Who has two thumbs and has given up 125 points in 3 games?
Much is being written about the state of the Georgia Bulldog defense and Willie Martinez's approach to pretty much everything.
Let me first say that Richt is right. Most fans wouldn't know Cover 1 from Cover 2, 3, 4, 0 or man for that matter. I'm not that different. I'm not going to sit here and pretend to tell you why this part or that part of the scheme is wrong.
I just know something isn't working.
Is it Talent or Is it Coaching?
I get asked that a lot. I'm of the opinion it's both. From my seats, the coaching side of the equation looks to be less about scheme or play calling than our fundamental approach.
I said several times in the days and weeks following the losses to UF and Bama that I didn't feel that we had the healthy talent to beat either team. I still feel that way.
However, our defensive talent level doesn't explain why we didn't appear to compete in those games for painfully long stretches. I sincerely respect the field position disadvantages that our offense created for our defense against Florida. But after the first half of that game, the Georgia defense rolled over and played totally dead. In the Alabama game, it's hard to say that they put up much of a fight until things were totally out of hand.
In other words, I buy the argument that we lacked the healthy talent to get the outcome we wanted versus those Top 5 teams. However, the process of getting to the outcome raised red flags for me in those games that exploded off the field when watching the Kentucky game.
Offensively, Kentucky is the least talented group that Georgia will face this season outside of Vanderbilt. Yet, they attacked the Georgia defense with almost 230 yards rushing, 70 plays and 38 points. Granted, three of their TDs were field position related drives of 9, 29 and 4 yards. But as someone else said yesterday...there's nothing that prohibits us from holding them to field goals in those spots.
My concern boils down to this. The defense isn't playing with the violence or tempo of our successful units. No one we're playing could possibly fear this unit. They don't attack their opponents. They don't hit like prior Georgia defenses (outside of Rennie Curran). They don't run towards collisions like prior Georgia defenses. And they don't appear to reject failure as an option like prior Georgia defenses (all referring to those under Richt)
Granted, the scheme used by Willie Martinez and Brian Van Gorder requires dominating defensive line play, and we most certainly do NOT have that right now. However, that doesn't explain what looks to be a reluctance for our linebackers to play on the opponents side of the offensive line. It doesn't explain why we look tentative at the point of collision, and it doesn't explain the inconsistent performances of key players who DO have the talent to perform at a higher level.
So yes. There most certainly IS a talent gap between this unit and that of 2005 or 2002. But I'll be damned if I believe that our talent gap and injury situation is so severe that Kentucky's offensive personnel is superior to our defensive personnel.
Even if you disregard the 3 TDs that came from RANCID special teams play and offensive fumbles, they still gave up 17 points and 226 yards of rushing to a team that averages less in both categories in SEC games...and is much more banged up at key personnel areas than they were earlier in the season.
This group needs a major overhaul one way or the other. That doesn't mean fire Willie Martinez. We're averaging 10+ wins a year with Willie. But it's a group that's broken right now, and either he or Richt needs to spend an enormous amount of time fixing it at the DNA level.
The Good News:
The defense is most in need of a speed rusher, senior leaders, getting healthy and a coaching commitment to not accepting these types of results. The 2009 horizon looks better in most of these areas
- Speed Rusher - Justin Houston shows signs of promise. He could be a Marcus Howard type player for the Dawgs. He's probably a year and half ahead of Howard at the same point in his tenure. Cornelius Washington is also redshirting. Washington was a high school sprinter who may grow into the type of edge performer Georgia needs. A healthy Rod Battle (while not a speed rusher) would also help here.
- Senior Leadership - I've mentioned this before, but there is only 1 impact player on either side of the ball right now who is a healthy senior -- Mohamed Massaquoi. Next year, Asher Allen ,Geno Atkins, Jeff Owens, Kade Weston, Rod Battle, Prince Miller and Bryan Evans will all be seniors. Anyone of any age can lead, but it's usually the seniors who take you to the promised land. It was Jon Stinchcomb who deliverd the fire and brimstone message to his teammates at halftime in Auburn 2002 down 14-3, and it was Boss Bailey and Tony Gilbert who rallied the defense in Tuscaloosa and Columbia in '02 before the key stops.
- Getting Healthy - This year we've played without Owens, Kade Weston, Rod Battle and Jeremy Lomax (injured but muddling through) for over half our games due to injury. We get them all healthy next year.
(I'll do the special teams report tomorrow night. I'm sleepy)