Kirby Smart’s been studying last year’s tapes and makes an interesting outsider’s observation about Georgia’s 2015 pass defense.
On Monday night speaking before the Macon Touchdown Club, he went the other direction when discussing Georgia’s defense. The unit ranked seventh in the nation in total defense and eighth in scoring defense.
“These guys played good last year, they played hard I thought last year,” Smart said. “They were very competitive.”
That doesn’t mean there isn’t work to do especially with the defensive line losing starters Sterling Bailey and Chris Mayes and outside linebackers Leonard Floyd and Jordan Jenkins taking much of Georgia’s pass rushing production with them to the NFL.
Georgia ranked tops in the nation in pass defense, allowing 156.5 yards per game. It didn’t hurt that Georgia ended the regular season with run-heavy Auburn and triple-option teams Georgia Southern and Georgia Tech.
“A lot of the secondary is back,” Smart said of a group that returns safeties Dominick Sanders and Quincy Mauger and cornerbacks Malkom Parrish, Aaron Davis and Rico McGraw. “They didn’t put their secondary in tough situations very often. They protected those guys. There weren’t a lot of cover guys back there. If we can get where we have better cover guys, we can pressure more…”
I don’t take that as a backhanded compliment; I think Smart’s sincere about the effort on defense. But it’s clear he thinks Pruitt had to work around coverage shortcomings in the secondary. How much of that was due to the talent level there and how much to lack of experience is left unsaid, but that strikes me as a major consideration as he and Tucker remake Georgia’s defense in 2016.