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Thursday, March 4, 2010

Practice Notes: Speed Bumps for D on Day 1

Coming off the practice field, linebackers Darryl Gamble and Akeem Dent chatted about how much more they needed to learn before they’d be ready to fully deploy Georgia’s new 3-4 defensive scheme. They felt lost for much of the Bulldogs’ first day of spring practice.

Coming off that same field, tailback Caleb King complained to teammate Nick Williams that Georgia’s 3-4 was going to be tough to compete against in practice this season. Despite any confusion among the defensive players, King was sufficiently impressed.

All in all, it was much what players and coaches were hoping for – a day in which players learned a lot, while at the same time finding some perspective on how much farther they had to go.

“It’s been a while since we’ve been playing football, and the first day was a little rusty, but we didn’t really have that many mental errors,” said rising junior DeAngelo Tyson, who is adjusting to the new nose position on the defensive line. “So once we continue learning, we can play faster and have fun while we’re out there.”

Playing faster will be the long-term goal. In the immediate future, Justin Houston expects a bit more confusion.

A week ago, he was pretty confident that the Bulldogs would be able to execute the defense quickly after the team studied the 3-4 scheme on film – watching new defensive coordinator Todd Grantham’s former Dallas Cowboys players run plays. Now that Houston has had his first chance to execute the defense on the field, he’s backtracking a bit on that enthusiasm.

“There was a lot of stopping and looking around,” Houston said. “It’s not as easy as it looks on film. Those guys in the pros make it look easy.”

While the adjustment may not be quite as smooth as Houston and his teammates initially predicted, that doesn’t mean they aren’t excited about the changes.

“This is just a fun defense to play in,” said Williams, who is moving from linebacker to safety. “You’re running around making plays. You’re not just assigned to one gap. You’re making plays. You never know who’s blitzing, the safeties are always running and moving around. It’s fun.”


Tight end Orson Charles said he woke up a few times during the night Wednesday with some pre-practice jitters. Each time, his roommate, quarterback Aaron Murray, was awake, too.

“We woke up and were like, boy I’m nervous and excited. We wanted to see what the coaches were going to say and just be out on the field once again,” Charles said. “That’s everybody. Everybody came out and was nervous to be back in pads, the defense had a new scheme and didn’t know what to expect. But it was very good. It was exciting.”

It may have been nervous excitement, but by the time the players and coaches got onto the field, it was simply enthusiasm about playing football again.

In his first day of practice, Grantham barked orders at his new defensive players – even making them re-do a drill when he was displeased with how the team broke the huddle. New linebackers coach Warren Belin and secondary coach Scott Lakatos made similar points during Day 1 of spring practice, and head coach Mark Richt said his new staff looked as if it had been working together for years.

“I got a chance to walk around the field a little bit and observe our new coaches do their job,” Richt said. “They were all very locked in, very decisive about what they were doing, they all looked as if they’d been working together for quite some time.”

While the finer points still left much to be desired during drills, Richt said the enthusiasm was strong, and that was all he could ask during the first practice of the spring.

“The thing I enjoyed the most was there was just a lot of energy out there, a lot of enthusiasm out there,” Richt said. “Guys were moving around quickly, coaches doing a good job of barking out instructions, and guys really working hard to do what coach says.”


While Georgia’s defensive players were busy learning new schemes, Thursday’s practice also marked the first day without some old leaders.

The Bulldogs are replacing six starters from last year’s defense, with linebacker Rennie Curran perhaps the most notable absence. But while Curran wasn’t there to help his former teammates through the first day of drills, linebacker Marcus Dowtin said he was there in spirit.

“Rennie set a foundation since he’s been here amongst the linebacker corps, showing them how to act and the right things to do and the people to meet and how to practice,” Dowtin said. “That’s just rubbed off on us and we’re just taking it from there. So it really hasn’t been like he hasn’t been here. We’ve taken what he’s taught us and used it to our best advantage.”


Here are a few more quotes that may pique your interest from Day 1 of practice...

Mark Richt on the Houston & Washington at OLB…
“A couple of guys who were excited about pass (drills) were Justin Houston and Cornelius Washington. … Now all of a sudden they’re in these passing drills they’ve never been in before.”

Houston on dropping into coverage...
“It was pretty much the same. I’m just standing up playing defensive end, just have to drop back every now and then. I like to drop back. I get tired of just banging all the time.”

Nick Williams on Todd Grantham...
"His personality, his intensity, it's like he's playing. He's coaching, but it's like he's out there playing with us. You can tell he's from The League, and you can tell he's used to coaching grown men. I like it."


Here's a quick question posted anonymously: "In your past observations of practice, do you recall Willie ever sending the players back to the huddle to do it correctly?"

We don't get to see a ton of practice, so I can't say how much more intense Grantham was than any of the previous coaches. And as I've written before, Willie was a scary guy out on the practice field, so his lack of intensity is vastly overstated.

Having said that… This is about as excited as I've seen the players after practice in a long time. I know that doesn't mean much on Day 1 -- particularly with spring break starting immediately -- but I talked to Orson Charles after we did interviews and he still had a giant smile on his face and couldn't stop talking about the energy and enthusiasm out on the field.

Obviously it remains to be seen how long that lasts, but all reports are that it was a good first day.


jferg said...

A bit random....but the OLB in the 3-4 are the "tweeners". How in the world do they expect Richard Samuel to be a tweener? I mean, he's only 230 lbs or so. Houston is more like 270 lbs. What am I missing? Aren't the ILB in the 3-4 the smaller, more rangy guys and the OLB the larger, can take on OT type guys?
Just a bit confused. I'm sure it will all wash out in the end...but was wondering you could clarifty this point at all?

Universal Remonster said...

Can I be the first person to be immature and say I laughed at Justin Houston's comment about how he doesn't like banging all the time?

bill h said...

jferg...good question....that is it would be if Samuel were already mentally and physically experienced enough for the more complicated ILB position....regardless of his straight away speed and high school LB experience, he is a total rookie at LB in the SEC...put him in the easiest position to learn and let him earn his stripes....maybe he will do it quickly, but nobody knows that yet....the coaches know their game...just enjoy watching them teach our terrific talent