Regression and Georgia’s defense

Can’t say I argue with this:

That means regression is coming in 2022. It’s unavoidable. I mean, Georgia just had 5 defensive players in the 1st round of the NFL Draft and 8 defensive players total. The Dawgs rank No. 122 out of 130 FBS teams in percentage of returning defensive production. That doesn’t include the loss of defensive coordinator Dan Lanning. Even a 5-star factory like the one Kirby Smart built in Athens is going to take a step back.

The question is obvious — how significant is that step back?

But, yeah, it’s the how much aspect that’s hard to gauge.  (At least for me.)

I do think O’Gara makes some interesting, and likely valid, points when he notes that in the Smart era, Georgia has yet to produce back-to-back seasons when defensive scoring finished in the top ten nationally, as well as that it’s not logical to expect a program that has to replace five first round NFL draft picks to do so without missing a beat.  But I think he’s playing up Lanning’s departure more than is justified, in my opinion.  Not to say Lanning didn’t do a great job, but this year’s defensive brain trust is an experienced group that carries over from last season.

Besides that, when you look at Georgia’s regular season competition, what programs are likely to feature offenses improved over last year?  On paper right now, the only one I feel confident projecting to be is South Carolina’s, because of its upgrade at quarterback.

There’s one other X-factor O’Gara doesn’t take into account, although I’m not sure how to factor it in, either.  If Georgia’s offense is about to take off this season, how much of an effect will it have on how Georgia’s defense plays in the second half of lopsided games?  You got me.

After all that, I don’t find myself disagreeing significantly with his take:

The most likely scenario is that UGA allows at least 15 points per game against Power 5 competition. Shoot, even UGA’s 2017 national runner-up defense allowed 16.9 points per game against Power 5 competition. I’d say that’s about best case scenario for the 2022 squad. Clemson basically posted that number last year and still finished with the No. 2 defense nationally.

What I think will be of greater interest than the overall average is whether the average declines as the season progresses, which would be an indication that the relative lack of experience compared to 2021 is being shaved away.   What are your thoughts on defensive regression in 2022?

38 Comments

Filed under Georgia Football

38 responses to “Regression and Georgia’s defense

  1. RangerRuss

    Change is inevitable but not necessarily trending downward. Kirby has recruited very well and rotated freely with tough off season practices. I think the stats are a point of pride and a measuring tool to judge how good the Dawgs D has been year over year. It’s great to see the players getting recognition from the League and rewarded financially.
    The most important stat for me is W’s.

    Liked by 15 people

    • siskey

      I agree Russ. O’Gara makes good points but Kirby can point to the guys who were drafted high who prior to last year were not super well known at least to college football at large. Lanning will be missed but Muschamp is someone who I believe Kirby trusts and listens to regarding defense and he is back and knows his stuff. My guess is there is a regression but it will be hard to quantify based on the competition we play at least until the SEC Championship game.

      Liked by 2 people

  2. whb209

    Look at the players coming back, then look at new talent. Coaching will be fine. And I see no problem with talent. So try as I might to find something bad, I don’t see a big drop, if a drop at all.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Down Island Way

      Regression on special teams play is a concern, regression on UGA “D” will be only 4 1st rounders in the next draft, aggression by the UGA “O” will get top billing this season…GO DAWGS!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Derek

    I’m expecting points allowed per game to nearly double. I’d say it lands around 16.5-18.

    Offense needs to be much much better at 3rd and distance with Stet out there. I’d like to see our ppg jump to 42-ish OR our rushing offense jump from the mid-30’s to around 5th. Either will mitigate a weaker defense. We have to hold the ball, extend drives and/or make the other team hit a higher number to expect to win.

    If the regression costs us it will be in Atlanta or in a later bammer rematch. Don’t see anyone on the postseason radar that worries me right now that isn’t bama, but that may change.

    Hopefully, the d will get really good over the course of the season. If Tykee and Chris stay healthy and contribute, having “elder statesmen” on the back end will help. ILB, safety/star depth, getting pressure without sending 4>, corner opposite Ringo are all concerns.

    Talent, speed and coaching acumen are not a concern.

    Liked by 8 people

    • miltondawg

      I’d probably add Ohio State to the teams that would worry me postseason, but otherwise you are right that it shouldn’t be until Atlanta or January until there is a team that should be concerning.

      Liked by 3 people

  4. Biggen

    I’d say even the most biased fan would think the D would take a step back from last year. Didn’t the defense finish with an average of allowing about ~10 points a game. I’d assume that will be close to a TD worse this year by average.

    But the firepower on offense is legit this year. If we can still manage to score an average of ~40 points a game, I’d say that is good enough to win them all.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. 79dawg

    There is only one way for the stats to go this year. That said, there is only one stat really matters, and it is the one they print in the standings column in the paper on Sunday morning.
    To that point, I would just note, after Clemson, how many second-half games did we even have? Kentucky, maybe Auburn or South Carolina for a hot second?
    We will probably have more second half/fourth quarter games this year but, nonetheless, as long as the result is the same, it doesn’t really matter. I do agree that the trend towards improvement will be important.

    Liked by 2 people

  6. gotthepicture

    Definitely some regression. This was my response to someone saying UGA will still have a top 5 defense in 2022.

    Using FEI Def rankings from 2021. UGA #1 Def by a wide margin. 2-5 is Ok St, Wisc, Clemson, Iowa. The difference between UGA and Ok St was a great as the difference between #2 Ok St and #22 Iowa St.

    There is a reason everyone except Tide fans recognized UGA as having a generational defense last year. I’m not saying the wheels are falling off, but rather matching last year will be extremely difficult.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. DawgFlan

    I would be fine scoring 33 and allowing 18 every game. 🙂

    That said I think the offense will average about a TD more. I would not complain about a 3 TD average margin of victory.

    Liked by 8 people

  8. biggusrickus

    Assuming relatively few injuries, especially in the secondary, it’ll regress, but I think it’ll be something like 15 a game. The overall talent level is better than 2018, and 2020 doesn’t count as far as I’m concerned when you’re looking at trends.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Stetson (natch) and the D will be points of fan complaints this season. Was worried there might not be any.

    Liked by 3 people

  10. godawgs1701

    It’s certainly possible that Dan Lanning is one of the greatest defensive minds of his generation. He did a wonderful job at Georgia. I think it’s also possible that Kirby Smart is one of the greatest defensive minds of his generation and that he did an excellent job of mentoring Lanning and helping him grow into a wonderful defensive coordinator – and also doing so for the other coaches on the staff. When you consider how much Saban training is still on our defensive staff and that nobody here believes Kirby has ever taken his hands fully off of the defense, it’s just silly to expect the Lanning departure to have a crippling impact on the coaching of the defense. The player departures are the bigger concern, but they’ve got talent coming to replace them.

    Liked by 5 people

  11. bucketheridge

    There’s pretty much only one way to go after putting up a generational defensive performance. We could regress by five or six points a game next year and still have the #1 defense in the country. I’m not worrying about our defense until we put up a clunker season, and I don’t expect that to happen any time soon with the way Kirby has our program running.

    Liked by 4 people

  12. Tim B

    Re Lanning….What is the difference between the 2020 defense and the 2021 defense? The dawgs lost a bunch of very good defensive backs and the two best pass rushers off the 2020 team. Nobody thought the 2021 defense would be that much better. I’d argue that the difference was Muschamp whose input perhaps inspired much more active play by the front seven than we had been seeing from Lanning/Smart defenses.

    Liked by 2 people

  13. theotherdoug

    I think there is enough talent for the defense to be really good, but they will need to play into shape. Oregon will be tough, but Bo Nix (?), and then the schedule allows the players to learn on the job.

    Like

    • Ran A

      I thought Bo Nix saw a lot of improvement under Bobo’s direction as the season went. Oregon could end up giving the Dawgs fits, but really do expect Oregon’s ‘D’ to be taken apart by Georgia’s ‘O’ in this game.

      Liked by 4 people

  14. charlottedawg

    I don’t see a scenario where the defense doesn’t take a step back, it’s not an exaggeration to say it the 2021 defense was one of the greatest defenses in college football history. Also it’s kind of forgotten that last year’s offense was quietly one of the best in UGA history and was actually pretty damn lethal. The offense could be better than last year but if they do that they’d probably need to rewrite Georgia school records for scoring and yards for that to happen. My point is ignore all the metchie Williams bullshit, Georgia was by far and away the most dominant team in all phases of the game last year and actually one of the more dominant national champions of the last 20 years, it’s a really high bar to be better than last year which is why I expect this team to take a step back. That being said regression is relative and as we sit here in may Oregon looks like the toughest game on the schedule and we’re currently a 2 td favorite, this team could be significantly worse than last year and still roll into Atlanta at 12-0 because it’s still so much better everyone else on the schedule.

    Liked by 5 people

  15. moe pritchett

    Give up 15ppg?!? * clutching pearls**

    This offense could average 40+ ppg easily and have balanced offense like we have never seen.
    Even a drop off from the one of the best defenses in history will still be a great defense with the depth and staff we have in house.
    Game one will tell. Stone the Ducks with a surprise defense and that puts the rest of the schedule on notice. Kirby may see that as a seasonal statement game.

    Liked by 3 people

  16. If we “regress” to 15 points per game, we’ll still finish the regular season undefeated. Don’t forget that we have 1 loss in the Smart era when scoring 30+ points.

    In Todd we trust.

    Liked by 4 people

  17. MGW

    It will regress some but there’s no chance of it falling off a Cliff. The offense could/should progress more than the D regresses.

    Liked by 1 person

  18. I posted several months ago that losing #99 would hurt our run defense and cause us to give up one more touchdown per game. Article seems to agree.

    Liked by 2 people

  19. ASEF

    The regression won’t be very noticeable against 90% of the schedule. Highly noticeable against teams that can match talent
    and depth.

    It’s still a sport that highly favors offenses. It’s still a defense that got torched by Florida and Alabama in ‘20 and Alabama again in the ‘21 SEC Championship. Which means it’s 1-4 in its last 4 outings against an elite passing attack.

    They’ll definitely cost Mr. Levis that #1 draft pick, though.

    Liked by 2 people

  20. Geezus

    Based on talent lost alone, there has to be a step back (IMO). That being said, there’s always talent on the roster and there is experience because of rotations. I think our D will be strong against the run, because that’s Kirby’s DNA. My questions are around our pass coverage – I think any team with a running quarterback that actually runs periodically will cause us issues too (I’m chalking that up to more youth on D).

    Liked by 1 person

  21. Dylan Dreyer's Booty

    “Georgia just had 5 defensive players in the 1st round of the NFL Draft and 8 defensive players total.”

    Okay, I can agree that could be a concern, and it would be hard to imagine our D – or any D – replicating last year. That said, ask yourself how many of all those draft selections were preseason all-SEC? I think one was. That says to me that for their good intentions sports writers don’t know that much. Not worried at casa de DDB.

    Liked by 2 people

  22. Dawg in Austin

    Kirby‘s defense requires experience, game reps and depth to be great. We are lacking in those categories in too many places for us not to regress. ILB, Safety and DE (and possibly DB) may take some time to develop. That said, I do expect us to have a dominant offense, so I’m just not that concerned about the defense giving up another score or two per game. As long as Stetson stays healthy, that is.

    Like

  23. Dawg19

    Let’s hope our new punter can help out the defense, as well. Losing Camarda could end up being bigger than any of our defensive losses.

    Liked by 3 people

  24. Relative to your comment about improved offense, I have to think that Tennessee will be better, even if only slightly. Last year it took a while to land on Hooker as the starter and to gel, and he’s going into it this year locked in. A year in the system and most of the season as the entrenched starter has to be worth something.

    Liked by 3 people

    • siskey

      I just wonder if that Baylor offense isn’t easier to prepare for after you’ve now seen 12 (at least) other teams play them to include Bama by the time we play them. I hate that Auburn was able to get out of the November game but having Tennessee there (especially if they are good) may be really beneficial to us.

      Like

  25. I expect the D to be decent, not great. I also expect(hope) the O will pick up the slack.

    The thing about Kirby is that as great as he’s recruited, there has also been a massive fn revolving door that I think he needs to slow down if we’re gonna lessen the drop-offs after a good or great season. The revolving door seems to me to be a recruiting tactic but damn if it doesn’t hurt us when guys start portaling on top of guys declaring for the draft. It’s a double-edged sword.

    Like

    • ASEF

      About the only thing that could/will slow it down is NIL. Guys who aren’t clear top 150 picks but highly valued/loved by a college fan base can probably make the math work to stay that extra year and try to move up into rounds 1-3. Just the prospect of moving up has been enough to keep a lot of guys around pre-NIL. NIL money really flips that equation for a ton of players.

      But recruiting the best players means you assume a 3 year window and be thankful if you get 4. No way around that with the way the NFL is set up

      Like

      • siskey

        I am tired of hearing of NIL but I think what Bama has done this year in having guys leave is the new Saban efficiency like when they used to over sign and had Kirby recruiting against us in Georgia. The smart teams are going to push players toward the transfer portal either subliminally or forcefully and those same teams will replace the departing guys with proven college players or if the new scholarship numbers is adopted with potentially better players.

        Like

  26. uga97

    We are “regressing from an NFL-lite Defensive squad, and into to an elite, college football D, which is reloading, and facing a lighter schedule. Sounds like a business minded season lies ahead.

    Like

  27. mg4life0331

    Plot twist: We end up even better on defense. Sabans then concedes that Kirby was the mastermind after all.

    Like

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