to evaluate players. He’s not going to miss on many guys. And with a recruiter like Pruitt, that pays big dividends.

  10. I Wanna Red Cup

    With the inability of our LB to cover crossing patterns and shut down the option, how is it that no one else ever played? I think we have some DBs that have talent. Everyone wanted them out of HS. I have come to the belief that CTG just did not teach well.

  11. paul

    Like any other coach at any level, Pruitt has to be given time to put his players on the field. Dramatic improvement overnight is not likely. Some improvement? I think we will see that. For starters, I’d just like to see our guys act like they know where they’re supposed to line up.

  12. Normaltown Mike

    Grantham: OK boys, I want you in a Dakota 34 rifle set and then shift to Hawk when the ball is snapped

    LB’s: huh?

  13. Towel Boy from Louvulle

    ” Grantham had the right idea. He just couldn’t get his players to make it work.”

  14. Spence

    So two years ago when Herrera was a sophomore, he was clearly a special talent but he couldn’t get C-Rob off the field. It was said then that there were concerns about his ability to call a defense. I don’t know if that was true then or if it still holds, but I worried about it last year when he took the reins. He’s a physical beast, but does he have the intuition and scheme knowledge to anchor the middle of the defense? I’d pose the same question for Ramik.

    • IDK the answer. But I don’t think Pruitt will settle for a player at any position who isn’t smart enough to handle it, especially one like the Mike.

      You may end up with, say, a corner who’s athletic enough but not very bright, and you go with him because you don’t have a smart-enough athlete available. So you make do until you can go get the one you need.

      I think that’s true about all the positions. So the question is, where will our weak spots be? At what spots will we have athleticism, but not the smart we want? Where will we have smarts, but perhaps not quite enough athlete? Is there a spot or two where we have to give up a little of both?

      Pruitt is looking for those answers right now. The nice thing is at least we know, at some point this year, we’re going to get to see what we really have.

      And that is certainly a nice change.

  15. Krautdawg

    Who knows? There are a million little things that go into making or breaking a team effort. I’d like to think that “Grantham just can’t coach” and “our players are just too dumb” are too simplistic as explanations.

    My own experience makes me think that the players knew the scheme all right, but it wasn’t a habit yet. As a result, you saw players thinking instead of reacting, which leads to big mistakes.

    But even this doesn’t say much more. It takes a good coach & attentive players to form the habits that generate the right split-second reactions. Let’s hope we’ve now got both & whatever was standing between Grantham & the players is gone.

    • Sh3rl0ck

      ^^^ This.

      It is the same problem that Willie had. Willie and Grantham both know they X’s and O’s. Both of thier probelms were giving the guys too many pre-snap reads and post-snap keys. Having to think delays your reaction time and negates any speed advantage you might have had. This is exactly why we saw so may poor angles taken to the ball.

      Though, Willie’s coverage calls required being able to rush the passer with four linemen.

      • Mayor of Dawgtown

        The converse of this is what Auburn does on O. They run about 5 plays over and over with options off the reads that the QB and other players make. That is, in large part, why they were so successful. They kept it simple.

    • It takes a good coach & attentive players to form the habits that generate the right split-second reactions.

      You right, in that it’s never that simplistic. But it’s also true it all works together, a synergistic effect. Everything from knowing the plan to teaching the fundamentals, to off-the-field work ethic to recruiting, etc., on and on she goes.

      Let’s hope we’ve now got both & whatever was standing between Grantham & the players is gone.

      Interesting analogy. It did seem that way, didn’t it? Yeah, when it’s right it won’t seem that way. Further, the synergistic outcome, mentioned above, affects the whole team, either positively or negatively.

  16. W Cobb Dawg

    CTG may have come highly recommended, but he certainly doesn’t deserve the “sharp guy” moniker based on achievement. He had nfl-level players at many positions and the results were disappointing. He’s nothing more than an average coach, as we’ve clearly seen.

    If last year’s DBs weren’t good enough, CTG has nobody to blame but himself because they were signed under his watch, and the DB coach Lakatos was CTG’s first hire. Matthews, JHC, Swann, Langley, Wiggins – all 4 star (or more) recruits – and none of them can be coached!? No, it’s not the players.

    Of course CJP will do better. He’ll be replacing the ‘sharp guy’ who had the worst D in UGA history.

    • Cojones

      What was worse was Grantham using excuses that impugned players’s abilities and stamina. On close examination, his excuses didn’t hold up. Frankly, I thought his leaving was an admission that he couldn’t do better this year and he knew the axe would fall.

      The pitiful part was the excuses made by his fans who thought better sport would be bringing Bobo down as the reason for Grantham’s lack of success. That anyone could dig up that kind of reasoning about the greatest O we have ever enjoyed is what’s scary!

      • “That anyone could dig up that kind of reasoning about the greatest O we have ever enjoyed is what’s scary!”

        Ding Dong the Bobo haz a Crayon meme is dead…
        “Ding Dong! The Meme is dead. Which old Meme? The Wicked Meme!
        Ding Dong! The Wicked Meme is dead.
        Wake up – sleepy head, rub your eyes, get out of bed.
        Wake up, the Wicked Meme is dead. It’s gone where the goblins go,
        Below – below – below. Yo-ho, let’s open up and sing and ring the bells out.
        Ding Dong’ the merry-oh, sing it high, sing it low.
        Let them know
        The Wicked Meme is dead!

        I’m sure I made some new friends amongst the Eeyore Dawgs.
        Bobo has an I-Pad

    • Of course CJP will do better. He’ll be replacing the ‘sharp guy’ who had the worst D in UGA history.

      I agree.

  17. Bright Idea

    I bet at some point Grantham will be better at Louisville than he was at UGA and Pruitt will be better than Grantham. How long is the big question.

  18. well frankly, I think the largest improvement needed is in two key spots. On 3rd and 12 you could always bet they were going to drag someone across Ramik WIlson’s face and connect for 13… we could almost just forfeit that play. On 3rd and 2… we usually got off the field. Our safeties and corners were prone to go braindead at the worst moment (IE: Auburn) but that’s teachable. Getting a better player in coverage on 3rd down is imperative. Either CTG didn’t see what we saw, or thought he didn’t have the player that was better than Wilson in that situation.

    • Krautdawg

      I hear you, but that one isn’t totally on Ramik. TE or WR vs. linebacker almost always goes to the TE/WR, unless you’ve got Alec Ogletree’s speed over the middle. This is a matchup problem for anyone, and it’s one that Grantham’s had problems with since 2010. Remember the Boise game in 2011? TE drags were Boise’s entire second half. Same with the Tennessee game that year.

      Don’t know how to solve it, mind you.

      • no it’s not his fault per se’… if you can’t do it you can’t do it. It’s the coaches fault for leaving him in that position and not having a suitable answer for it. How do you solve it? Watch better teams never let the guy off the line clean. You have a contact period where you’re free to interrupt the route… use it. Jam the route with one two or three guys as the route progresses. A TE that is jammed relentlessly by a DE expecting what is coming, then finally gets passed the DE only to see the ILB ready to square him up. Route is off schedule, timing is now bad and the backside OLB is approaching the QB, QB rushes and dumps the ball away. Punter comes out.

        Our way: clean release, easy route, pitch and catch and outrun the ILB to the edge. First down the bad guys. It’s one thing to be beat once in a while here and there, but to become as predictable as we did over the last few years is bad coaching and playing but it’s 99.9% on the coaching in that situation.

        Know your personnel, coach to your strengths and camouflage your weaknesses.

        • Cojones

          Predictable is correct. I’ll bet Pruitt only lets it happen once before jamming like a Sat nite band out of control. Yeah, the opponent may get away with it once in a while, but we won’t have to just wait on their big play for td off that same play like we have in the past. It had to be excruciatingly painful to many fans who know this game and coaching better than I do.

  19. Macallanlover

    I thought all UGA fans thought we just needed someone to jump and down and curse loudly to be a successful coach. CTG could look like an out of control fool of with the best of them, don’t know how that failed. Perhaps he should have grown a porn stache.

  20. Scorpio Jones, III

    All I know for sure is our defense generally sucked, compared to the better defenses in the SEC. Most of the folks here, who obviously know a great deal more than I do, seem to think most of the problem is bad plays by bad players. I don’t understand, for instance, how Damien Swann ever got a scholarship to Georgia in the first place, as bad folks as some here think he is.

    My advice to the coaching staff: We had inconsistent defense last year…fix it.

    • I don’t understand, for instance, how Damien Swann ever got a scholarship to Georgia in the first place, as bad folks as some here think he is.

      To me, it’s more a question of the influences Swann has been under since he got here.

      Up to this point, he seems to have developed the wrong mentality. But what was Swann like when he first stepped foot on campus? What would he be like now Pruitt had been here then? It could be that Swann is just a bad apple. But I suspect he’d be a totally different player, and somewhat of a different person, had the culture on defense been different when he arrived.

      I hope I’m right about that. Because making the coaching staff whole and fixing the defense has the potential to clean up a LOT of problems. Both on and off the field.

      • Swann isn’t a bad apple. His biggest problem last season was that he played with safeties he didn’t trust. His second biggest problem last season was that his defensive coordinator deployed Josh Harvey-Clemons much of the time in the position that Swann is better suited for.

        • Yeah, I think it was those things and many more things like them.

          I also think the overall culture around the defense, which improved somewhat under Grantham, still isn’t near where it needs to be. And that has negatively affected Swann, as it has many others, on and off the field.

          IMO, that has to be fixed before we can have consistent success. But the fix is a byproduct of doing a lot of other things right, including those we’ve mentioned. It’ll happen if Pruitt is the real deal. It’s definitely a top-down solution.

        • Mayor of Dawgtown

          Yep. I’m SO glad Grantham is gone.

  21. PTC DAWG

    In PPG allowed, I don’t see how we could get much worse amongst our peers in the SEC.

  22. Rebar

    What was so frustrating to me last year was that the defense, to me, actually played well on 1st & 2nd down, just to give up big third downs. I’m hoping that gets fixed this year. Best way to beat a spread team is to make ’em punt.

    • Dawgfan Will

      This. When, as a fan, you worry more about 3rd and 15 than 1st and 10, well, that’s something that needs to be fixed.

  23. 1960dawg

    the problem is still there…. Mark Richt…. I don’t care who you bring in as long as he is the head coach…

  24. 69Dawg

    I didn’t read all the comments but I think there are two or three reasons our D failed last year. CTG was a pro coach and pro coaches only substitute if the scheme calls for it. If we were truly running the scheme the writer says we were then that is why there was so little substitution except by the D line. If any of you out there have teenagers you know that ADD is not just a clinical problem it is the usual problem for them. Once our players found out that they were not the starters, they lost interest. Hey this isn’t Alabama Richt is not going to pull scholarships so what does it matter. Sloppy begat sloppy. The last thing was CTG liked to yell and early on it seemed to work but the other trait of teens is the water off a duck’s back reaction to being yelled at over and over. I think CTG basically lost the team, maybe not the first stringers but the backups and sloppy is catching. Having been in the army I found only two types of leaders, those that lead by fear ie Patton and those that lead because their men would follow them anywhere ie. Erk. Now CTG sure wasn’t Erk. The problem with the fear leaders is they have to have something to keep the troops afraid. Assistant coaches can’t do anything but physical fitness or playing time reduction. The kids are not going to loose the scholarship. For good or bad that’s the difference between us and them Alabama.

    • AthensHomerDawg

      “If any of you out there have teenagers you know that ADD is not just a clinical problem it is the usual problem for them.” Whoa! You and I had different teens.