Leading into the season, two narratives dominated the conversation about the Georgia Bulldogs. One of those storylines was Aaron Murray and the high-profile offense, while the other was the young and inexperienced defense. Unfortunately for the Bulldogs, that prolific offensive attack has been diminished a great deal by injuries. The defense, however, is exactly what it was billed to be: young and inexperienced, but improving.
For some reason, the very fans who quivered in fear over the potential shortcomings of a renovation project on defense now seem outraged that the renovation is taking place at all. Defensive coordinator Todd Grantham has been called into question (and to be fair: Many of the criticisms are legitimate), players have been ridiculed and the benefit of the doubt has been completely lost.
Despite declining fan sentiment, this Georgia defense is starting to come into its own. But more importantly, this defense is exactly what should have been anticipated.
Early Season Performance
Georgia’s defense is currently allowing 33.3 points per game, a figure abysmal enough to rank 100th in the nation. That statistic does not tell the whole story. Lost in Georgia’s scoring defense average is the quality of opposition the Dawgs have faced this season.
|Georgia's Scoring Defense Through Seven Games|
|Opponent||Points Per Game||National Rank||Points Against Georgia|
Through seven games, Georgia has held four opponents (South Carolina, North Texas, Missouri and Vanderbilt) below their season scoring averages. Furthermore, Georgia’s opponents combine to average more points per game over the course of the season than they do against the Bulldogs.
At this point in the season, this young Georgia defense has actually kept pretty decent pace with last year’s veteran and NFL-ready defensive unit.
|2012 and 2013 Georgia Defenses Through Seven Games|
|Year||Opponents Scoring Average||Average Points Allowed by Georgia||Percentage of Opponents Scoring Average Allowed by Georgia|
The Impact of Special Teams and Field Position
At times, poor special teams play by the Bulldogs and good field position for opposition has limited Grantham’s defense. Here are a few occasions when those two factors yielded a negative impact for the Dawgs' defenders.
- Clemson recovered an Aaron Murray fumble on the Georgia 16 yard-line and managed to score a touchdown five plays later.
- Punter Collin Barber struggled to reel in a snap against South Carolina and gave the Gamecocks the ball on the Georgia 18. South Carolina scored a touchdown on an 18-yard drive.
- North Texas returned a kickoff for a touchdown and recovered a blocked punt in the end zone for a touchdown.
- LSU intercepted a Murray pass and returned it to the Georgia 33, which set up a 33-yard scoring drive.
- Tennessee returned a blocked punt for a touchdown.
- Missouri returned a fumble for a touchdown and also scored a touchdown on a 33-yard drive following an Aaron Murray interception.
- Vanderbilt scored on a 36-yard drive following a fumbled punt return by Georgia and later scored on a 13-yard drive following a mishandled Bulldog long snap.
To be sure, all of those points count equally. However, it’s difficult to put the majority of the blame on this young Georgia defense when the 70 points detailed above were the result of just 149 yards of offense by the opposition. Special Teams errors and turnovers have aided (if not caused) 10 points per game for Georgia’s opponents.
The Defense as a Whole
|Georgia's Defensive Yards Per Game|
|Opponent||Rushing Yards Per Game||Rushing Yards Against Georgia||Passing Yards Per Game||Passing Yards Against Georgia||Total Yards Per Game||Total Yards Against Georgia|
As demonstrated by the table above, the Georgia defense has held its own in the yardage department as well. Only one team (Tennessee) has accounted for more than its season average against the Bulldogs. Georgia is allowing fewer rushing yards than its opponents’ average (a point of emphasis this season) and fewer passing yards.
This defense is as young as it was sold to be, and with that inexperience comes trials. Thus far, however, the defense has performed adequately. With maturity, the unit stands to improve drastically over the coming weeks, but right now, it is exactly what it was supposed to be. Georgia fans need to remember that.