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Wednesday, April 7, 2010

More Glass Half Full From Grantham

I wrote last week about a few reasons to be encouraged by how quickly the new staff has addressed many of the primary concerns fans had last year. For what it's worth, here are a couple more that jumped out at me from Tuesday's interviews with Todd Grantham.

Both of these quotes came from our discussion of Darryl Gamble's move to outside linebacker, but I think they both illustrate big changes in terms of philosophy on the defensive side of the ball.

ISSUE: Receivers could cruise downfield uncovered far too often.

This sounds counterintuitive, but part of the Georgia coverage schemes in years past included allowing certain receivers to go uncovered in order to cover a specific side of the field. The idea was that if the pressure was good up front, it could push a play to one side of the field, and Georgia's coverage there would be strong.

What happened too often last season, however, was that the uncovered receiver would find his way into the end zone with the football in his hands. The sheer number of wide open receptions last year was enough to make fans toss a warm Coors Lite through their new flat screen.

So, a throw-away line in Grantham's response to a question I asked about how well seniors Akeem Dent and Darryl Gamble have been able to help train the younger players should come as some very good news.

“Everybody’s a rookie, everybody’s a freshman," Grantham said. "Everything’s new. Terminology is new, understanding splits of receivers means something, rerouting means something. We don’t want to have a free access defense where we let receivers run free into our defense. That’s new for them. Run-fits are new. Everything’s new. But what helps those guys is, because they’ve played, they kind of have a feel for, if this guy’s here, I need to be here. But really, everyone’s a freshman, but those guys have done a good job of learning the system and they’ve done a good job of adapting. They’ve got to continue to do that and help the younger guys come through.”

(*Update: I should clarify a bit, since this seems to have boiled a few fans' blood... the "free receiver" defense isn't entirely uncommon, and it's used situationally -- both at UGA and elsewhere. It relies heavily on the pressure up front though, and that's where things often fell apart in years past. Much like the directional kicking, it's not that the philosophy itself is completely flawed, it's that the execution didn't work repeatedly, yet the philosophy didn't really change. Regardless, Georgia won't employ directional kicking or free access defense this season, so things are looking up.)

ISSUE: The best players didn't always play.

Bryan Evans is a good kid, a good leader and a hard worker. But he wasn't as good a player last year as Bacarri Rambo, and yet that didn't matter. Evans was the senior leader, so he continued to be the starter.

This year?

Well, here's what Grantham had to say about how much Gamble might play at OLB this season:

“It’s very possible he could stay out there based upon how he plays this week and how the guys inside play," Grantham said. "Our whole deal is, I believe it’s a production deal and the guys who produce and make plays and give us a chance to win are the guys we’re going to put on the field. To do that, sometimes you have to move guys around to various spots to see what they can do and see what your best combinations are. We’re going to play the best players come September.”

Now on that front, I'll admit that Willie Martinez & Co. often gave lip service to the same philosophy, even if that didn't play out during the season. But hearing Grantham's opinions on playing time -- and he's made clear from Day 1 that he'll be giving all players a fair evaluation -- I'm inclined to think he's being honest when he says this.

Again, the news always seems positive in the spring, and the defense still has a long way to go, but comments like these should at least give some cause for optimism.

5 comments:

Anonymous said...

David,

I am from Massachusetts but I am a huge Georgia fan. I am wondering though if G-Day is going to be streamed on ESPN360.com or some other website. Do you know if it will be?

NCT said...

To David in MA: On the georgiadogs.com site, the GXtra section shows there will be a link to watch the G Day game. Some GXtra stuff is free, but some is by subscription only.

Anonymous said...

The explanation for last year's coverage explains the sheer stupidity of the Arkansas and Tennessee games, among others. No wonder people were able to run bootlegs and play action so effectively against us.

-- Richt-Flair

AppleDawg said...

You see these comments and you wonder why it took Richt years to realize how bad Willie was

An average joe could tell our defense was so out-of-whack the last few seasons

Wide open men, terrible 4th quarters, zero leadership

Anonymous said...

David Pollack, Quentin Moses, Charles Johnson, Marcus Howard...

when you have pass rushers who are able to consistently disrupt the QB then the free-receiver D works just fine, since the QB can't find the free receiver from his back.

Rod Battle, Demarcus Dobbs, Jeremy Lomax, etc. weren't SEC caliber playmakers at DE. Willie failed to have a plan B in place when he realized this group wasn't comparable to their predecessors.

I'd shy away from blaming Fabris or the staff's recruiting as a whole, because the stud DEs that SHOULD have been playing from 07-09 are named Brandon Lang, Corey Moon, and Toby Jackson. We recruited them and they didn't hold up their end, which is hard to predict. Fabris got his good players to another level, but you can't polish a turd, right?

Willie never adjusted and that's why he's gone. He just sat there and assumed that the lack of pressure he saw in practice would magically appear in games. What. An. Idiot.