September 7, 2011

Stopping Lattimore key

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Defensive coordinator Todd Grantham admits he's got a lot on his plate as Georgia gets ready to challenge 12th-ranked South Carolina Saturday afternoon at Sanford Stadium (4:30, ESPN).

Especially, when you consider what happened last year.

The Gamecock offensive front outmuscled the Bulldog defensive line, while using freshman Marcus Lattimore as a human battering ram.

It was quite the display.

Lattimore bashed his way to a 37-carry, 182-yard and two touchdown effort against the Bulldogs, with seemingly every yard coming after contact, as the Georgia defenders struggled all afternoon to bring the running back down.

Many of those yards came on an inside zone read, a scheme which Georgia was unable to respond to.

Will this year be any different? Grantham certainly hopes so.

"He (Lattimore) gets stronger as the game goes along, so you've got to come to work and you've got to make sure that when you tackle him you're playing physical and you've got to get guys to the ball," Grantham said. "That was one thing about the other night is really the runs, there weren't any explosive runs, the longest play from scrimmage was 20 yards and if you get guys running to the ball you can alleviate a lot of problems with that. So, we've got to make sure we've got guys running to the ball when we swarm."

But this likely isn't Grantham's only concern.

Last week, Boise State and quarterback Kellen Moore exploited the middle of the Bulldogs' zone.

No doubt South Carolina head coach Steve Spurrier took notice.

"He's (Moore) a good player. You go back and look at that game I think he was 28 of 34, if I'm right and eight of those 28 (completions) were for four yards or less. But then there were too many of what I call double-digit passes in the 12-15-yard range. The longest play was 20 yards and a lot of those plays were catch and run-type plays," he said. "The way you play those guys is you've got to be on them and sometimes on the matchups if a guy - whether it's technique-oriented or whatever - if he doesn't execute, doesn't make a play or they make a play, then you get those 12 to 15-yard gains from that standpoint."

Second and seven-plus was certainly a problem for the Bulldog defense.

Two of Boise State's touchdowns came on a second-and-11 and second-and-17 call, with a third coming on a third-and-3 from inside the Georgia red zone.

"If you go from 21 points to nine pints, it's a different deal," Grantham said. "So to me, it gets down to playing second-and-plus once you're inside that Red Zone."

Of course, the Gamecocks will present a different set of challenges than the Broncos.

"They've got a lot of talented players. Their running back (Lattimore) is probably the best running back in the country when you look at him, the things he did for them last year. Their offensive line works well together. They're big, they're physical, they push you, they maul guys, they get them out of their gaps and they stay on blocks, to let the running back find a seam and he can take it from there," Grantham said. "Their receivers are big, physical guys. They've got height, they've got size. No. 1 (Alshon Jeffery) has got as good of hands as you'll see and he made some dynamic catches last year. The quarterback (Stephen Garcia) finds a way to get those guys the ball. He's a crafty guy, he's hard to tackle, he'll try to generate on loose plays and try to make some things happen."

Having a healthy Kwame Geathers at nose could help the Bulldogs in that regard, providing he's completely healthy.

Geathers suffered a shoulder stinger late in the game Saturday and did not practice on Tuesday, although he is expected to be ready against the Gamecocks, who dominated the Bulldogs' defensive front.

Meanwhile, Mike Gilliard, Amarlo Herrera and Jeremy Sulek continue to battle to determine who will replace Alec Ogletree at Sam linebacker.

Grantham said he still isn't certain about that, although the new starting Moe won't come from a group that includes Jarvis Jones, Ramik Wilson or Chase Vasser, who will remain on the outside.

Starting Sam linebacker Cornelius Washington, Grantham said, was one of the defense's bright spots against the Broncos.

"Truthfully, Cornelius probably had his best game since I've been here as far as just being consistent and doing everything we asked him to do," he said. "I think that Reuben (Faloughi), he played and he's a young player who will play and continue to get better and those younger guys - Vasser, Ramik and Ray Drew - they will continue to get more reps as we move forward. I think those guys will be fine."

But what about the Bulldog defense as a whole?

Saturday, three players - Shawn Williams, Christian Robinson and Brandon Boykin - had to receive IVs at halftime after cramping.

In the second half, Georgia's defense appeared to tire under the strains of Boise State's no-huddle approach.

"Every game is a critique of where you are and how you've done. I though there were some things we did well. I thought we played physical up front on the normal runs. I think when you look at the perimeter runs that they hit us on were Wildcat and reverse-type things, but as far as the basic runs I thought we were pretty physical, so I think we can build on that," Grantham said. "We improved on third down. I thought we played hard; I saw guys like Jarvis (play hard), I thought Christian played solid. You're always building your team and you never know what you've got until you get them out there to play and after watching them I think we did well. Obviously, there are some things we've got to work on."

Anthony Dasher is the managing editor for UGASports
and he can be reached via email at dash@ugasports.com.