“We tried to target that this year. We really emphasized going back to basics.”
Georgia ranked tied for 113th nationally last year in red zone defense, with opponents scoring 90.7 percent of trips from the 20-yard line and in, second worst in the SEC.
“The sad thing is I’ve been a part of defenses that called all the same defenses and were top five in the country,” Smart said.
From 2009-2013 with Smart as defensive coordinator, Alabama ranked second, fourth, first, fourth and fourth in red zone defense before slipping to 72nd in 2014 and 62nd in 2015.
Georgia defensive coordinator Mel Tucker was on staff for that last year in Tuscaloosa as defensive backs coach.
“It’s really more about executing what you call not necessarily changing what you call,” Smart said. “You might need to have a new twist in there or a new wrinkle.”
Georgia ranked third in the nation in red zone defense in 2015 and 29th in 2014 under coordinator Jeremy Pruitt.
“That’s definitely been a focus this spring,” inside linebacker Natrez Patrick said. “When it’s down there, it’s basically mano a mano. Your playbook shortens. There’s only a few plays you can run. You’re not tricking nobody. You’ve just got to win.”
Easier said than done, apparently.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m glad there’s a big focus on this in the offseason. Given the enormity of the drop off that occurred in one season from Pruitt to Tucker, it’s obviously necessary. But I have this nagging feeling, no doubt a hangover from the Richt era, that they’ll work hard enough on this problem to make a major fix, only to let something else slide. For once, can we have nice things with no strings attached?