Remember the days of Brian Van-Gorder? The days when Georgia would score only 20 points and still blow out their opponents? Those good times are now being replicated due to the presence of Todd Grantham.
Willie Martinez was a disaster of a defensive coordinator, even though he was a good coach at Georgia before his promotion. His defenses were soft, weak and underperforming. Mark Richt and his great recruiting talent has always brought in skill players who could and can easily be the best in the SEC, even the nation, but sadly, they had been underutilized.
There was no consistency, no urgency and no aggressiveness shown by the defenses of 2008, 2009, and occasionally, even those in '06 and '07. Opponents would put up points in a heartbeat and not allow our usually talented offense any chance of coming back. Alabama scored 31 points by halftime against the Dawgs in 2008, something unheard of by Georgia fans and people around the nation.
In 2009, the defense was even worse, allowing their opponents to score on average over 25 points a game. This is horrible in comparison to Brian Van-Gorder's worst defense, which was in 2001. That unit allowed 19.0 points a game, but that was ranked the 16th-best defense in the nation at that time.
However, Georgia's defense hero has arrived. In 2010, Mark Richt after failing to hire big-name coaches like Kirby Smart and Bud Foster went for someone who had both college and NFL experience. Grantham had coached under defensive wizards Nick Saban, Dom Capers and Frank Beamer, giving him good experience and knowledge to be the coach of an SEC defense.
His first year as DC was in itself a success. He took a defense that was 64th in the nation in terms of points allowed and turned it into a defense that was 37th in the country. Under his watch, he converted a 4-3 defense into a 3-4 defense without having a true nose guard, which is a vital part of that style of defense.
Also, a problem that had plagued the Willie Martinez defenses of the previous years was that forced turnovers were rare occurrences. For that reason, Georgia had the 118th worst overall turnover margin in 2009. In 2010, they had the 18th-best turnover margin.
The one issue, though, with the 2010 defense was that the players had to adjust to the new system implemented by Grantham. Sometimes, they looked confused and downright helpless on some occasions, leading to defensive breakdowns and big plays to happen.
Now in the second year of Todd Grantham's stay, the defense is now one of the best in the country. In the past four games, the Dawgs have only allowed two, I repeat, two defensive touchdowns. Those touchdowns were scored by two SEC teams in away games I might add. Tyler Bray was scrambling the entire game and could not throw deep. He had to dink and dunk against the Bulldogs, leading to his team only racking up 270 yards of total offense.
This was an offense that was 11th best in the country in passing offense and had scored at least two passing touchdowns in each of its last 10 games. Granted, most of those teams were mediocre to okay, but it is still impressive how Georgia completely shut down the offensive of the Volunteers.
The result of Todd Grantham's defense changes and coaching are great for the team and great for the fanbase. Georgia has always been known to have stout defenses and capable offenses, but that has not been the case in the past few years. People have been quick to blame Mark Richt, but he doesn't coach the defense closely as he does the offense nor can he help that turnovers don't go their way. A good staff is needed to maintain a good team, and Georgia didn't have that staff.
Thankfully, Mark Richt realized this and cleaned house. He brought in a brand new staff with a brand new attitude. This is an attitude of aggressiveness and strength. Players are tackling speedy running backs and strong tight ends. The front line is stuffing the run and getting pressure on the QB. The corners and safeties are staying on their targets and making plays instead of sitting back in zone coverage. It seems as if wide receiver of the opponent has a Dawg player within at least a yard of him.
Is Georgia's Defense for Real?
Although sacks haven't been racked up, the rival quarterback has been feeling the heat. Other than Kellen Moore, arguably the most accurate passer in CFB, the quarterback facing UGA have not been able to get into rhythm or feel entirely comfortable. It seems as if every facet of the defense has stepped up and consistently played hard and fast. This year's defense would make Erk Russell proud.
What does this improvement mean for the overall state of the football team? Well, Georgia is tied for first in the SEC East and is on the verge of winning five straight games. Even with their offense being slightly sloppy and inconsistent, their defense has held strong and given the offense wonderful cushions and opportunities.
Fans are now excited about this team, something they haven't been in a very long time. Todd Grantham has brought back life to an SEC powerhouse and its traditionally vaunted defense. His hiring has to be one of the best signings made by UGA in the past 10 years.
The season is not over yet, and there are still tough SEC teams to play, but right now, things are looking up. We can thank our defensive coordinator for this surge and his coaching ability. It seems that the Junkyard Dawgs are back.