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.