September 25, 2012

Grantham respects Vols

Georgia defensive coordinator Todd Grantham didn't spill any beans regarding suspended safety Bacarri Rambo and linebacker Alec Ogletree following practice Tuesday evening.

But whether or not the duo sees the field as expected for Saturday's game against Tennessee (3:30, CBS), Grantham said it won't change the way his defense prepares for the visiting Volunteers (3-1, 0-1).

"Not really. You're always aware of the matchups, that's part of playing defense but we still call the game the same way," Grantham said. "We'll still try to develop those guys, get them to understand what they've (Tennessee) got, what we've got to do and let them go play."

But working players back into the defensive rotation is not quite as easy as it might seem.

Along with getting missing performers back in the working groove, Grantham said developing replacements until those starters return is a delicate balance to try and maintain.

"That's probably been the most difficult thing because you've got to develop guys and have a vision for as the season goes along, you know, getting your best guys on the field," Grantham said. "The balancing act between preparing guys to play the game and do well in the game, then keeping guys developed that maybe weren't playing for a reason, that's been the challenge. I think we've done a pretty good job with it."

As for the visiting Vols, Grantham said there are several misnomers about Tennessee, including the notion that making UT one-dimensional will need to be one of Georgia's top defensive priorities.

He feels junior running back Rajion Neal may be one of the most underrated backs in the league.

"I think they've done a very good trying to run the ball this year. I can see where they've made a conscious effort to be more physical. I thought they were pretty physical in the Florida game and I think those guys are doing a really good job," Grantham said. "When you look you see improved talent that they recruited, you can see guys doing things the right way. I think they are a really good team and are doing a good job."

Grantham also had kind words to say about what he feels is an improved Vol offensive line and of course quarterback Tyler Bray, who has averaged 302 yards passing per game.

"If you compare the players they have there now as opposed to before, it's really night and day. He's (Tennessee head coach Derek Dooley) cleaned up a lot that was left over and offensively I think they've got a really good system," Grantham said. "They've got some skill guys who are going to play in the league, they've got a tight end that can be in the league, and their quarterback will be in the league. They've got some good players. We'll have to prepare because I think they've done a good job."

Wide receivers Cordarrelle Patterson and Justin Hunter also have Grantham's attention.

At 6-foot-3 and 205 pounds, Patterson is second to Georgia's Todd Gurley in all-purpose yards with 512 while Hunter leads Tennessee in receptions with 30 for 410 yards and four touchdowns.

But Grantham is confident in the matchup.

"I think the matchup is fine. They've got some good wideouts, we've got some good corners," Grantham said. "We've just got to understand routes, alignments and what can happen to you and be ready to play. I think we'll be fine in that matchup."

Grantham also dismissed the suggestion that Tennessee's switch to the 3-4 scheme under first-year defensive coordinator Sal Sunseri necessarily means the Vols will take a year to adjust.

"I think that's overrated myself. You've got 11 guys out there, the biggest thing is you've got to play hard and you've got to play fast," he said. "Once you instill that, then you can talk schemes and things like that. I think there's a little bit of a difference in where we were and where they are from that standpoint. I think that as they move forward I think they will get better knowing that system. I think there's a little bit of difference in the two situations. No situation is the same, but I think that the fact they have the big nose (377-pound Daniel McCullers) there, that will definitely help them. They've got a couple of guys who can come off the edge rushing and they've got good coaches. They'll get them in the right spot."

Injury update

Defensive end Abry Jones missed his second straight day with a sprained left ankle, but Grantham suggested the senior will be ready to play.

"He'll be fine," Grantham said. "Today is a Tuesday work day, but he knows the game plan and what we want to do. I think it was more important for him to get rest and get some treatment and be fresh because you've always got to balance how much preparation you give them, the workload, to getting them fresh and ready to play. We'll give him a little bit of work (Wednesday), a little bit more on Thursday, rest on Friday and I suspect he'll be fine."

Also, offensive lineman Watts Dantzler (left ankle sprain) remained limited, while offensive lineman Hunter Long (left foot fracture) remained limited with no contact. Walk-on tight end Cole Trolinger remains out with a concussion.

This and that

As expected, sophomore Malcolm Mitchell worked out extensively with the Bulldog offense on Tuesday. He is expected to split time on both offense and defense the rest of the week. … The Bulldogs practiced for two-and-half hours in full pads Tuesday in preparation for Saturday's game. "It was another good Tuesday," head coach Mark Richt said. "It's near perfect weather. You can't beat what we had today. I think our scouts played well and set the tone. I saw great effort, and I think we're getting better."