Grantham: Youth still having an impact

semerson@macon.comSeptember 28, 2013 


LSU receiver Jarvis Landry (80) catches a ball inside the Georgia 10-yard line during their game Saturday.


ATHENS - Georgia's locker room had nearly emptied on Saturday. Todd Grantham remained, standing in a corner, still explaining (in his mind) what happened.

If you go by the stat sheet, Grantham's unit regressed on Saturday, bailed out again by Georgia's prolific offense. LSU had 41 points and 449 yards, the points being a season-high for Georgia's defense, the yards being on par with the Clemson and South Carolina games.

But third downs were the ones that stood out the most: LSU was 10-for-14, converting when it needed 22, 12 and 11. As Grantham pointed out, that was where LSU got the bulk of its yardage.

"That's where the yards and points came," he said. "They didn't come from being mashed. They came from explosive plays down the field."

The run defense was quite good, all things considered. LSU has made its name via the run, but it only had 77 rushing yards, and only 13 in the first half. The week before, Georgia held North Texas to just seven rushing yards, so that trend-line is upward.

Georgia didn't quite sell out to stop the run on Saturday, but it came close. For much of the time it played what Grantham calls "a seven-and-a-half man box theory." It sees a cornerback shifting between the line and a wideout, depending on the play. That helped on the run, but on the pass it did little to stop LSU quarterback Zach Mettenberger from getting the big completions.

The run defense has actually been very good lately, and the pass rush has been good. But in order to help the pass defense, do you take away from what's working?

Grantham, not surprisingly, says it doesn't have to work that way.

"Each week's gonna be different. I wouldn't say they (defensive backs) are gonna be on their own. We're gonna mix it up," Grantham said. "I don't think you can do one thing."

Georgia's starting defensive lineup on Saturday included three true freshmen, two of them in the secondary (safety Tray Matthews and cornerback Brendan Langley). Two more true freshmen saw early playing time: Safety Quincy Mauger and cornerback Shaq Wiggins.

LSU adjusted at halftime, from what Grantham could tell, deciding to air it out even more and eschew the run. That presented a choice to Grantham: Make his own adjustment, or roll with the gameplan. He rolled with his gameplan.

"When you have youth, then you've gotta make a decision: Do we adjust what we're doing or do we just keep doing what we're doing, try to play it better," Grantham said. "I made the decision to keep what we're doing and try to play it better, because I wasn't sure we could handle adjusting to something else. You see what I'm saying?"

So are you picking your poison when you have so much youth on defense?

"I thought the way we were playing them was the right way, it was just a matter of playing the techniques a little right. But I wasn't gonna change the way we were playing," Grantham said. "Because in the first half I thought we were playing it pretty good. We just didn't communicate a few assignment things. Then we got that cleaned up, and our technique was a little lax. But I felt like if we stayed with what we had, and kept playing, we would get closer to them, and have a chance to make a play in the end."

Head coach Mark Richt placed most of the credit on Mettenberger, but he also indicated some concern on the secondary.

"We've gotta do a better job of knocking guys off their routes. If we're gonna play certain looks, where we're gonna drop eight, the underneath coverage has got to disrupt the route," Richt said. "You can't let a guy just run free down the middle and let a guy have that type of timing and zip it."

Sophomore linebacker Jordan Jenkins said one concern is communication: Not enough players know all the calls on defense. That leads to some breakdowns in the secondary.

"I feel like we're at a time where we recognize what we can do, we see what we can do. We still have to communicate more," Jenkins said. "We still need to have more guys that can make the calls."

Ultimately, however, Jenkins put the blame for the defensive performance on one person.

"Mettenberger is a hell of a quarterback," Jenkins said. "He was making plays where had like three guys in his face. Me and Reggie (Carter) hit him one time. Me and (Leonard) Floyd hit him one time. He was still making plays off of that, and that shows just what kind of mental toughness Mettenberger has as a player."

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