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Saturday, January 16, 2010

The Rebuilding Project Begins

During the next few weeks, we'll no doubt be parsing a lot of what Todd Grantham said in his opening remarks to the media and sifting through his background to try to get a better understanding of just who it is that Georgia hired to take over its defense.

So far, the reaction from fans has been overwhelmingly positive -- which is certainly no surprise. I'll admit, making a guy who hasn't coached in college football since 1998 the third-highest-paid assistant in the nation might be a bit of a reach in my humble opinion, and we have no idea how the current personnel on the Bulldogs' defense will respond as part of a 3-4 set, but there's definitely a lot more positives to be talking about today than negatives. (And, to be fair, I'd have essentially the same questions about Kirby Smart had he been hired -- limited experience, drastic change in scheme, etc.)

As I noted here last week, I think there's a tremendous amount of upside to this hire, particularly on the recruiting trail. Now, we don't exactly know how Grantham will recruit since it's not something he has done in more than a decade, but if you read any of what he said yesterday, you can probably get an understanding of why players would want to come play for him.

And as I went back through what Grantham said yesterday, there is one thing that jumped out to me. Knowing his stint as DC in Cleveland met with mixed results, I wanted to know his thoughts on how he might handle this job differently. The first thing he discussed was how rebuilding in college football was so much easier because of recruiting. Here's the specific quote:
"The difference between pro football and college football is when you go to a program in pro football, you basically get seven draft picks. So you get seven recruits. That's a major overhaul. In college ball, you can go out and sign as many first-round picks as you need. You just have to do the work."
Music to the ears of any football fan who lives and dies with each new recruiting commitment, right?

You don't know the half of it.

Since Grantham wants to go out and sign a half-dozen future first-round picks, I figured I'd go back and see just how many of them Georgia has had since Mark Richt arrived in Athens in 2001. The results of this small bit of history underscore the recent problems.

2006-2010 First-Round Picks, Defense

LSU (3) -- Tyson Jackson (DE), Glenn Dorsey (DT), LaRon Landry (DB)

Tennessee (6) -- Robert Ayers (DE), Jerod Mayo (LB), Justin Harrell (DT), Jason Allen (DB), Eric Berry* (DB), Dan Williams* (DT)

Florida (6) -- Derrick Harvey (DE), Jarvis Moss (DE), Reggie Nelson (DB), Joe Haden* (DB), Carlos Dunlap* (DE), Brandon Spikes* (LB)

Georgia (0) -- None

(*Projected first-round pick by ESPN's Mel Kiper)

2002-2005 First-Round Picks, Defense

LSU (1) -- Marcus Spears (DE)

Tennessee (2) -- John Henderson (DT), Albert Haynesworth (DT)

Florida (1) -- Lito Shephard (DB)

Georgia (4) -- Thomas Davis (DB), David Pollack (DE), Johnathan Sullivan (DT), Charles Grant (DE)

Since Willie Martinez's first season as defensive coordinator, Georgia has not had a single player taken in the first round of the NFL draft. Florida, Tennessee and LSU meanwhile have combined for 15, including this year's projections.

Turning that tide will begin on the recruiting trail, and Grantham will have his work cut out for him. But at least he's aiming high -- which at $750,000 a year, he should be.


Scott said...

I don't attribute our lack of high NFL draft talent entirely to recruiting. Maybe we didn't develop our talent into top NFL picks. If I were an NFL GM it would be tough to justify taking a player from a team getting torched every Saturday. Maybe Martinez could have and should have produced some of these 4 star and 5 star players into 1st round picks. Alabama has done it with 3 star recruits.

EastCobbDawg said...


You were there so perhaps your understanding of what Todd meant by "1st Round Picks" is correct.

I wouldn't read it as a system which is developing NFL 1st Round Picks coming out of college, though I hope we do. Instead I think he might be referring to the NFL draft system in general where you only get one 1st round pick, barring trades, in each draft and you only get 7 picks in the whole draft making it harder to rebuild and reload a defense. The college analog to a first round NFL pick would be the 4/5 star high school guys that UGA can sign in large numbers without the contraints of the draft. It doesn't necessarily mean they are going to be 1st Round NFL guys but at a minimum they have a greater potential to be great college players and be drafted at some point by the NFL.

David Hale said...

you may be right in the context -- although if you asked him, I'm sure he'd tell you he'd love to sign a half-dozen future first-rounders. Of course, the point still remains, Georgia has lagged well behind UT, LSU and Florida in producing top flight talent the past few years.

Anonymous said...

Scott, get over it, you cannot blame everything on WM. There was a huge talent fall off from BVG to WM, and these numbers support that. Using the 3 star guys from Alabama says you feel the recruiting services are infallible. They are much less dependable than the coach's ratings. We need better players, and a tougher attitude. One without the other will not work.

Quentin said...

Yes, over the last few years we have lagged in talent. As well, we may have had highly rated recruiting classes, but when we are 9th and UF, UT , LSU and Bama all have higher rated classes, how are we exactly expecting to make up ground? A better question is over the last 5 years, how many 5 star, can't miss recruits have we signed? Our biggest problem has been getting a bunch of 3 and 4 stars while the rest of our SEC rivals are getting 4 and 5 star recruits...

Anonymous said...

I think Scott makes a good point. A big part of coaching is developing players. There is a definite teaching aspect of coaching and we weren't getting it done. Watching defensive replays in slow motion was revealing. Our technique and and intensity have been poor, particularly in the secondary and linebackers. Unless Garner's ability to judge talent has changed then something else was the problem. Thing is-- our four and five star guys were four and five star guys across the board. All the recruiting reports can't be that off. For whatever reason we were failing to develop them.

Spencer said...

David Pollack was not a 5 star. And I could be wrong, but neither was Thomas Davis.

On Defense, rankings don't mean that much. Coaching means just about everything. The only 5 star recruit in our 2002 class, Mudcat Elmore. Paul Oliver and Brandon Miller were the only 5 star recruits for the next 2 years. (God forbid we put Miller at DE where he belonged).

The stat you put up there has nothing to do with talent coming in, and everything to do with coaching.

Anonymous said...

I agree with Scott. Look at Ellerbe. He was basically ineffective his Sr. year and really only had 1 great year (Jr. season). Now he's a rookie STARTING alongside Ray Lewis for the Ravens in the NFL playoffs. Are you telling me that Derrick White and Arnold Harrison were more talented than Ellerbe and Curran?! Coaching & Development makes a huge difference!

Anonymous said...

Pollack 3 star
Thomas Davis was only offered by one D1 school....UGA

We had two 5 star safties starting for us in 2009 and what did that get us?

#1 The recruiting rankings are estimations, nothing more. They can't rank how hard a kid will work and improve over 4 years.

#2 Good coaching develops good players into great players. We have not had good coaching on defense since VG was here. The above stat is a direct result of poor coaching.

The Watch Dawg said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
UGA69Dawg said...

David, CTG said we would be running the 1 gap 3-4. Now I hae read some very technical discussions of the 4-3 3-4 1 gap 2 gap etc. Can you link us to a
"3-4 for Dummies" explanation?

IveyLeaguer said...

That's right, Pollack was a 3-star and Davis wasn't rated at all. VanGorder found him.

Martinez bears responsibility here in two ways: 1) He had to sign off on each defensive player recruited under his watch (as did each position coach), and 2) he was in charge of developing those defensive players.

It's really obvious now that BVG was a much better talent evaluator than Martinez, if fact Martinez was pretty bad at it. Bryan Evans and Reshad Jones were his guys and neither could have played for a sharp DC.

Anonymous said...

BVG inherited a lot of his talent as well. After 2003, what has BVG done successfully exactly? He has screwed up everthing he has touched, including a bad Falcon defense this year. (Did I hear Smith took away playcalling from him late in the year?)

As to 3,4, and 5 stars, you only have to look at what Boise has done with 3 stars the past three years to see how flawed the rating system is. Or check the number of lower division athletes that make it to the NFL.

Anonymous said...

Not to nitpick, but what exactly HAS Boise "done" with lower-rated recruits? Boise could not compete on a weekly basis in the SEC or most BCS conferences. They only have to be better than Hawaii, La Tech, and the like.

william said...

I would like to second the reference to Ellerbe. While the number of first round picks is 1 way of looking at our talent level coming out of athens, another might be how many defensive players from UGA that are currently starting or receiving significant playing time in the nfl. A stat that would bother me more would be a large number of defensive players drafted in the 3-7th rounds who were coached up in the nfl into starters. What that suggests to me is that these are hard working talented players who underachieved in college and werent coached up until they reached the nfl.