Summer workouts crucial for Dogs in new 3-4 alignment
By David Hale
ATHENS, Ga. — Linebacker Reuben Faloughi compares his position meetings with new defensive coordinator Todd Grantham to a business meeting. It’s not just X’s and O’s, Faloughi said. It’s dynamic. It’s fast-paced. It’s intense.
“He tells you everything, every aspect — what everybody’s doing, why you’re doing it,” Faloughi said. “He doesn’t tell you if you did it wrong, he corrects it. It’s well-rounded, and you learn so quickly.”
Part of that comes from Grantham’s enthusiasm about football. He doesn’t so much teach the game; he preaches it.
Now that G-Day is over and the players are wrapping up their exit interviews with the coaching staff, Grantham’s teaching days are done until preseason camp opens in three months.
That’s a long time to be away from a group of players whose only experience with Grantham’s system is what they learned in the past 10 weeks.
“Everybody’s a rookie, everybody’s a freshman,” Grantham said. “Everything’s new. Terminology is new, understanding splits of receivers means something, rerouting means something. We don’t want to have a free access defense where we let receivers run free into our defense. That’s new for them. Run-fits are new. Everything’s new.”
So job No. 1 was fitting as much of that new information into as short a time period as possible.
When Grantham was officially hired in January, the meetings with players began quickly. When he finished filling out his staff nearly a month later, information came even faster. And when spring practice began, it became a challenge to see how much he could teach his players in 15 practice sessions before he had to say goodbye for the summer.
“It is a learning process for all of our guys on defense,” inside linebackers coach Warren Belin said. “They’re working extremely hard now to learn the system, but they’re extremely upbeat, and we’re looking forward to seeing how they progress with this defense.”
The problem is, the learning process will now be in the hands of Georgia’s players, as the NCAA mandates coaches to have minimal contact with their team throughout the summer.
No more classes to install new defensive schemes, and no more impromptu study sessions in the coaches’ offices when the playbook proves to be a bit too confusing. From now on, it’s all extra credit.
“One of the reasons why we threw a lot of things in there defensively is to try to expose them to it and hopefully get some film,” head coach Mark Richt said. “When the guys are here in the summer and want to look at some tape to try to figure out what the system’s about, it’ll be there for them.”
Grantham said he’ll be putting together teaching tapes for players to peruse during the summer, and he encouraged each player to take detailed notes during spring practice so that the veterans of the group — like linebackers Akeem Dent and Darryl Gamble — could continue to lead unofficial practices and help impart some of what they’ve learned to the incoming freshmen scheduled to arrive in June.
“We give them stuff, and they highlight or take notes on what they understand, put it in the terminology that they understand, and they need to review that stuff and know it,” Grantham said. “We’ll have teaching tapes on each technique, each call and they can come in and put it on like watching TV. I expect the guys that want to be good to do that.”
Dent said he’s already begun discussing those plans with his teammates, and he’s well aware of the importance of the work they’ll be doing between now and the opening of fall camp.
“We’ll do things getting guys together for meetings and have everybody hone in on their assignments, do drills, seven-on-seven and pass (drills) and things like that,” Dent said. “We want to get everybody together on the same page.”
That’s the biggest issue, safety Bacarri Rambo said. While the playbook is still a bit of a mystery to some of the players, the primary concern for now will be to simply make sure everyone can effectively understand and communicate the terminology.
“From Day 1 to right now, we have proven so much, but we still have a lot to learn,” Rambo said. “Day 1, guys were like, ‘We’re never going to get this.’ But now we know what we’re doing. Now everybody’s got to go out there and communicate. That’s the biggest thing we’ve got to improve at.”
So the key for the next few months will be ensuring that what was learned this spring won’t be forgotten, and when the Bulldogs return to the practice field in August, they’ll be ready.