Posted: 3:14 pm Wednesday, March 26th, 2014

Five early observations of Georgia’s defense 

By Chip Towers

New Georgia defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt brings a different coaching approach to the Bulldogs' practices. (AJC photo by Curtis Compton)

New Georgia defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt brings a different coaching approach to the Bulldogs’ practices. (AJC photo by Curtis Compton)

ATHENS – Georgia has completed just four of its 15 spring football practices so far and had its first full pads workout only yesterday. But slowly and surely things are starting to come into focus in regard to how the Bulldogs might look in the fall.

Georgia’s defense is undergoing the most radical transformation as first-year defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt and three new assistant coaches put their fingerprints on that side of the ball. Here’s a few observations I’ve been able to make so far:

1. In general, your No. 1 unit looks like this: Noseguard — Chris Mayes; defensive end (or 3-technique tackle) — Toby Johnson; defensive end (or 5-technique tackle) — Ray Drew OR Sterling Bailey; Jack (or rush end) — Jordan Jenkins; Sam (strongside outside linebacker) — Leonard Floyd; inside linebackers — Amarlo Herrera and Ramik Wilson; left cornerback — Damian Swann; right cornerback — Brendan Langley; safeties — Corey Moore and Quincy Mauger.

2. As with any lineup, that’s subject to change and fluctuation. For instance, Tray Matthews most certainly will be in the running for a starting spot at safety once he gets out of the doghouse. Same with Jon Taylor and James DeLoach. And Ray Drew was running with the first team, in the first couple of practices, but Sterling Bailey was on Tuesday. Meanwhile, offensive transfers J.J. Green and Tramel Terry could end up being major factors once they absorb the defensive techniques and concepts.

3. Some of the early beneficiaries from the defensive coaching change appear to be Langley, Johnson and Floyd.

  • Langley, a 6-1, 181-pound sophomore out of Marietta, started the first four games of last season as a true freshman but barely played and never started the rest of the way. He finished with just 12 tackles and 2 pass break-ups.
  • Likewise, due to a number of factors, Johnson played only a bit role last season after coming to Georgia as one of the top junior college prospects in the country. First, he was playing behind Garrison Smith. Secondly, he was coming off knee surgery and dealt with some other nagging injuries throughout the season. But he’s healthy and a svelte 305 pounds now and the new coaches love his athleticism.
  • The new staff feels Floyd was under-utilized last season. The 6-4, 220-pound sophomore started eight games and played in all 13 as a true freshman and his 6.5 sacks led the team. But Floyd was often got subbed out of games based on down-and-distance. The belief is he may the best overall defensive player on the team. Expect Floyd to stay on the field more under Pruitt’s watch.

4. Other than the two new additions from offense (Green and Terry) there hasn’t been a lot of radical change from a positional standpoint. One move that has been somewhat under the radar is that of Johnny O’Neal from inside linebacker to outside linebacker. O’Neal told Dawgs247.com that he dropped 20 pounds since the end of last season and coaches are pleased what they’re seeing in terms of speed and quickness. O’Neal was rated the fifth-best inside linebacker prospect in America by ESPN.com coming out of West Laurens High in Dublin. But he played almost exclusively on special teams as a freshman and tallied but a single tackle in four different games.

5. Much has been made about Pruitt’s intense demeanor on the practice field and he’s definitely very vocal in his coaching methods. But less has probably been made about why he’s that way. Not saying it’s better or worse, but former defensive coordinator Todd Grantham and most of his assistants (line coach Chris Wilson was very vocal) were more cerebral in their practice approach. They’d have their call sheets and go over them repeatedly with their respective positions players. Pruitt is clearly more technique oriented. His emphasis appears to be more about executing fewer sets well than trying to perfect multiple sets. It won’t be until well into the fall before we know how the Bulldogs respond and perform. But coach Mark Richt and defensive players already have remarked that communication is better and there is less confusion over calls, particularly when the offense is in hurry-up mode.

201 comments
meandog
meandog

Keeping my fingers crossed!

CTBigDawg
CTBigDawg

Fellow Dawgs as always hope springs eternal. It is still too early to talk about unknowns as will Coach Richt and Coach Bobo open up the QB position to competition and then actually go with the QB who gives them the BEST chance to win?  Will the Dawgs offensive line become a strength of the team or remain mostly a liability? Will they be able to consistently stop other teams defensively? Will special teams become a strength or an absolute disaster as we have seen at times?

So I would suggest that everyone just relax as time will tell whether Coach Richt has made progress in bringing this program to the level (Championships - SEC and National) that we all want, desire and know that is achievable given the talent in the State of Georgia.

ThomasBrownUGA
ThomasBrownUGA

by DawgGonelt to ThomasBrown    " I know the offense will be fine. "


I do not know that, at all, DawgGonelt, sir.  What I have seen is that Hutson Mason has a weak arm, floating his passes, and is not swift running either, in this pass-happy offense never running the ball early-on, just once the game is at hand.


The offense was # 53 on 3rd Down Conversions and # 102 in Turnover Margin, and that was with a far better quarterback than Hutson Mason ever will be.


If I knew we had another 4-year starter, instead of Hutson Mason - having seen him this his 5th season here like Joe Tereshinski III whom Mark Richt and Mike Bobo said the same about him too prior to his Redshirt Senior Year as well, I would be far more convinced the offense will be fine.


As it is, though, with all this talk like with Joe Tereshinski III and like Joe Cox before him, that the job is Hutson Mason's to lose, and no one else prepared to even challenge Hutson Mason this Spring, I see no way that Hutson Mason will be the better quarterback when we play # 2, # 4, # 5, # 8 and hope to play # 7 prior to the play-offs.


But, do not let me deter you from having all your fun this off-season as well about how great Hutson Mason is passing or running, followed by our 9 wins and either 4 or 5 losses, depending on whether such a record gets us into The SEC Championship Game vs # 7 Alabama or not.


54-26 latest 6 years is 9 and either 4 or 5 losses.


Therefore, my expectations this off-season are that we all need to do just the opposite and demand far better than 54-26.


You do NOT do that, by telling them how great they are, only to see us go again 8 years then without having never won on the road these then 8 years against a ranked team these then 8 years except for Georgie tek in 2009, who would've vacated any win anyway.


It's been gruesome.


DISNEYdawgs.com alive and well with more of the same this off-season when I know you know we've done poorly for which there are no excuses.


Just results :  18 losses latest 4 years & 26 losses latest 6 years


While the better team without excuses latest 4 & 6 years has been on the other sideline 26 times.

In the face of this, why is it again that you feel the best policy is to brag about them 2014 given the results from such bragging by you all the previous seasons after 2007


?


 " I know the offense will be fine. "


I know we have the same players on defense we had last season, have the same lack of special teams' coach again this season too, and that we lost a far better quarterback than the one witnessed the latest 2 games, since.


To which you reply :


 " I know the offense will be fine. "


Ah, B.S. DawgGonelt.


Hogwash.


The most gruesome part of 26 losses latest 6 years are all the DISNEYdawgs.com each off-season.





patriotdog
patriotdog

clearly, Grantham's system was better suited to professional players who practice year round, and several hours a day during the season as well as OTA's, mini camp, etc...perfecting multiple calls, sets, etc. College players, their practice time limited and rightly so, are much better equipped for fewer sets, fewer calls and more simplicity.

ErkMunson
ErkMunson

I like the last paragraph. Make it less complex, teach them the right technique and hopefully they will play faster and not spend so much time shuffling around into position as the ball snaps. 

DawgGoneIt
DawgGoneIt

"We need competition," Wilson said. "It's only going to make us better. (Coach Pruitt) is going to put the best 11 guys out there. Since Coach Pruitt has been here, the energy at practice has been there every day. It's never been like that before since I've been here. It's like a game experience out there every day, and that's only going to make us better. We're out there pushing for jobs and trying to compete."

DawgGoneIt
DawgGoneIt

Leonard Floyd is said to be up to 248 right now and Ramik Wilson says Floyd "is just a beast right now"...Floyd is about to dominate. Last season as a skinny freshman he led our team in sacks. With an offseason of getting stronger, bigger and better technique he will eat! 


WATCH OUT FOR LEONARD FLOYD!

DawgGoneIt
DawgGoneIt

Apparently the starting secondary will be Langley, Swann at corner, Mauger and Moore at safety (pending Matthews' situation). Hope these guys are ready. They're getting the most reps with the 1's and usually after that first scrimmage (which is Saturday) you have more of a feel for your depth chart.

DawgGoneIt
DawgGoneIt

It's obviously a wait and see approach with Pruitt but the simple fact that the players are catching on to his defense so quickly is a testament to his teaching ability. And Pruitt isn't alone in this rebuild. It's Rocker, Sherrer, and Ekeler as well. We're a team and these guys are building this defense as a team. It might not be perfect all the time but you're never going to be perfect. Auburn put up 31 points on FSU's D last season and almost beat them so it's never going to be perfect. But we want a competitive defense and a defense we can count on. Grantham's D last season looked lost against Clemson in Death Valley and gave up 38 points. Pruitt's D at FSU last season in Death Valley vs. Clemson gave up 14 points and made Boyd look high school and was in his face all night. 7 of those 14 points came when the game was already decided as FSU won 51-14. Pruitt can coach. He's proven that everywhere he's been. As a Georgia fan we are only hoping and cautiously optimistic he'll do the same here. I don't see a reason why not.

Quackmeyer
Quackmeyer

gtcaryd.....No first hand knowledge yet but if our team plays fast like FSU, we won't look like' Ned and the first reader'.  Pruitt is an upgrade imho and many other Dawgs.

TeddyJackEddy
TeddyJackEddy

There are good points made, and some stupid comments. The idea Grantham didn't train Floyd properly is silly. We've been dominant at that position since CTG's first season. A UGA player led the SEC in sacks from Floyd's position 4 straight years. Coaching that position was his strength.


The problems have been a lack of coordination, confusion and break downs in fundamentals. In a nut shell, Grantham was a great position coach who was in over his head as  a DC.

ChessMaster
ChessMaster

A good coach adjusts to his players strengths and weaknesses to obtain the best results. I didn't see that in Grantham. The man is and was a great coach but far from perfect. His players appeared to be focused on avoiding contact in order to make the big play. Defensive football players need to defeat their offensive opponent while maintaining their assignment so they are in position to make each play.


Look at film of Floyd last year and you will see him run himself out of plays while his blocker simply needed to shield him from the runner. That's an easy assignment for the blocker. Grantham would pull him and yell but the damage was done. When he took on the block and defeated it, he was in the lane ready to make the play. He improved over the course of the season but challenging the blocker is a fundamental that is best taught off season. Pruitt is focused on these fundamentals, which will make it easier to teach schemes during the season. 

JackClemens
JackClemens

Cerebral and Grantham don't seem to belong in the same sentence. Are you sure you can use those two words in a sentence?

P_The_Ricker
P_The_Ricker

Will be shocked if wiggins isn't in the starting rotation come Aug. 30th.

ThomasBrownUGA
ThomasBrownUGA

There is a lot of talent on our defense, and it's deep.  I always felt like we did not have our best guys playing last season with guys sitting on our defense while instead others played.  We did the year before have our better players playing.  We all find these exciting times to have the entire new defensive staff when it's been 50 years since we last did this. I'd feel a lot better about our defense if our offense would run the ball more early in the games to wear down our opponent's defense.  And, I'd fee better about our defense, if our offense was better than # 53 in the nation converting 3rd Downs for us.  I've always considered punting and kicking off as defensive plays, so I'd like to see far more work this Spring to find the best players such as Leonard Floyd, Chris Conley, Todd Gurley II, the 2 new freshman running backs, Quayvon Hicks, Brendan Langley - these type of guys playing Special Teams.  We play 5 top 10 teams 2014 prior to the play-offs, if we add-in # 7 Alabama if we make it to The SEC Champ Game, and it is not right to do nothing on Special Teams while our Opponents - like the 5 top 10 teams we face if not more top 10 than 5 - are making hay against us.


We have to fix that part up too and it likewise is Defense when we punt and kick-off.

BCW1
BCW1

It is not what the coach knows but what the players are learning. Making the right adjustments on the field is one thing, fundamentals and technique is another. The less the players have to think about, the more aggressive they will be.

TheD1Guru
TheD1Guru

Cerebral???? Are you kidding?  A defensive coordinator who is cerebral doesn't  put defenses on the field that look like UGA's defense.  A call sheet in your hands doesn't make you cerebral.  Stopping people makes you a cerebral defensive coach because you 'thought"of ways to stop people. Grantham was a pompous look at me guy and NEVER had Mark Richt's, the rest of the coaching staff, the players or university's best interest at heart.  This cerebral guy was constantly looking for a job instead of doing the job he had. This cerebral guy said that HE was the reason for UGA's success during the time he was there not Mike Bobo and an offense that had to score 40+ points a game to have a chance to win.  This cerebral guy didn't know that the object of defense is to keep the opposing offense out of the endzone. There is absolutely NOTHING cerebral about Grantham. Louisville had to be desperate to take a chance on such an "I" guy. He and the cerebral Petrino will get along just fine. I will never cheer UGA but for Mark Richt's career I am glad Pruitt is in and that I guy is gone.

DawgGoneIt
DawgGoneIt

@ThomasBrown  You can type all the bull shyt all you want. All I know is this, 2 seasons ago UGA was a play away from a national title. Had we had just a little bit of defense we would have won a national title. Pruitt will bring this defense back to life and our O will continue it's rapid pace.

gtcaryd
gtcaryd

@ThomasBrown I think your wasting your words on some of these guys, gotta have the koolaide.

ThomasBrownUGA
ThomasBrownUGA

Todd Grantham has only ever been defensive coordinator before with the Cleveland Browns, fired 2008 after 3 seasons, his defensive rank among the 32 NFL teams : 25th against the pass, 27th against the run, and 30th in total-yards-against giving up points in games even his 3rd season there  30, 30, 31, 31, 34, 34, 45 points.


Apparently there, as here with his NFL players the year before last too here, his defensive scheme he designed as an Offensive Linemen himself at Virginia Tech - was not any more suited to the NFL than in college, either.


He was fired from Cleveland for all this on defense and their 20-28 won/lost record.  Todd Grantham then was demoted from defensive coordinator to just defensive line coach at Dallas, then Mark Richt hired him as his 5th choice as Defensive Coordinator here to replace Willie Martinez whom Mark Richt hired as his defensive coordinator for 3 horrid years prior to Todd Grantham's 4 here replacing Willie Martinez.


2 fools.


Frick and Frack.

ThomasBrownUGA
ThomasBrownUGA

Our offense is not as good as it was, as we've seen the last two games.


"there is less confusion over calls, particularly when the offense is in hurry-up mode"

KeepOnSmilingWetWillie
KeepOnSmilingWetWillie

UGA doesn't have the talent that FSU had while Pruitt was at FSU. Jimbo has recruited very well in these last 4 years. As well as anybody.

ThomasBrownUGA
ThomasBrownUGA

We've just not been dominant, losing 18 games the latest 4 years you're talking about here Teddy, while we and that position watched as the opposing quarterbacks carved us up with no pressure on them, no sacks, no penetration, no consistent effort at that position.  Todd Grantham was not, is not, never has been a great position coach, and never will be because he is an offensive lineman from Virginia Tech in the ACC who dreamed-up this defense with no background in defense himself - and, as every single poster below has already stated you reply to here Teddy, Todd Grantham is wholly unable to teach his design to anyone - even all the NFL players he had last season.


Todd Grantham and great do belong in the same sentence, Teddy.  He is a jerk and ran our defense like he had no decorum.


As for his scheme, when an OL can be Defensive Coordinator, let me know, ok Teddy ?


Because Todd Grantham certainly is not able as an OL to design a defense.


Defenses are designed by Defensive Players.


He was just a hothead.


A man who left before he was run out on a rail, here.  He's had 1 other DC job and was run out of there on a rail as well.


1 position was a strength of a football team who allowed the opposing quarterback to be better than our quarterback that day, 18 times in 4 short years.


That's 4 games lost every other year and 5 games lost every other year for 4 miserable seasons.

KeepOnSmilingWetWillie
KeepOnSmilingWetWillie

No way could it be the UGA defensive players weren't real smart? Right? Had to be the coach was just stupid.

gtcaryd
gtcaryd

@BCW1 Cant tell you how many times i got my azz chewed out because i answered a question with" Coach I thought"

NCDawg
NCDawg

@TheD1Guru cerebral and being pompous often go hand in hand.  Grantham was too cerebral.  He was so immersed in his scheme that he looked right past certain basics of what a college player needs to be able to execute his scheme.  He is the equivalent of football coaching book smart.   I know many people that are technically very bright but unable to make themselves attend to the details.  Grantham is good at talking about football but he can't get his head out of the playbook long enough to see his players haven't caught up with him.  If you listened to him talk it was pretty obvious that he knew his Xs and Os.  He just was unrealistic in what he expected amateur football players to grasp.  And it showed on the field because his players were too confused to excute his defense properly most of the time.

gtcaryd
gtcaryd

@TheD1Guru If he was cerebral does that mean he was" Thankin'  a whole bunch out there.Thankin what he was going to do with that $800,000.

DawgGoneIt
DawgGoneIt

@gtcaryd @ThomasBrown  Where's Tech's "kool aid"...oh that's right, your football team never gives you anything to look forward to

DawgGoneIt
DawgGoneIt

@ThomasBrown  This is the reason I hate spring/fall ball when scrimmages start. On Saturday, if the defense shines you'll say that the offense has fallen off and won't be any good. If the offense shines, the naysayers will say the defense won't be any better. It's a lose lose. Personally, I want the defense to dominate all spring. I know the offense will be fine. This defense needs improvement and I hope they dominate all throughout

TeddyJackEddy
TeddyJackEddy

@ThomasBrown     WOW... have you watched ANY UGA football the past  few years?  Justin Houston and Jarvis Jones both played the position Floyd played last year. Did you happen to see them make a sack or 2 ?

ThomasBrownUGA
ThomasBrownUGA


"  It's a lose lose.   "


Like 18 losses latest 4 years & like 26 losses latest 6 years :


"  It's a lose lose.  "

Dewnsav
Dewnsav

@KeepOnSmilingWetWillie  only people I hear talk of raising UGA banners is you willy ..??..over and over and over again....I think dawg raised a valid point,,,nothing crazy, just the practice intensity has gone up...true...what is wrong with that ??...oh, UGA doesn't have a trophy, so it doesn't matter what he says......as you like to say, take your trophies and "GFY" with them...go dogs

DawgGoneIt
DawgGoneIt

@KeepOnSmilingWetWillie  Why wouldn't I? I believe in my team each and every year. In fact, UGA is always in the conversation just like we'll be a top 10 team once again when the season begins this year. I bet we'll field a DEFENSE that's competitive enough to bring us a championship. We haven't had that since Van Gorder. The East is UGA's to lose. And usually if you win the SEC you play in the title game. I do believe UGA will make the playoffs this year.

DawgGoneIt
DawgGoneIt

@KeepOnSmilingWetWillie  Are you a Tech fan or Bama fan? I'm confused. And we don't suck at hiring coaches. We were a play away from a title 2 seasons ago. We're capable. And there were many seasons under Richt where UGA should have been a shoo in for the Natl title. Don't even go there. We're right there with the best teams in the country. We're the favorites in the East YET AGAIN

KeepOnSmilingWetWillie
KeepOnSmilingWetWillie

So if talent isn't your issue then you sure have sucked at hiring coaches since 1980.

KeepOnSmilingWetWillie
KeepOnSmilingWetWillie

Bama had 29 grads playing in the Sugar Bowl...not walk-ons that complete the roster like some teams

ARdawg
ARdawg

@ThomasBrown @Delusionaldog@NCDawgWell praise God and Greyhound he's gone. Louisville can struggle with it. Actually, time will tell. Grantham at UGA had all of the defensive talent in the world. He won't get that at Louisville with BobbyP. I expect TG's defense to suck more there than it did here. If it doesn't. What do we point to?