We had a good discussion the other day about whether Mark Richt and Todd Grantham should pursue a full-time special teams coach or go with another defensive coach to fill Georgia’s final coaching vacancy. According to members of the media who met with Grantham and new defensive backs coach Scott Lakatos this morning, Grantham expects to go after another linebackers coach. Grantham wasn’t specific whether he would coach inside or outside linebackers.
It’s common in a 3-4 defense to have two linebackers coaches – one for the inside linebackers and one for the outside. There’s a difference among the responsibilities of the linebackers even under Georgia’s old 4-3 system, but the difference between the ILBs and the OLBs in a 3-4 is even greater – the outside linebackers have to manage everything from hand-down pass rush on the defensive line to run support to pure pass coverage. The best outside linebackers (think Lawrence Taylor classically or DeMarcus Ware / James Harrison in the current NFL) are very much like the dominant weakside defensive ends in a typical 4-3. So if Georgia was going to split up the defensive front among two coaches in the old system, it makes sense that they’re going to coach the linebackers differently under Grantham’s system. Rodney Garner will remain to handle the entire defensive line now.
If you read Tuesday’s post, you know that this was the direction I favored. The transition that many of these players, especially defensive ends, will make from the 4-3 to the 3-4 will be a big part of whether the new defense is a success. It’s very reasonable to make sure that the transition has as much coaching attention as they can throw at it.
But of course the decision has a trade-off, and the implication is that Georgia won’t be adding a special teams coach. That tacitly puts the burden for improvement on special teams on Mark Richt. Georgia likely will again go with a committee approach among the staff for special teams coaching. It’s an approach that has worked at Georgia and other schools, but it’s also a risk that each element of special teams will be left up to someone with additional responsibilities elsewhere on the field. There was a lot to like about Georgia’s special teams last year, but the problem areas were glaring, and it will now be Richt’s responsibility to make sure that the right people are put into place to address those areas.