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July 26, 2011
When Georgia transitioned to the 3-4 defense last fall, head coach Mark Richt knew there would be some bumps in the road.
But as the Bulldogs prepare for year two in defensive coordinator Todd Grantham's scheme, Richt said he expects last year's issues to start to be a thing of the past.
"I'm excited about it," Richt said. "I think we all know that when you learn something new, it takes a while to get good at it; it takes a while to understand it."
Last year was a challenge. Make no mistake about that.
Although Georgia ranked a respectable fourth in the SEC in total defense (328.5 yards per game) and fifth in scoring defense (22.1 points per game), the Bulldogs were inexplicably dead last in the conference in opponents third downs as foes converted 41.9 percent of their attempts.
"We played pretty darn good. Where we didn't play good last year was third-and-long," Richt said. "I can't tell you how many time we got people to that moment of truth where you want then, and teams were getting those third downs converted, then we ended up staying on the field another down or another series."
Richt hopes a year's experience will make a difference in that regard.
"Usually when it comes to football, the first thing you've got to understand is learn what to do. Our guys spent a lot of time trying to figure out what to do, what is my assignment and how do I perfect my technique," Richt said. "This year we're spending a lot more time perfecting technique than figuring out what to do, so that's really healthy for us. We've also had a chance to take an entire recruiting cycle to recruit towards the type of guys we need."
This is where Johnathan Jenkins comes in.
At 6-foot-4 and 350 pounds,Richt said the junior college transfer - along with returnee Kwame Geathers - have the potential to give the Bulldog defense an aspect it lacked last year.
"Jenkins is a big, giant nose guard who we think can do a great job of helping us make the 3-4 go," Richt said. "If you don't have a nose guard that demands double-teams and triple-teams once in a while, you're not going to free up your linebackers to do the things you want them to do. Just by the virtue of the fact that (Jenkins) was signed in February, I think it put a fire under Kwame. He ended up being the MVP of the defense for our spring practice."
With just over a month before the season-opener against Boise State, another question begs to be answered - how will the Bulldogs' defense matchup against the Broncos and quarterback Kellen Moore?
Richt is confident Grantham's troops will do just fine.
"I think the 3-4 really can match up well against any type of offense," Richt said. "It is very versatile. Todd understands it well. He spent 11 years in the league. He's been a coordinator in the NFL. He is certainly the man for the job. I have all the faith that we're going to play better."
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Anthony Dasher is the managing editor for UGASports and he can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.