Scouting the Georgia Bulldogs: Defense and Special Teams

Base Defense: 3-4. As you probably know, Mark Richt replaced maligned DC Willie Martinez this offseason with Todd Grantham. Grantham is a Nick Saban disciple who spent many years in the NFL between his time working for Saban at Michigan State and his new gig in Athens. He has instituted a 3-4 defense for the Dawgs. You can read more about the 3-4 here, but here are a few key things to know. The approach relies heavily on the three down linemen to cover running gaps and occupy offensive linemen, preferably with the nose tackle occupying at least two offensive linemen. If your defensive linemen can do this effectively--think Alabama's lines over the past two seasons--you have a lot of liberty to use your linebackers in different ways. They can help out against the run, or they can blitz, which is very popular with 3-4 teams. You can expect Georgia to blitz linebackers early and often if they can prove early that their line is effectively working our offensive line. The key, then, to stopping this kind of defense is to limit the linemen's ability to control the offensive line--if you can do this, you can run the football, and you can fend off the blitzing linebackers. If you can get pass protection, you can often beat blitzes by throwing the ball on the sideline, too, as a 3-4 approach will often favor using the OLB in blitzes rather than coverage. For this reason, good blocking from the backs is key.

Returning Starters: 5. One big loss that you may remember is Rennie Curran, otherwise known as the great Gamecock killer.

Defensive Line: One of the big questions coming into this season was how the Georgia line would hold up in Grantham's new scheme, which puts a lot of pressure on the defensive line. So far, so good--they dominated the trenches against Louisiana-Lafayette, helping the Dawgs to hold the Rajin Cajuns to less than one ypc and helping the team pressure the QB. Georgia certainly has some talented players here, but they also don't have a Terrance Cody, the kind of player that is usually essential to making this defensive approach work. It will be interesting to see how well they do against a real (ok, maybe I'm getting ahead of myself) offensive line Saturday.

Linebackers: As said, Curran is gone, but they Dawgs have plenty of talent here. They're also now going to be lining up former star DE Justin Houston as a hybrid LB / DE on the outside. Houston is the guy we'll have to watch on the pass rush--I would expect that Georgia will try to do what it can to rattle Stephen Garcia and get him to make mistakes.

Secondary: Georgia lost former safety Reshad Jones, but most Dawg fans seem to actually be happy about that. Bacarri Rambo, despite making a boneheaded play to give up a long TD against ULL, is a rising star. At corner, the Dawgs have some talent, but they're also still a big young.

Special Teams: UGA's problems with KOs returned in the opening game, so that will be an interesting thing to watch. Their FG and punting units are among the nation's best.

Analysis: First of all, we used a fair bit of the I this past week, and I would expect that we may do something similar this week. Georgia is going to be bringing the heat on Garcia, and having some good blockers in the backfield will help us out quite a bit. We have some major size advantages in the receiving game, and as the above suggests, some passing plays should be there if we can get Garcia time. He looked very solid last week when he wasn't pressured. I'd also think we could run the ball more effectively out of this formation.

Another thing that I would think we'll try to exploit is what could potentially be a weakness against mobile QBs. UGA is going to throw the house at us from the outside, then some zone-read option for Garcia and Stephon Gilmore might be a good approach to making them pay if they overpursue.

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