Georgia’s defense has most pieces in place

mlough@macon.comJuly 13, 2012 

Todd Grantham sat at the table with all the calm of a man with few worries.

For one, he had recently gotten a title bump and salary bump.

For another, Georgia’s defensive coordinator is a few weeks away from starting to work with a unit that, save for a few early-season suspensions, is experienced, athletic and versatile.

A perfect example is incoming freshman Josh Harvey-Clemons, a linebacker from Lowndes who could play safety and is likely to get a look on offense.

Grantham told Georgia beat writers Friday in a sit-down interview in the Butts-Mehre Heritage Hall that Harvey-Clemons’ specific positions down the line will, to a point, be determined by his size.

“He’s certainly a talented guy that I think can help us in a lot of different spots,” said Grantham, who was asked about Harvey-Clemons playing in the secondary. “I think he just continues to grow and mature. He’s got the frame to get a lot bigger.”

Grantham compared Harvey-Clemons to linebacker Alec Ogletree, who came to Georgia as a defensive back and added weight before moving to linebacker.

“Tree was a guy that was probably a little under two and a quarter when he came here,” Grantham said. “He continued to grow, and he’s obviously gotten bigger and he’s more closer to 240 now.

“With Josh, it’s just a matter of letting him continue to work with our strength staff. We’ll just evaluate things as we get closer to August 1.”

Grantham said freshman linebacker Jordan Jenkins of Harris County has “got as good a first step as anybody coming into camp anywhere in the country.”

Competition between John Jenkins and Kwame Geathers at noseguard should again be serious, and there are situations where both can be on the field at the same time.

As for the secondary, which faces some depletion with early-season suspensions, Grantham said the Bulldogs will simply adjust as needed.

“I think when you look at the history of our defense, similar things were said last year about the linebacking corps,” Grantham said, noting concern about depth in general, moreso after early injuries. “That’s part of the program, that’s part of the growing process.

“Injuries create doubt. We’ve got some guys that have worked really hard to contribute to our season. We’ll be ready to play with the guys that strap it up and put on the pads and wear the ‘G.’ We’ll be ready.”

Sophomore Ray Drew continues to get more comfortable as a down lineman, and Grantham thinks he’s ready to make an impact. He said Cornelius Washington has increased his versatility at outside linebacker or defensive end while taking on more leadership.

Grantham was quietly awarded the title of associate head coach and a raise recently. He likes the stability it gives his family and the program, but he sounded as hungry as usual.

“We had a good year last year,” he said. “There are obviously things left undone. ... I think we’ve really just scratched the surface on what we can do.”

And he’ll have a selection of players with multiple skills that he’ll be able to move around to help with that.

“Guys that are big and fast make me a good coach,” he said with a smile.

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