Georgia Football: Will the Bulldogs Defense Ever Be Elite?

Brian JonesContributor IOctober 25, 2012

COLUMBIA, SC - OCTOBER 06:  Bruce Ellington #23 of the South Carolina Gamecocks celebrates his touchdown against Shawn Williams #36 of the Georgia Bulldogs with Ace Sanders #1 at Williams-Brice Stadium on October 6, 2012 in Columbia, South Carolina.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

Shawn Williams may be onto something.

When he called out his teammates earlier this week, it got a reaction from them, as well as the coaches, fans, staff, alumni and anyone else associated with the Bulldogs.

He was upset the way the defense has played all year and wanted to get back to where they were last year when they were ranked as one of the best in the SEC, as well as the country.

Through seven games, the Bulldogs are ranked 49th in the country in total and scoring defense. When the 2011 season ended last year, the Bulldogs ranked fifth in the country in total defense and 23rd in scoring defense.

So there is a question that has to be asked. How good was the Bulldogs defense last year?

In 2011, the Bulldogs surrendered only 288 points through 14 games. However, 35 points were scored by Boise State, South Carolina scored 45 points, LSU scored 42 points and the Bulldogs gave up 33 points against Michigan State. What do all those teams have in common? They were ranked in the Top 25.

In fact, those were the only teams the Bulldogs faced that finished in the Top 25 and lost all four games.

It looks like that same trend is happening this year as the Bulldogs gave up 35 points against South Carolina, who was ranked in the Top 10 along with the Bulldogs, and it’s the only team the Bulldogs have played so far that is ranked.

What’s the cause of this? Talent was never an issue last year and it’s not an issue this year because all the players that were on the roster are back. Many thought they would take that next step and be able to dominate teams on defense despite the suspensions to Baccari Rambo and Alec Ogletree. The thought was that the Bulldogs were expected to be elite on defense because of players like Jarvis Jones, John Jenkins Kwame Geathers, Abry Jones and Williams.

But Jarvis Jones has missed a couple of games due to injuries, Abry Jones is out for the season with an ankle injury and players that were expected to make strides from last year have underperformed like Cornelius Washington and Michael Gilliard.

So this is why Williams said what he said. He was not attacking anyone, he wanted this unit to be better than what they were last year. If you were to look at the four losses last year, the defense did give up a lot of points, but they still made plays in every one of those games.

They probably played their best football as a group against LSU in the first half of the SEC championship because they did not allow a first down.

But instead of taking a step forward, the defense has taken two steps back and nobody seems to know why they are struggling.

Everyone can agree the Bulldogs have elite talent on defense, but don’t have an elite defense. But if they don’t have it now and never really had it last year in the big-time games, will they ever be an elite defense under Mark Richt and defensive coordinator Todd Grantham?