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Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Getting Defensive

38, 49, 38.

It's been more than a century since numbers like those were put up by consecutive Georgia opponents, and don't think the players haven't noticed.

So what are they planning to do about it?

Well, first, they held a players-only meeting Monday in which Corvey Irvin and a few others laid down the law.

"We've all been talking with each other besides the coaches, pretty much by ourselves as a team," linebacker Rennie Curran said. "We're just encouraging each other. We can't let teams run up the score on us. Like Corvey said, something's got to give. We've got to step it up. Our offense won't always be able to bail us out."

Irvin said specific goals have been established, but he's keeping those goals to himself until after this week's game. Having said that, there is one thing he said the defense expects to do: Get back to basics.

"We really weren't having fun out there this weekend," Irvin said. "That's why we're going to set everything else aside all the BCS and all the other stuff we're just going to play football this week. Georgia's main goal is to just get our swagger back and have fun. We've got to punish, man. We've got to punish. That's it."

BCS and other stuff? If you think it's a bit late in the season -- and two losses too far into the schedule -- for Georgia to still have these types of distractions, you're not alone.

"That's been our emphasis just not playing around in practice, not fooling around at all, just guys focusing in every drill, doing everything like we're doing it in the game," Curran said.

That's not all...

"We need to practice everything like it's in the game, really," Curran said. "It's something we've been not doing too well. That game tempo just flowing sometimes during the game, the offense will up their tempo, go to the hurry-up offense, and we won't be ready with that. We'll get caught out of position or not aligned properly."

That seems to be the overwhelming problem according to several members of the defense, and it killed Georgia against Kentucky, which scored five rushing touchdowns in the game.

The phrase of the week, according to Curran, is "assignment football" -- as in, players need to remember their assignments and stick to them. That didn't happen against the Wildcats.

"We just had little mental errors and little mental mistakes out on the field players not really executing exactly what coach had planned for us," safety Reshad Jones said. "A linebacker might go to the pitch player when he was supposed to have been on the quarterback just different little things, mental errors we had out on the field."

So the next obvious question might be, how is it 10 games into the season and these problems are still happening?

"Injuries, lack of leadership, the defense is just not motivated," Irvin said. "But like I said, we'll have a whole different swagger this week."

A lot of people will take those quotes as an indictment of Willie Martinez, which doesn't surprise Curran. But as his head coach did a day earlier, Curran was quick to defend Martinez as well.

"At the end of the day, those people who are talking probably have no idea what goes on on the practice field or in our meetings or anything," Curran said. "It's just from the outside looking in, when you see that many points go up, you know you're going to have no choice but to point fingers at somebody, and usually the first person who gets pointed to is the coach.

"In their minds, he has control over what we do, but really it's just us, us as players. We're the ones that have full control over what happens, and Coach Martinez is not out there on the field. People can say, 'Oh, he needs to blitz more,' and, 'He needs to do this more,' but at the end of the day, it doesn't matter what scheme he runs or what call he makes, if we're not executing, it's not going to make much of a difference. He can call the best defense out there, he can change everything around and put us in the best position, but if we're not running to the ball and playing assignment football, it's not going to make any difference."


Anonymous said...

The defense has been "breaking down" all year. Look at the GSU rushing stats and the Central Michigan game - this didn't start with LSU, though that might be the worst defensive effort ever. And what is this BCS talk and "swagger" that the players keep spouting about. Has somebody lost control? I assume this "swagger" Irvin keeps talking about dates back to the Sugar Bowl last year. Again I ask, is anybody in control of this madness?

Travis Eckhart said...

swagger is something I can deal with, usually. I don't think the team this year can really discuss swagger, because they lost any they were carrying with them from last year. A 2 loss record this year when looking at our schedule, and the number of underclassmen is phenomenal. It really is. However even if this had been a 1 loss team, i'm not sure they would have been given the nod to play in the NC. This team hasn't shown they can clearly beat any team that they have played so far this season. I think the step back to basics could be a good thing, but it all depends on the players mindset.

Like I say, when a player makes a mistake, look to what they do the first 5 seconds after they make that mistake. That will tell you more than anything about the character of that player.

Anonymous said...

I find it's easier to diagnose a problem than it is to fix it, but I hope that the players are able to do it. Rennie sounds like he's really turning into a locker-room leader, and Lord knows the Dawgs need that right now.

I don't know why any of them are talking about BCS other than the fact that they're just kids who have had a disappointing season relative to the expectations placed on them.

And with that in mind, has Richt had a younger team than this since coming to Georgia? Is it possible that this year is also a learning year for the coaching staff as far as dealing with a group of REALLY young players as far as age goes? I actually don't know; that's why I ask the question.

Regardless, these last two games are two of the biggest in any season. Go 2-0 against Auburn and Tech, and I'm elated almost every year. Lose to Tech, and this whole year's a best IMO.


Anonymous said...

Hey David - awesome job this year and i hope you're enjoying being back on the uga beat.

i'm actually more concerned with the special teams play and our lack of coverage speed and overall strategy of using so many walk-ons instead of the faster scholarship players. being at the game saturday there were a couple of deep kick offs that it seemed like the Ky returner had caught the ball and we didn't have a guy past the 30 yd line. just very curious.

on the punt kick team, i wonder if we have ever given thought to spreading people out as seems to be the fad in college football espeically since there is no rule against all players leaving the line of scrimmage before the ball is kicked. it just seems like we're always confused on the punt kick team prior to the snap. that and the awful onsides penalties on the PAT's were just atrocious.

another special teams issue is that i know during one punt in the first half saturday, Ky left one of our gunners uncovered - do you know if they ever give thought to giving the protector the option to call a fake in those situations?

thanks again...and sorry for the long comment/question.

David Hale said...

Not sure if I can answer all of your questions, but I'm hoping to talk to Coach Fab this week about some of those same things.

To answer a few:

-- The biggest reason for the high # of walk-ons playing special teams is the high number of injuries Georgia has had to deal with. It's really one of the overlooked stories of the season. It's easy to see where missing guys like Owens and Ellerbe and Southerland, etc. effect the team on offense/defense, but what's missed is how those guys or the guys now replacing them were being used on special teams.

Georgia's special teams are just really thin right now, and the more you run your starters out there on ST, the bigger risk of them getting hurt or being gassed for their next play on offense/defense.

Also, yes, the protector has the ability to call a fake on a play where the gunner is left uncovered. If I'm not mistaken I think it was Dowtin on the play you were talking about. They clearly should have called for the fake on that play, but it's also one of those things that happens so rarely that it can often get overlooked. Chalk it up as a missed opportunity.

Robert said...

"Georgia's main goal is to just get our swagger back and have fun. We've got to punish, man. We've got to punish. That's it."

-Thank you, Corvey.