In 2010, the Georgia Bulldog defense struggled under the first year of Todd Grantham. They struggled to be in the right places, perform the right assignments, and were out-manned in several games.
However, in year two, the defense will be much improved and the Bulldogs will improve on their 6-7 record.
There are several reasons why this defense will improve, and it starts with more experience.
Although not everyone will return this upcoming season, the majority of the starters and backups have a full year of the 3-4 defensive scheme under their belt.
The reason this is important is because the 3-4 is a completely different system than the 4-3 defense they had in the past.
In the 3-4 every assignment for the players, especially in the front seven, is completely different than the 4-3.
The biggest change is the importance of the nose guard. In the 4-3, you have two big bodies clogging up the middle. In the 3-4, you only have one.
The nose guard position is one of the most important pieces in Todd Grantham's defense. He has to be able to command a double team to make sure that the two inside linebackers can flow freely.
The problem in 2010 was that Georgia did not have that player on their roster. DeAngelo Tyson performed well, but he is better suited for the defensive end position.
So looking to 2011, what is the solution for that problem?
Enter John Jenkins, 6'4'', 340 pound nose tackle.
Jenkins will be the piece that fills that void, and he will allow Tyson to go back to playing end. You won't necessarily see the impact in outstanding numbers by Jenkins, but he will make a huge impact.
He will clog the middle, and allow the two inside linebackers, Alex Ogletree, Richard Samuel and others to flow freely and read the play.
With Jenkins as nose tackle, DeAngelo Tyson will play end, a move already confirmed by Todd Grantham.
The other end spot will be fought between Abry Jones, Garrison Smith and Derrick Loft. Jones is holding a slight lead heading into spring practice.
Another problem the 3-4 had last year was the position of outside linebacker. Justin Houston was great, but he is better suited for the 4-3 defense.
Jarvis Jones, a transfer from USC who sat last year out, has made the switch from inside linebacker to outside linebacker.
Regardless of the position, Jones will start next season. The other end spot is up for grabs. Junior Cornelius Washington and newcomer Ray Drew will compete for that spot.
Washington has the experience, but it will be very difficult for Grantham to pass up the talent of 6'5'', 245 pound, Ray Drew.
Regardless of who starts, Drew and Washington will both receive playing time.
At inside linebacker, freshman Alec Ogletree will make the move from safety to inside linebacker. The reason for this is because Grantham wants Ogletree closer the ball so he can make more plays.
The other spot is open, and Christian Robinson, Richard Samuel and Kent Turene will fight for that spot.
The secondary is where the Bulldogs have the most question marks.
Brandon Boykin and Sanders Commings are expected to start at the two cornerback spots, along with Bacarri Rambo occupying one of the safety positions.
The other spot will come down to Jakar Hamilton, Shawn Williams or Marc Deas.
The front seven will be very good next year, and it will show much improvement. The secondary has question marks, but they are definitely questions that have answers.
The defense will be tested very early in the 2011 season with games against Boise State and South Carolina.
For the most part, the secondary will get tested against the arm of Kellen Moore, and the front seven will get tested against Marcus Lattimore.
This team has the talent to be one of the best defenses in the SEC, but there is one thing that their success will come down to.
It will come down to if they actually want it.
The team can have the best talent in the country, but if they don't want it, then they won't be successful.
As a unit, they have to know their responsibilities like the back of their hand, as well as everyone else's responsibilities.
They have to tackle and gang tackle the ball carrier.
When they get to the quarterback, they have to take him to the ground.
With the improved talent and experience on this defense, if they don't get out-manned and miss tackles like they did last year, the defense will turn from a weakness to a strength.