August 31, 2011

Can Dawgs slow Boise?

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It's a question Todd Grantham has heard more often than not, as his Georgia defense continues its final preparations for Saturday night's opener against Boise State - will year two in the 3-4 produce better results than they did last fall?

Based on what he's seen thus far, Grantham is certainly hopeful.

"I think we're better. I think the guys have done a good job of doing all the things we've asked them to do from playing the way we want them to play, to taking on blocks the way we want them to take them on, tackling the way we want them to tackle," Grantham said. "They're doing everything we want them to do as well as learning the system, communicating and matching things we want to get done. I think from a performance standpoint and from a technique standpoint, they've improved. From an individual trait, habit standpoint they've improved."

Time will obviously tell.

Although the Bulldogs finished fourth in the league in total defense allowing 328.5 yards per game, Georgia certainly experienced some first-year growing pains.

From missed tackles, blown coverages and missed assignments, the fact the Bulldogs were learning a new system kept the defense from developing the type of consistency that Grantham now believes should be one of its strengths.

"Last year was like we were in kindergarten because you'd be taking a step day by day. Things were flying pretty fast," linebacker Chase Vasser said. "This year, we feel like we know it, everybody understands the concepts and we're able to play a lot faster."

The Bulldog can ill afford some of those same mistakes against a Boise State squad that ranked second nationally in total offense last year with 521.31 yards per game and boasts a Heisman Trophy candidate in quarterback Kellen Moore.

Although it's true the Broncos' schedule may have contributed to some of that, Grantham believes Boise State doesn't get enough credit for being an extremely physical offensive team, pointing out that the offensive line has surrendered just 17 sacks in the past two years.

"They're a physical team and they've got some linemen up front that do a good job of finishing blocks. Their left tackle (Nate Potter, 6-foot-6, 300 pounds) is probably a first-round pick, they've got a good running back (Doug Martin), another guy (D.J. Harper) who was hurt that is back and those guys make guys miss. They can go to the house," Grantham said. "The fullback (Dan Paul, 6-0, 251) is physical, so their running game is more physical than people give them credit for."

Of course, all talk of the Bronco offense starts with Moore, who enters the 2011 campaign as the nation's active career leader in passing efficiency (166.74), and wins (38). He also ranks second on the active career list in passing yards (10,867) and passing touchdowns (99).

"Their quarterback is as accurate as any I've ever seen. He knows where to go with the ball and can make what should be a good play for the defense into a positive play for the offense with his smarts, instincts and talent," Grantham said. "They run an NFL-style passing attack. They're getting the ball out quick, and they know how to run their routes."

But don't let all the bouquets being tossed Boise's way by Grantham fool you, safety Sanders Commings said his coach is definitely excited about the challenge.

"With the way he's coaching right now in practice, you'd think he was playing," Commings said. "He seems more jacked up than some of the players and we're feeding off that energy. We're excited about this game - the offense, the defense, the coaches, everyone in this building. We're ready to play."

Grantham admits he agrees.

"I like challenges, I know our defense likes challenges," he said. "We've obviously got a huge one on Saturday, so this gives us a chance to see where we are."

Of course, getting a consistent pass rush against Moore will be one of the keys for Georgia's success.

On defense, it starts up front where Grantham is counting on nose guards Kwame Geathers and Jonathan Jenkins to establish an interior defensive presence that will allow ends Abry Jones and DeAngelo Tyson, along with Georgia's linebacking corps of Jarvis Jones, Alec Ogletree, Christian Robinson and Cornelius Washington to provide the pressure Grantham hopes to see.

"We know we have to get our share," Jones said. "We don't have (Justin) Houston to depend on, but we don't need to rely on one person anyway so other teams can scheme our best pass rusher. We need to create a good pass rush from all over the board."

NOTE: Grantham said he expects freshmen linebackers Ray Drew, Ramik Wilson and Amarlo Herrera to each get their chance to play Saturday. … Jenkins is also expected to receive his share of snaps. "Jon had his best practice of the year," Grantham said after practice Tuesday.

Anthony Dasher is the managing editor for UGASports
and he can be reached via email at dash@ugasports.com.