By William Qualkinbush.
By William Qualkinbush
Georgia’s defensive unit will be young this season—very young. But experience and ability don’t necessarily correlate, so expectations are still high for a team that has national title aspirations.
On its two-deep depth chart released earlier this week, the Bulldogs list nine freshmen—including two starters—on the defensive side of the football. With a group made up of such youth, it will be important for the coaching staff to keep things simple heading into a huge Week 1 matchup with Clemson on the road.
The wisdom of such an approach is not lost on defensive coordinator Todd Grantham and his assistants. They understand that Chad Morris’ Clemson attack is fierce, fast, and ferocious, and in order to stop it, simplicity might be the only feasible solution.
“We’ve got to, first of all, know what to do,” Georgia defensive line coach Chris Wilson said. “As their coach, I’ve got to teach them how to do it at a high level fundamentally. Half of this is not so much the physical ability as it is the learning curve.”
Wilson is in his first season coaching with Grantham and so far, he likes what he sees from the Bulldogs’ 3-4 scheme. Clemson’s offensive linemen have expressed some concern about handling the uniqueness of the alignment because it has some elements not normally seen by the Tigers in the Atlantic Coast Conference.
The ability to be different has Georgia feeling good about itself even as it attempts to break in a number of new faces. Due to injuries, NFL defections, and natural progression of recruiting cycles, the linebackers and defensive backs Grantham has to work with are largely unaccustomed to facing a collegiate offense—much less one with as much potency as Clemson’s..
This has caused the Bulldogs to try to keep it as simple as possible so the players on the field can perform well.
“You’ve got to always be able to adjust and tweak as you move forward because injuries are a part of it,” Grantham said of finding quality players to fill holes. “You have to be able to handle it and have answers for it and try to find ways to play the players you have available to the best of their ability.”
Wilson thinks he has the ingredients in his defensive line group to set the tone for the Bulldogs. Grantham knows he doesn’t have much time to get his crew ready to go against arguably one of college football’s toughest assignments. Familiarity can lead to confidence, which is Georgia’s hope for its defense as it prepares to take the stage in Clemson on Saturday night.
“There is nothing like having a guy next to you who is as good as you and really wants your job,” Wilson said. “That’s really been the key thing. As long as we can keep the competition and keep everybody healthy, I really think we can develop some depth.”
Such development must come quickly. The nation will be watching to see if the Bulldog defense can play like a bunch of grown-ups on Saturday.