2011 Georgia Bulldogs Defense Preview

ATHENS - With a ton of hype and a paycheck to match, Todd Grantham came to Athens last year to take over a slumping defense and delivered much of what he promised.

The Bulldogs converted from a 4-3 defense (four down linemen and three linebackers) to a 3-4 (the reverse alignment) and got some results. Georgia attacked more and produced more turnovers. The Bulldogs took the ball away from their opponents 26 times. Only four SEC teams had more forced turnovers.

The Bulldogs finished the season fifth in the SEC in scoring defense, allowing 22.1 points per game, and were fourth in the league in total defense, allowing 328.5 yards per game.

All those numbers were acceptable. This one was not: 41.9.

That's the percentage of times opponents converted third downs against Georgia. No SEC team had a worse percentage. Few teams in the country did.

On the most important down in football, opposing teams gashed the Bulldogs on the ground (111 first downs rushing) and through the air (102 first downs passing).

If Georgia is going to see a jump in Grantham's second year, that statistic will have to change. The responsibility for changing it falls to the seven starters returning on defense, most notably inside linebacker Christian Robinson, cornerback Brandon Boykin, linebacker Alec Ogletree and safety Bacarri Rambo. And two players who didn't play a down last year in Jarvis Jones and John Jenkins.

The Bulldogs lost four starters on defense, including NFL Draft picks Justin Houston at defensive end and Akeem Dent at linebacker.

It won't be easy to replace Dent's team-best 126 tackles from a year ago. No other Georgia defender had more than 82. Robinson, who started 11 games and had 46 tackles last year, will be asked to take over leadership of the linebacking corps. Robinson will start at Mike linebacker and make all the defensive calls.

"He's going to be the guy who is in charge of everything, and we are going to expect a lot from him in that regard," Grantham said.

For playmaking, the Bulldogs will be expecting big things from newcomers Jenkins, a junior college transfer nose tackle, and Jones, a Southern Cal transfer linebacker.

Jenkins, who was rated a four-star prospect at the JUCO level and picked Georgia over the likes of Auburn, Florida and Miami, will give Georgia what it didn't have last year, a bedrock in the middle. At 6-foot-4, 340 pounds, Jenkins should provide quite a foundation for Grantham's attacking defense.

"I expect him to come in here and be an immediate impact," Grantham said. "After going through the tapes, I don't think not having the big nose tackle was the reason we struggled at times, but having a guy like Jenkins is going to help us. When we saw him on tape, and I saw his athletic ability, the way he can run, it was just a natural fit. That's one of the reason we decided to go after him so hard."

It is expected that Kwame Geathers, an All-SEC freshman team selection last year, will compete with Jenkins for the starting nose spot. Geathers has added body weight, dropped his body fat and gained maturity since last year, Gratham said.

"Geathers has busted his tail and I am looking forward to what he can do," Grantham said.

Jones, a Columbus native who was one of the state of Georgia's most highly recruited players in 2009 when he signed with the Trojans, transferred back home after suffering a neck injury at Southern Cal. He will play outside linebacker.

"I think he's a natural outside backer," Grantham said. "He could play Mike, but we will put Christian Robinson at Mike, and I

I think it'll free up Jarvis to be more aggressive. I think it's going to allow him to be very productive. He can cover tight ends--he can cover running backs. I am excited about him being an outside backer, and I think he's going to be very productive there."

Jones won't be the Bulldogs' only new linebacker. Sophomore Alec Ogletree, who played safety last year, has joined him in the linebackers' meeting room.

"I think that he can be a unique player at that position," Grantham said. "I am really excited about the move for him and our team. You still have to have guys who can generate pass rush and make plays as outside backers. You have to find a way to get your best players on the field and allow them to make plays. That's why we've made some of the changes we've made."

Houston made the most of those pass rush plays last year. He had 67 tackles, including 18.5 for loss (10 sacks). Cornelius Washington, who had 24 tackles and a sack last year, is expected to step into Houston's job.

Without Ogletree at safety, Rambo will be expected to take a greater leadership role at the position and bring along players such as Jakar Hamilton. Rambo was second on the team in tackles last year with 82. He also tied for the team lead in interceptions with three and led the team with three forced fumbles.

Robinson believes he, Rambo and returning starter DeAngelo Tyson (who will move from the inside of the defensive line to the outside of the defensive line) can provide enough leadership to turn the Bulldogs' personnel into production.

"We have a good group," he said. "We just have to translate it onto the field."

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