When Todd Grantham was hired by the University of Georgia in 2010, he was supposed to be the answer to the Bulldogs defensive woes.
He had coached under some of the top coaches in all of football. On the college level, he had served under Nick Saban at Michigan State and Frank Beamer at Virginia Tech. In the NFL, he was the defensive coordinator for the Cleveland Browns under defensive wizard Romeo Crennel.
After the departure of former Bulldog defensive coordinator, Brian VanGorder, the defense had become one of the worse in the SEC. Under VanGorder’s successor, Willie Martinez, the Georgia defense went from the “Junkyard Dogs” to just junk.
Grantham’s first season as defensive coordinator for the Bulldogs received mixed reviews. However, no one with an unbiased eye could deny at least moderate growth on the defensive side of the ball. The casual observer might have forgotten that UGA had seven players from the previous season sign NFL contracts.
Former Bulldogs Kade Weston (Patriots), Jeff Owens (Eagles), Geno Atkins (Bengels), Rennie Curran (Titans), Reshad Jones (Miami), Bryan Evans (Bengals) and Prince Miller (Ravens) all departed for the NFL in 2009.
Because of their departures, Grantham had to install a new defensive system, on a bad team, who had just lost many of their top players to the NFL. Moreover, the 3-4 scheme is one of the more difficult schemes to install in college football. With that background, consider the statistical improvements that happened in Coach Grantham's first season.
|SEC Total Defense||8th||4th|
|SEC Scoring Defense||10th||5th|
|Forced Turnovers||12 (total)||26 (total)|
|National Turnover Margin Ranking||118th||18th|
Hopes were high coming into the 2011 season, despite losing their defensive leader in sacks, Justin Houston, to the NFL. However, the Bulldogs would suffer a 35-21 setback at the hands of Boise State in the season opener. In Week 2, the Bulldogs would suffer the second defeat in as many games. This time to the South Carolina Gamecocks 45-42. This had many fans calling out the whole UGA coaching staff—including Coach Grantham.
While there was plenty of blame to go around during the first two weeks of the season, very little should have been geared toward Coach Grantham. The Bulldogs played well on defense in the first half of the Boise State game. However, the offenses inability to move the football consistently led to the Bulldogs defense wearing down and giving up 21 points in the second half.
Since that time, the defense has only been responsible for allowing 24 points over the last three games (8 PPG). Yes, South Carolina scored 45 points, but only 17 points were the result of the Gamecocks moving the football on the Bulldogs defense. The other scores were the result of one fumble that was returned for a touchdown, one interception that was returned for a touchdown, one touchdown that was the result of a fake punt and one fumble that was returned to the five-yard line. Even if you count the five-yard touchdown against the defense, that is still less than 11 points per game.
Despite facing perhaps the nation’s most efficient quarterback and the nation’s top running back in the first two games of the season, the Bulldogs are putting up some impressive numbers. The Bulldogs are currently ranked third in the SEC in total defense. They also rank second in pass defense and second in opponents third-down conversion percentage.
All of this, despite missing their two starting inside linebackers in multiple games.
The Bulldogs defense still needs to make improvements. However, their growth should not be denied. If this defense continues to improve, so will the Bulldogs overall record.