Dawgs Focusing on Fundamentals

ATHENS – The early part of spring practice has been a blur for most of the players and coaches.

They are trying to adapt to Todd Grantham's new 3-4 defense, but the foundation for everyone has been a focus on the fundamentals.

"Everybody wants to teach fundamentals, and everybody has a little different way of doing it," head coach Mark Richt said. "The bottom line is that our coaches are trying to set up fundamental drills that once they insert into a playing or scrimmage situation, then it's going to help them be a better football player. I think everybody has a different style of teaching their fundamental work, so there are a lot of new things out here right now."

In the secondary, Brandon Boykin said much of the language and technique is the same as what the Bulldogs ran in past seasons, the teaching manner of their new defensive backs coach, Scott Lakatos, suits the players well. And while the bulk of what Georgia is running remains the same among the secondary, there are a few key differences.

"When the ball's in the air, he teaches to get your head around and look for the ball," corner Jordan Love said. "Last year we were playing hands to the receiver, and that's an adjustment we've had to make."

The early workouts haven't been full contact, so tackling drills have been minimal, but Grantham said the defense is still getting plenty of fundamental work in that area, too.

"We work on tackling even without pads on," Grantham said. "It's all about getting in the hitting position. You've got to come to balance, understand it, where's my help, inside-outside leverage, on the sidelines, closing down an angle, taking away a guy – you can work on all that stuff without pads on."

According to plan

It has been an adjustment for sure, Grantham said, but the progress his players are making on defense has been encouraging through the first three practices of the spring.

"There's things I thought might be hard they picked up, and things I thought might be easy that's a little bit harder for them," Grantham said. "But at the same time, I've been pleased with what they've really understood and grasped. We've thrown quite a bit at them, and it's all been new, but at the same time I see improvement in them every day."

There is still plenty of confusion among the players, he said, but that was to be expected. He said his plan for installing his 3-4 defense would require four distinct phases – offseason workouts, spring practice, summer workouts and then the season – before it was perfected, and so far things are on pace.

"Once we get through this phase, we'll evaluate everything," Grantham said, "and we'll start back over in the summer."

Building leadership

Georgia held its first character education meetings of the spring on Thursday, and Richt talked to his seniors about developing their leadership on the practice field. The result was the most spirited day of practice so far, Richt said.

Identifying some leaders within the locker room will be a key step this spring. Last year's veterans – Joe Cox, Jeff Owens and Rennie Curran – are all gone, and while Richt singled out Clint Boling, Darryl Gamble and Akeem Dent as players who have stepped into that leadership role, he said there are plenty of jobs available and plenty of candidates for the gig.

"I don't want to discourage anybody by not calling him out because all those guys are really doing a good job," Richt said.

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