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Post Getting pressure is only part of the job

Wednesday October 6, 2010

Blutarsky had a post the other day about Georgia’s best chance of the year to get a good pass rush. Tennessee’s offensive line is young and thin, so it’s not a surprise that they lead the league in sacks surrendered. Can Georgia take advantage of that fact? The situation seems tailor-made for Grantham’s aggressive defense, but that aggression has bit Georgia about as much as it’s helped them so far.

The Dawgs shown an uncanny ability to get into the backfield and just miss making the play. I don’t think I’ve ever seen anything like it. Houston and Gamble just about lived in the Colorado backfield on Saturday, but the enduring memories will be the plays where Tyler Hansen getting away. It happened on the first drive when Hansen scrambled to convert a third and six and followed that up with a planned QB draw to set up the Buffs with first and goal. It happened when Hansen got a weak pass away just in time to draw a questionable roughing penalty from the oncoming pressure. It happened yet again in the fourth quarter when Hansen got loose to the left on a 3rd and 13, drew in the safety, and hit a wide-open receiver.

Of course bringing pressure accepts a certain amount of risk. It’s not just a question of what happens if the quarterback evades the pressure. You can look at Colorado’s first touchdown. Or the swing pass to the tailback that set up another score. Or the touchdown run following the roughing the kicker call. In each case, an outside linebacker was put in a spot to have to make a decision. Utility back Matthew Bahr was able to slip behind inexperienced reserve Reuben Faloughi for the first score. Cornelius Washington lost the tailback on that long gainer. On Colorado’s final score, the linebacker got caught moving with the play to the left while the pitch went right.

In a lot of these cases, you’re talking about guys who were capable defensive ends but who are now being asked to make these quick assignment vs. coverage vs. pursuit decisions as outside linebackers. It’s probably the biggest adjustment in Georgia’s transition to the 3-4, and that adjustment is still ongoing. You’re starting to see better play around the line of scrimmage, and more traditional linebackers like Dent are cleaning up. One of the next steps in the improvement of the defense has to be better awareness from the converted defensive ends now playing OLB. If Georgia is going to be multiple and aggressive in its pressure, these guys are often the ones left to pick up the tailback out of the backfield or the tight end in the flat that can serve as quick reads for the QB under pressure.

Tennessee QB Matt Simms isn’t as mobile as Hansen, but he’s not a potted plant either. Tennessee called several designed runs for him at LSU, and one of them resulted in a touchdown. He’s not going to be a stationary target. Georgia will be looking to pile on to Simms’ sack total, but they’ll also likely be faced with several more plays where the pressure breaks down and the improvisation skills of both Simms and the Georgia defense are put to the test.

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