ATHENS - Todd Grantham hesitated a moment, but only a moment, when asked the question: Was it fair to say his defense hasn't played as well as he thought it would this year?
"Well, I'm always gonna be a guy that's gonna strive to play as good as you can play," he said. "Obviously you want to play a little more consistent, and I think the way the guys have worked, it's been pleasing. So we've just gotta keep working and developing, we'll be fine."
It's been a rough season for Georgia's defense, in its fourth year with Grantham as defensive coordinator. The Bulldogs are on pace to give up their most total yards since 1994, and their most points in program history.
But it's also been a very young unit, with only one senior starting most of the season.
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"I've not looked at the depth charts in the country, but we've gotta be the youngest team in the country as far as freshmen playing and sophomores playing," Grantham said. "Those guys have gotten better. If we win the Auburn game we're talking about the greatest comeback in Georgia history, (over) a top-5 team, and being able to do the things we were able to do in the fourth quarter."
Instead the 73-yard touchdown on fourth-and-18 pushed Auburn up to 566 yards, the most Georgia has given up in a game since 2001.
"What's crazy is if you go back and look we've had a fourth-and-4 and a fourth-18," Grantham said. "But that's how competitive this league is. That's why attention to detail is important. That's why you've gotta pay attention to everything you do. Because it can come down to a fourth-and-4, it can come down to a fourth-and-18. And when it does you've gotta be able to answer the ball and handle the situation and finish the game off."
Grantham has remained publicly confident in his young players, and said they haven't given up. The players made available to the media on Tuesday echoed that, and also stressed youth and inexperience as the main culprit for this year's struggles.
"If you haven't played college ball, you don't know what it's like until you get out there," junior inside linebacker Amarlo Herrera said.
Even the team's one senior starter, Garrison Smith, blames youth.
"Next year, they're gonna be real good," Smith said. "Because they're gonna learn from the mistakes they made this year, and they're gonna correct them, and be even better players."