Todd Grantham is not a man who gives much to the media. In his four years as Georgias defensive coordinator, Grantham has tended toward generalities, and when things have gone wrong -- as they have lately -- he rarely points fingers. Either at his players or himself.
So what should Grantham be saying now, with so much blame being pinned on his defense? If I were Grantham, heres what Id say:
Dear Georgia fans:
The next two games will see me visit the two places at which I showed the fire that made you fall in love with me. OK, Im not proud of that whole choke-sign thing in 2010 against Florida, but I dont regret shouting at Vanderbilts James Franklin two years ago. I was defending my players. And Im here to defend them again.
This is on me.
These struggles the first six games. These yards. These points. Theyre on me.
Yes, were a young defense. The term growing pains gets mentioned so much around here youd think Kirk Cameron and Robin Thickes dad were coaching our secondary. Sometimes it looks like they are.
But I recruited these players. I coach them, and I decide whether to play them. I decide whether to blitz or play the run. The responsibility is mine.
Does my $850,000-per year salary seem a bit steep this year? Maybe, but look, I didnt ask for that money. Well, my agent did, but whatever. I realize that when youre on track to give up the most points in Georgia history, as we are now, that the contract is going to be brought up. That, and my dalliance with the New Orleans Saints. Look, it was a chance to make a step up in the profession, so you cant blame me -- my bosses didnt -- but fine, thats fair game too.
But now that Ive taken responsibility, let me also defend my boys a bit. Let me defend my defense.
The NCAA has this stat called pass efficiency rating. Well, guess what, weve faced three of the top 10 this season: Zach Mettenberger (4), Connor Shaw (7), Tajh Boyd (8). And James Franklin is No. 22.
The guy we face Saturday, Vanderbilts Austyn Carta-Samuels, is No. 27. I guess thats progress. But Im really hoping we dont make him look as good as we made Tennessees Justin Worley.
I could point out that the attrition from two years ago hurt us. Chris Sanders would probably be one of our starting safeties and Nick Marshall one of our starting cornerbacks if not for being dismissed after their freshmen years. I also wouldnt have minded having Jordan Love as a fifth-year senior, rather than him transferring.
Of course that doesnt explain Damian Swann. He was supposed to be the rock of our secondary. Our main worry with him was hed have such a good year hed go pro. Yeah, were not worried about that right now.
And whats the deal with Jordan Jenkins? You tell me. The first four games he just had bad luck, pressuring the quarterback a lot but only getting one sack. But the past two games he has taken a step back. His run defense wasnt great at Tennessee, and we actually had him on the bench for some long stretches against Missouri.
Still, Georgia fans, there are glimmers of hope.
Ray Drew is the crock pot paying off. Shaq Wiggins looks like a keeper, and I love the way he plays. We need someone on defense who is aggressive, and Wiggins is just that. Its what I hope Tray Matthews is when he gets back.
Oh, and that defensive line in general has been solid, especially against the run. Teams arent running all over us. Part of the reason our problem is on third down is because were so good on first and second down.
I see that Missouri head coach Gary Pinkel got in a little dig Monday when asked about all of our teams injuries: They didnt have many injuries on defense. Fair enough, even though Matthews wasnt out there. I could also point out that my defense won the game last year at Missouri. But I wont.
Look, Im not happy about our stats and our rankings. They should be better. But really, what did we all expect?
Back in the preseason, a very smart beat writer -- I might hire him to ghost write a column some time --wrote this: I do think you might need to temper expectations a bit on the defense. There is talent and depth there, but with all the youth and inexperience, theres likely to be some games where it gets ugly.
Oh, it got ugly.
So whats my point? Its this: Weve only played half a season, and the second half schedule is much easier. When this season ends, we wont rank in the bottom 30 nationally in scoring defense, and we wont rank in the bottom half in yards. Were going to get better.
And if were not, its on me. Really.
Seth Emerson is The Telegraphs Georgia beat writer. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.