Before the Tigers and Bulldogs clash, TSD is previewing the Silver Britches on both sides of the ball. Yesterday I took a look at the Georgia offense under coordinator Mike Bobo. Today it's time to turn the microscope on Todd Grantham's 3-4 Dawg defense.
GEORGIA STARTING DEFENSE (3-4)
DE: Ray Drew (6-5, 276, Jr.)
NT: Garrison Smith (6-3, 299, Sr.)
DE: Sterling Bailey (6-3, 282, So.)
OLB: Leonard Floyd (6-4, 220, Fr.)
ILB: Ramik Wilson (6-2, 232, Jr.)
ILB: Amarlo Herrera (6-2, 244, Jr.)
OLB: Jordan Jenkins (6-3, 246, So.)
CB: Brendan Langley (6-1, 181, Fr.)
FS: Tray Matthews (6-0, 196, Fr.)
SS: Corey Moore (6-2, 214, Jr.)
CB: Damian Swann (5-11, 178, Jr.)
Notable Backups: SS/OLB Josh Harvey-Clemons (6-2, 214, So.), S Connor Norman (5-10, 201, Sr.), DE Josh Dawson (6-4, 254, So.)
Todd Grantham brought an NFL background with him when he made the move to Georgia in advance of the 2010 season, having served on staffs with the Colts, Texans, Cowboys and Browns (where he was the coordinator).
He also brought with him something that was new to the Bulldogs – a base 3-4 alignment.
Now into his fourth season in Athens, Georgia has successfully made the transition into Grantham's system. The challenge in 2013 is one similar to LSU's defense: replacing a lot of NFL-bound talent from last year's group.
So far the results have been less than stellar, to say the least, particularly against the pass, where Georgia was gashed in its two openers by Clemson's Tahj Boyd (270 yards, 3 TD/0 INT) and South Carolina's Connor Shaw (228 yards, 2 TD/0 INT).
For the season the Georgia defense has given up 388.7 yards per game (68th nationwide), including 143.3 yards per game on the ground (50th) and 245.3 yards per game through the air, which ranks UGA's defense 93rd in the NCAA in pass defense efficiency. Of the 55 first downs opponents have collected on Georgia, 34 have come through the air. The Dawgs have also struggled to slow their opposition in the red zone, allowing scores on nine of 10 trips, including touchdowns seven of those times.
A lot of these early-season struggles are due to youth being placed at the forefront. With three true freshmen as regular starters, Georgia has turned things over to the future even more than John Chavis and LSU already. In fact, when OLB Leonard Floyd, FS Tray Matthews and CB Brendan Langley started in the opener at Clemson, each of them simultaneously became the first true freshman to start on defense under Richt since 2002 (Kedric Golston).
The experience on this defense is really limited to just three players – ILB Amarlo Herrera (20 career starts), CB Damian Swann (18) and NT Garrison Smith (13). No other Bulldog defender has started double-digit games in his time on campus.
Herrera and fellow inside linebacker Ramik Wilson have been the two players most routinely cleaning up messes for the Georgia defense through three games. Wilson leads the team with 31 tackles (2.5 for loss) while Herrera has registered 30 tackles (1.5 for loss, 3 PBU).
Georgia is also capable of getting a decent surge from its D-Line, especially in the middle, where Smith is extremely active. But where the Dawgs are most dangerous, when coverage holds up its end of the bargain to give some time, is in rushing with its outside ‘backers. Sophomore Jordan Jenkins four tackles for loss and six QB pressures while Floyd has two sacks and seven QB pressures. Also, Josh Harvey-Clemons, who can play strong safety but has started the past two games in Floyd's spot at OLB, packs enough punch to make an impact in the box, when called upon.
In the secondary is where the Dawgs appear to have the most holes entering Saturday's contest. Georgia starts two true freshmen – Langley and Matthews, and the red and black even allowed North Texas to pass for 238 yards and a touchdown last week. Unless that front can get consistent pressure on Zach Mettenberger, it could be another long day for Georgia's DBs.