ATHENS -- No, there has not been a Shawn Williams moment on the Georgia football defense. Unlike last year, when things got dire, no member of the defense has gone public to eviscerate the unit, and theres not much indication it has been done privately.
I dont think we have any guys playing soft, sophomore linebacker Jordan Jenkins said, using the term Williams did last year, igniting the defense to a fast finish. Were definitely fighting and trying to make plays. But were just not executing and committing all the way to it.
Indeed, execution, not emotion, remains the emphasis on Georgias beleaguered defense. And the tone remains upbeat, even from fiery coordinator Todd Grantham, who doesnt want to lash into a young unit.
These guys are trying and theyre close, Grantham said. The end results sometimes isnt what you want it. But if you go back and look
Then he listed the successes: First-down defense, as well as sacks coming because of coverage sacks.
The bottom line is, we didnt have any turnovers and we didnt get off the field on third down, Grantham said. Its really not anything magical. Its about understanding here are the issues, and heres what you gotta do to get them fixed.
The issues are pretty clear:
Georgia has given up at least 30 points in five of its six games, the exception being North Texas. Even if three special teams and one offensive touchdown is taken out, the Bulldogs are still giving up 29 points per game.
The defense has forced just four turnovers this season, after getting 62 takeaways during the past two years.
The pass defense ranks 12th in the SEC, and the third-down defense is 13th.
There might not be yelling and screaming, but inside linebacker Amarlo Herrera was blunt about the frustration level.
Its pretty bad, because we want to win, he said. And we play defense, so we dont like giving up points. Weve just gotta work on that.
Head coach Mark Richt was asked about the frustrations during his news conference Tuesday. He granted that no one was happy, but he said there was enough progress happening to make him feel it was moving in the right direction.
With a lot of pups, Richt added.
Five true freshmen have started on defense this year, and many non-freshmen are getting the first significant action of their college careers.
Richt also pointed out that end Garrison Smith is the only senior starter.
As far as how were progressing now and how the future looks, I think were exceptionally bright, Richt said. Were at Game 7 now, so weve played enough games to where some of these guys that were inexperienced when they got started arent anymore. They have a half of a season under their belt, so weve got to keep making plays.
So how to fix the issues, particularly in the secondary? Grantham said that the team had one of its best performances on first downs all season against Missouri. He credited the secondary partially for that.
On turnovers, Grantham expressed optimism they will come. He pointed to 2010, his first season at Georgia, when Justin Houston took until later in the season to turn his sacks into forced fumbles. Grantham said the same happened for Jarvis Jones.
Sometimes as a young player, just getting a guy down or making a tackle is kind of what youre doing, Grantham said. As you get some experience and some savvy, you know I can remember (Bacarri) Rambo dislodging a few guys from the ball.
Of course, the whole futures bright thing doesnt work for players like Smith. This is his final year, and while he has played well, hes on a unit that has struggled.
Its easy for some guys, if things arent going their way, to be like, We got three more years, its OK, just give up on this season. But at the end of the day, you cant have that type of mindset. Next years not promised. Lets be real, Smith said.
Smith emphasized it wasnt meant as a criticism of the young players. It just was worth noting to them.
Youve gotta keep that on the young dudes minds, Smith said. Because when youre young, you dont really think about that. You just think, Ive got plenty of time. You dont really know when your time is up.