Georgia Football: Examining How Successful Bulldogs Defense Will Be in 2012
When defensive coordinator Todd Grantham brought his 3-4 scheme to Athens in 2010, everyone knew the Bulldogs would go through some growing pains in the first year.
But what caught people off guard is how improved the defense was last season. In fact, the defense was so good, many could argue that they were the reason the Bulldogs reached the SEC championship.
With all by one starter returning, the defense has a chance to break records if everyone can remain healthy.
But how good can this defense be? Can they be the best in the SEC? Can they even be the best in the country?
Here's a closer look of how good the Bulldogs defense can be in 2012.
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The combination of nose tackles John Jenkins and Kwame Geathers will be fun to watch. Both players weigh a biscuit over 350 pounds and both can start on any defensive line in the country.
But as good as Jenkins and Geathers are, defensive end Abry Jones could very well be the MVP of the defensive line. Jones played at a high level last year and could be a first-team All-SEC performer if he continues to improve.
Adding former outside linebacker Cornelius Washington to the group was huge. He can shed blocks and get after the quarterback.
The defensive line for the Bulldogs was good last year. But they have a chance to be superior in 2012.
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Michael Gilliard and Alec Ogletree will be the starting inside linebackers and both feed off each other. Gilliard was third on the team in tackles last year with 65 and Ogletree recorded 52 tackles and three sacks despite missing six games.
Ogletree will be suspended for at least the first two games of the year, so Christian Robinson will take his spot. Robinson played a lot last year and while he is not a playmaker like Ogletree, he doesn't make mistakes and is the emotional leader for the Bulldogs.
If the defensive line plays better than they did last year, the inside linebackers will feed off of it and Ogletree, Robinson, Gilliard and even Amarlo Herrera will have success.
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If there has to be an MVP for the Bulldogs last year, it would have to go to outside linebacker Jarvis Jones.
There was no other player on the Bulldogs roster that played at a higher level all season long. Jones, who led the SEC in sacks and tackles for losses last year, is primed to have a huge 2012 season.
His partner-in-crime will be Chase Vasser, who started in three games last year. Vasser should have some big numbers this upcoming season because opponents will try to steer away from Jones, who is everything a coach would want in an outside linebacker.
And while Vasser is not the same athlete as Jones, he is very consistent and always reliable.
It's safe to say the outside linebackers for the Bulldogs will be the backbone of the defense.
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This is where things get a little interesting.
All but one starter return this season, but three out of the four starters will be suspended for at least the first game.
Sanders Commings, Branden Smith and Bacarri Rambo will all be out of action for the game against Buffalo, so players like Malcolm Mitchell, Damian Swann and Connor Norman will have to step up.
Thankfully, the Bulldogs still have Shawn Williams, who did not get enough credit for his play last year. Williams led the team with 72 tackles and also tallied four interceptions.
If there has to be a weak link to the defense, it would be the secondary because of depth. But once they get to full strength by the midway mark of the season, they will be a difficult team to throw on.
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The Bulldogs have all the tools to be the best defense in the country. They have a strong defensive line, an All-American linebacker and a defensive coordinator who knows how to make the right call at the right time.
The thing that may hurt the unit is the depth at secondary. The young guys that will play early in the season will have to grow up fast in order to hang with Smith, Williams, Commings and Rambo.
Fortunately, the Bulldogs will have a not-so-hard schedule to start the season, and the secondary should be at full strength when things get tougher.
Will the Bulldogs be the best in the county if all this happens? Probably not, but it's not out of the question to have them as one of the best three defensive units in the country.