ATHENS -- Todd Granthams name came up very early in a live online chat that Georgia athletics director Greg McGarity held Tuesday with fans. And it didnt come up the way Grantham would have preferred.
With Coach Grantham now making $825,000/year, do you feel its fair to expect him to at the very least field a team in year 4 that does not resemble a Chinese Fire Drill pre-snap? wrote a fan calling himself Bart. And I think its also fair to say that youth cannot be used as an excuse, considering last years upperclass-led defense faced the exact same problems week in and week out. Thoughts?
McGarity handled it delicately.
Bart -- thank you for the comment. We are very confident in Todds ability to lead our defense.
Two years ago, Grantham was the toast of Georgia, the architect of the nations fifth-ranked team, completely turned around from the struggling unit he inherited.
These days, however, Georgias defense is struggling, and a bit more than expected with a young and inexperienced group. The Bulldogs rank 66th nationally in yards allowed and are tied for 99th in third-down defense, which has been the teams biggest weakness.
To be fair to Grantham, his defense has faced three teams ranked in the top 10 this season. But the performance last Saturday against Tennessee was discouraging, particularly in the second half, when the Volunteers scored touchdowns on four of their final five possessions.
Grantham might be known for his fire on the sideline and during practice. But he doesnt call out his players (or himself) in the media, and behind the scenes players say he has been more calm and technical in his criticism.
Every teams different. You still get on them as a coach, but I think youve got to show them why, Grantham said.
To that end, Grantham pulled tape of about 30 players from the Tennessee game, showing them to his players at their weekly Monday meeting.
Situations that came up in the game to show Heres the way we want it done, Grantham said. Maybe even show, This is your resume, this is your expectations, is this what you want out there?
Effort is not an issue, Grantham emphasized. Its just about knowledge, execution and attention to detail.
Those are things that can be blamed on youth. Five true freshmen have started at least one game this year, including three in at least every game. The team only had four returning starters, and one of them, junior cornerback Damian Swann, has struggled.
Weve just got some young guys, and theyve gotta stop playing like theyre in high school and grow up, senior defensive lineman Garrison Smith said. It aint got nothing to do with coaching.
It was pointed out to Grantham that hes a competitor and obviously would want his defenses stats and rankings to be better.
I want to win, he said. And weve gotta do what weve gotta do to win. And weve gotta play the game we want to play in order to win.
To me, coachings about developing. And I think weve got some young guys that are talented, weve just gotta develop them, and let them understand, Here are the things that you need to do to be better. And if we do that, were gonna be fine.
Despite all the issues, Georgia is still 4-1. Its still ranked No. 7 in the country. Most of the credit goes to the high-powered offense, but the defense has at least made enough stops. It happened at the end of the game against South Carolina and LSU. And while that wasnt the case against Tennessee -- whose tailback just dropped the ball in overtime -- Georgias defense is hanging its hat on what it did in the first half, holding the Volunteers to a field goal.
Theyre not scoring more than were scoring, so were doing something right, junior inside linebacker Amarlo Herrera said.
What is Grantham emphasizing?
He emphasizes that we step it up and get working, Herrera said.
So he actually is a bit demanding?
He always is. Hes a coach, Herrera said. Who wants to get that many points scored on them?