You’ve seen by now that Georgia’s 2-deep on defense is as inexperienced as we feared it could be: 10 players have never played a snap of D-1 football, and 8 are true freshmen. That’s not unexpected, but the approach of the Clemson game gives us a chance to look at some specific ways Georgia will have to deal with their situation.
PWD had a good one here:
— Paul Westerdawg (@GeorgiaBlogPWD) August 27, 2013
The Nebraska game turned out well, but you also remember that scene early in the third quarter when Georgia couldn’t get lined up on the goal line. You wonder how complex Grantham will try to get with such an inexperienced defense. It’s not quite 2010 again, but it’s going to be important to get these new guys into a comfort zone where at least they know what their assignment is before they worry about the offense they’ll see. Georgia’s defensive success in this game will have a lot to do with Grantham’s ability to improvise with what he has versus what he’d prefer to do.
That brings up a related topic – one of the reasons why Herrera didn’t see more time last year at MLB had to do with getting the defense lined up. It’s the job of the middle linebacker to read the offense and adjust the defensive call to match what he sees. Herrera has been a solid linebacker since he was thrown to the fire as a freshman in 2011, but he was still developing the big-picture skills. That gave the coaches a decision and a trade-off – do you put the better defender in or the guy more likely to align the defense correctly? There’s no one ahead of Herrera and Wilson this year, so it’s on them. So we’re not only looking at Grantham getting the call in quicker, we’re also depending on the middle linebackers to improve on a weakness of last season. Fun stuff.
Both Georgia and Clemson are facing big questions in the secondary. Georgia will be without two likely starters thanks to a suspension and an injury. Clemson has also been banged up, and they’re looking to improve on a unit that was sub-par to begin with. So while each team hopes its secondary can step up, they’ll lean on relatively stronger units up front. If either team can generate pressure and chaos along the line, they’ll force more rushed throws and poor decisions that will help the defensive backs.
Tyler had a nice look yesterday at Clemson’s speed and depth along their front seven. That kind of disruption of Georgia’s rushing lanes and timing of passes is just what the secondary is looking for. The Dawgs aren’t as experienced up front, but they will at least have a strong rotation to keep the line fresh. Georgia’s linebacking corps is the most experienced unit on the defense (even that’s relative), and they’ll have to be keys to applying pressure while maintaining the discipline to deal with Clemson’s counters to the pressure.
Each team has ways to derail attempts to bring pressure. For Clemson, it’s tempo and the scrambling ability of Boyd. He can elude initial pressure and create on the run. Georgia’s front six or seven must worry not only about pressure but also containment. Boyd’s running threat also allows Clemson to use option plays from most any formation to freeze Georgia’s front to buy time or make them pay for overaggressiveness. On the Georgia side, you have the tailbacks and play-action. Gurley and Marshall are the quality of tailback that require run support from the secondary. Tyler made an interesting comparison of Clemson’s line to the Boise defense we saw in 2011. The current talent at tailback is one big weapon that Georgia didn’t have to counter what they saw from Boise. If Clemson is aggressive on the line, they’ll open things up for draws, play-action, and screens. We’ve seen Gurley and Marshall put in work in the passing game during the offseason, and this could be a good chance to use them to relieve pressure.