2010 Georgia Preview - Defense
Georgia PK Blair Walsh
CollegeFootballNews.com 2010 Preview - Georgia Bulldog Defense
Preview 2010 - Defense
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What You Need To Know: The Georgia defense picked off ten
passes and forced two fumbles, but worse yet, it got
bombed on by the better quarterbacks and was good,
but not phenomenal against the run. Even with all
the issues, finishing 38th in the nation in total
defense isn’t that bad. Changes needed to be made,
though, and in comes Todd Grantham as the new
defensive coordinator. With a pro background, most
recently as the Dallas Cowboy defensive line coach,
he’s going to install a 3-4 with the idea to get
even more aggressive. That means pass rushing terror
Justin Houston will move to outside linebacker,
while the huge front three will be in charge of
shooting gaps to get into the backfield. The
secondary loses three starters, but it has a world
of upside with big safeties, speedy corners, and the
potential to be far better and far more consistent
with more pressure into the backfield.
Tackles: Marcus Dowtin, 57
Sacks: Justin Houston, 7.5
Interceptions: Brandon Boykin, 3
Star of the defense: Senior DE/OLB Justin Houston
Player who has to step up and be a star: Senior CB Vance Cuff
Unsung star on the rise: Sophomore FS Bacarri Rambo
Best pro prospect: Houston
Top three all-star candidates: 1) Houston, 2) DE Demarcus Dobbs, 3) CB Brandon Boykin
Strength of the defense: Size, Talented Nucleus
Weakness of the defense: Proven Pass Coverage, Takeaways
Projected Starters: The job of the defensive front in the new scheme is to be big, hold the line, and occasionally shoot the gap to get into the backfield. It should suit Demarcus Dobbs perfectly. The 6-2, 274-pound senior made 30 tackles with 4.5 sacks and 5.5 tackles for loss as he consistently harassed quarterbacks all season long. He’ll work at right end and should be able to use his non-stop motor to blow into the backfield time and again with his quickness off the ball too much for most guards.
The key to the new alignment will be the play of De’Angelo Tyson on the nose. The 6-2, 294-pound junior was a decent reserve making 12 tackles, but he’s not much of an interior pass rusher and should fit nicely as an anchor who can sit in the middle and try to be an anchor. It’s not like he’s a stick in the mud; he’s quick off the ball and he can move well as a two-gap penetrator, and he’s still improving. Still young and emerging, he hasn’t hit his peak yet.
Abry Jones got on the field as a true sophomore making eight tackles with a sack and two tackles for loss, and he’s just scratching the surface. At 6-3 and 290 pounds, he has the prototype size and strength for a tackle with excellent interior pass rushing skills. If the rest of the line does what it’s supposed to and he’s left in one-on-one blocking, he should dominate at times.
Projected Top Reserves: Junior Justin Anderson started five times last year on the offensive line will make the switch to the defensive side. There’s so much talent on the offensive front that he would’ve been lost in the shuffle, and now he’ll be able to use his 6-5, 330-pound girth once he’s 100% healthy from a shoulder injury. The former right guard is quick for his size and can play any of the three positions, but he’s ideal for the nose.
Senior Kiante Tripp was supposed to be a factor as a big defensive end but he ended up seeing time In just four games and made one tackle. The former offensive tackle has three starts on the other side of the ball and even got in a little work as a defensive end, but now the 6-6, 275-pounder will try to make a splash in his final year as part of the rotation on the right side.
Just in case the Dawgs want to get massive up front, 6-6, 326-pound redshirt freshman Kwame Geathers can step in at tackle. The brother for former South Carolina D lineman, Clifton, Kwame is a big, strong lineman with the potential to move to the offensive side if needed. For now, he’ll be a key part of the interior as a backup on the nose.
Watch Out For … Dobbs. He has been fine so far, but now he’s in the perfect scheme for his talents. He’s just quick enough to become a dominant force on the interior and a consistent threat in the backfield with most offensive tackles having to worry about the outside linebackers.
Strength: Size. The Bulldogs can go to a 4-3 at any time without a problem with several huge prospects from the 326-pound Geathers to the 330-pound Anderson. The top six players on the post-spring depth chart go 274 pounds or bigger.
Weakness: Proven production. The line will be fine, but there are plenty of ifs in the new scheme. Jones and Tyson have a world of upside, but they haven’t shown it off quite yet. There might be a bit of an adjustment period for the entire front three.
Outlook: It’ll be the job of the outside linebackers to wreak havoc into the backfield, but the huge front three should be able to get to the quarterback from time to time without much of a problem. The run defense was more than fine last year, and even with the loss of NFL-caliber tackles Jeff Owens and Geno Atkins, the potential is there for the front three to be a brick wall when needed. It might take a few games, but the talent and the scheme are in place to maximize the prospects’ skills.
Unit Rating: 8
Projected Starters: In the new defensive scheme, former defensive end Justin Houston will be turned loose as an outside linebacker. One of the SEC’s premier pass rushers, the 6-3, 259-pound junior made 7.5 sacks and 15 tackles for loss along with 39 tackles in a full-time role after missing the first few games of last season due to a suspension for violating the team’s drug policy. He’s going to have to do more against the run now that he’s playing with his hand off the ground, but he’ll also get a head start and more space to move to fly into the backfield on every play.
Also moving to outside linebacker is sophomore Cornelius Washington, a reserve last year who made 13 tackles with four sacks and five tackles for loss. At 6-4 and 248 pounds, he’s a big, tall speedster who was a top pass rushing prospect who’s better suited to the NFL-like 3-4. With all the attention paid to Houston on the other side, Washington should thrive.
Senior Akeem Dent was supposed to take over in the middle last year but, missed most of the first half of the year with a hamstring problem. He finally grabbed the starting job over the final four games and finished with 32 tackles with 2.5 tackles, but he has the talent to do a lot more. He’s not huge at 6-2 and 233 pounds, but he’s great tackler who made 11 stops against Georgia Tech and should be one of the team’s top stat-sheet fillers.
Sophomore Christian Robinson is more of a weakside linebacker who’ll play inside in the 3-4. At 6-2 and 216 pounds he’s not all that big, but he’s smart, can move, and is tough for his size making 19 tackles and 2.5 tackles for loss in a reserve role. He has the speed to be a pass rusher, and he could move outside from time to time to add a burst into the backfield.
Projected Top Reserves: Senior Darryl Gamble ended up starting 11 times last year and made 47 tackles with a sack and two tackles for loss. Versatile enough to play anywhere in the new linebacking scheme, the 6-2, 250-pounder is best suited for the middle. Instead, he’ll work in a rotation with Cornelius Washington on the outside and will get a chance to grow into a pass rusher. He’s very smart, has great instincts, and is a good enough tackler to be used in a variety of ways. He might not have lived up to his prep hype when he came to Georgia as one of the nation’s top prospects, but he has been good.
6-2, 220-pound junior Marcus Dowtin was a spot starter getting the nod in two games early and the final two games of last year finishing with 57 tackles, two sacks, and seven tackles for loss. He’s a little bit bigger than Christian Robinson on the inside, but he could be turned loose on the outside and find a role as a pass rushing specialist. He’s a natural weakside linebacker who should be a disruptive force.
Sophomore Mike Gilliard is yet another top-ranked linebacker prospect with the potential and the upside to be a star. He’s built like a safety at 6-2 and 200 pounds and has tremendous mobility and speed, and now he’ll play a bigger role on the inside after making seven tackles last year. He’s a pass rusher who could become a disruptive force.
Watch Out For … the hounds to be released. It’s not a lock that Houston will be better in his new role, but he’ll get a head start into the backfield on every play while the other three linebackers will rush the passer and should be devastating at times.
Strength: Talent. With Houston moving to the linebacking corps to go along with top-shelf talents in Dent, Washington, Gamble and Robinson, there are more than enough playmakers and stars to overcome the loss of leading tackler Rennie Curran.
Weakness: A change in styles. Is it taking a chance to put an all-star pass rushing end in Houston and move him to outside linebacker? A little. Are several 4-3 linebackers going to have to figure out their new roles in a hurry? Yeah. Everything should be fine, in theory, but the change up could be fixing something that wasn’t necessarily broken.
Outlook: The Georgia linebacking corps should be entertaining. The call has gone out for the defense to come up with more big plays, and this group will have the opportunity with Houston, Washington, and Gamble on the outside wreaking havoc on quarterbacks. The 130 tackles and steady, underappreciated play of Rennie Curran will be missed, but the production will be matched by several good young prospects.
Unit Rating: 9
Projected Starters: Junior Brandon Boykin is the only returning starter to a secondary that struggled throughout last year. He took over for Asher Allen, who left early for the NFL, and had a great year finishing fourth on the team with 54 tackles and three interceptions. At 5-10 and 185 pounds he’s not all that big, but he’s a tremendous tackler for his size, and he has the athleticism to grow into a No. 1 cover-corner with excellent speed and a 42” vertical.
After serving as a career backup with one start against Georgia Tech last year, senior Vance Cuff will get his shot at the open corner job. The 5-11, 177-pounder made 21 tackles but didn’t do much against the pass. Now he has to use his good speed and experience to hold down the spot and prove he can hold his own against everyone’s No. 2 receivers.
6-0, 210-pound sophomore Bacarri Rambo has some game to go along with his tremendous name. He has good size and tremendous upside taking over the free safety job for Bryan Evans after making 25 tackles with two interceptions and five broken up passes. He has great range with the versatility to play either safety spot, and he’ll be moved around where needed on his way to becoming a statistical star.
In one of the more interesting moves, 6-2, 219-pound linebacker Nick Williams was moved to strong safety where he’ll try to take over for Reshad Jones, who made 73 tackles and four picks. Williams, a junior, has seen a little bit of time over the last few years and made nine stops last season in his limited role. The former high school quarterback started off his career in the secondary before being tried out as a weakside defender, and now he’ll use his big hitting style excellent quickness, and good range to be an intimidating force in the defensive backfield.
Projected Top Reserves: At 6-2 and 214 pounds, sophomore Sanders Commings is a huge defensive back who can play anywhere in the secondary. While he’d be better as a free safety, he’ll be used as a corner and a nickel back after making 12 tackles with an interception. He can handle the bigger receivers without much of a problem.
Used as both an occasional return man and with some time logged on offense, sophomore Branden Smith is a jack-of-all-trades who made 14 tackles with two broken up passes, ran for 208 yards and two touchdowns, averaging 12.2 yards per carry, and caught two passes for seven yards. The 5-11, 175-pounder is one of the team’s best athletes and will be used more as a reserve corner playing behind Brandon Boykin.
Senior Quintin Banks was a superstar recruit who has yet to come through. The 6-2, 213-pound strong safety is a big defender who isn’t going to do much against the pass but has the potential to be a good hitter. However, he has only made 11 tackles in 17 career games of action mostly because he hasn’t quite been the same since tearing up his knee.
Expected to play a big role right away is transfer Jakar Hamilton, a 6-2, 196-pound ready-made free safety who’s considered one of the nation’s best JUCO prospects. He has the athleticism to go along with the size, and he should find a role in the rotation right away after making 88 tackles and six interceptions for Georgia Military College.
Watch Out For … Rambo. There are several good young prospects who’ll finally get a chance to shine, but Rambo has the upside to be the next great Bulldog defensive back. He should be one of the team’s top three tacklers.
Strength: Size. The corners are just big enough to play safety and the safeties are just big enough to be smallish linebackers. Hitting and tackling won’t be a problem.
Weakness: Proven pass coverage. Last year’s secondary got torched by anyone who could throw the forward pass. The Dawgs gave up 25 touchdown passes and only picked off ten passes, and now three starters have to be replaced.
Outlook: The secondary should be a little bit more productive now that the front seven should be even more aggressive into the backfield. Boykin has to be a lock-down corner and all the talent at safety has to come through. There are several good options at each spot, and it could take a few games to find the right combination.
Unit Rating: 7.5
Projected Starters: There wasn’t much of a buzz about junior Drew Butler taking over the punting job last year. All he did was bomb away for a 48.1-yard average, put 19 inside the 20, and crank out 24 kicks of more than 50 yards on his way to the Ray Guy Award. Consistent and a weapon who bailed out the offense and gave the defense a few big breaks, he’ll be one of the SEC’s most important players.
Junior Blair Walsh followed up a good 2008 with a whale of a sophomore season hitting 20-of-22 field goals with one of his misses coming from beyond 50 yards on his way to becoming a Lou Groza Award finalist. He has a big leg and range from well beyond 50, and last year he showed he could be consistent.
Top corner Brandon Boykin is the top kick returner option after averaging 26 yards per try with three touchdowns including one against South Carolina and one against Tennessee. It’ll be an open casting call for the punt return job with Boykin, Bacarri Rambo, Rantavious Wooten and Carlton Thomas all getting their chances. Even WR A.J. Green might get a chance.
Watch Out For … the punt return job. Georgia doesn’t lack for quick, athletic players, and it’ll be an ongoing search for the one to replace Prince Miller and his 11.9-yard average. Rambo will likely be the first option.
Strength: The kicking game. It’s the best in America with Butler the nation’s top punter last year by far, averaging close to three yards per kick more than the No. 2 punter, and Walsh in the mix for this year’s Lou Groza.
Weakness: Coverage teams. The Dawgs couldn’t cover a kickoff allowing 25.7 yards per try and were mediocre on punt returns allowing 10.5 yards per attempt.
Outlook: The return game should be explosive and the coaching staff is making a concerted effort to improve the coverage teams. The kicking game is peerless and should win the Dawgs at least two games with a huge advantage in Butler and Walsh.
Unit Rating: 9
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2010 Georgia Defense |
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