ATHENS, Ga. — Georgia defensive coordinator Todd Grantham’s introductory news conference last week met with a fond reaction from fans who drooled at his promises of an aggressive, attacking defense. Those promises weren’t lost on his players either.
“You want to have that mentality as a player and when you hear that, it gets you excited,” cornerback Brandon Boykin said. “I remember last year in spring football, we were real aggressive. So if we can bring that same excitement, I think it’ll be able to carry over to next season.”
As aggressive as Georgia may have been last spring, the evidence didn’t show up on the field in the fall. The Bulldogs ranked second-to-last nationally with just 12 takeaways all season, and in their five losses, they mustered just two interceptions and didn’t recover a single fumble.
That’s an issue Grantham and new secondary coach Scott Lakatos hope to address immediately.
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“I think those takeaways come basically with guys being in position to make those plays when they come about,” Lakatos said. “I think you put yourself in position by being fundamentally sound and that’s one of the things I bring to the table with those guys on the back end.”
Grantham said his hope was to create a defense that left the opponents glad to see a game end, and that’s music to the ears of Georgia’s defenders, including newcomer Jakar Hamilton.
“On defense, you’ve got to be aggressive,” Hamilton said. “I’m one of those players who just doesn’t care. I’ll throw my whole body even if I have to break something to do it. If I have to catch a concussion, I’ll do it. And having (Grantham) coming in, I’m real excited to see what he’s bringing to the table.”
New look for DBs
A year ago, Boykin was trying desperately to soak up all the knowledge he could as the lone newcomer in Georgia’s secondary.
As the Bulldogs begin their offseason workouts in preparation for spring practice, Boykin now finds himself as the lone holdover from last year’s unit.
“It’s a quick change,” Boykin said. “I’m trying to take over that leadership role like they did, but it’s going to be fun. A lot of us are going to be young out there — me, (Bacarri) Rambo, Branden Smith. It’s going to be a challenge for us, but I think we’re up to it.”
Seniors Prince Miller and Bryan Evans and junior Reshad Jones are all gone — Jones leaving a year early to enter the NFL draft — meaning there will be a big shakeup among the defensive backs. Smith and Rambo are likely to land two of the open spots, and Hamilton, a junior college transfer, is hoping to secure the free safety job as an early enrollee.
An early start
Two of Georgia’s rookies for 2010 are already getting started in their preparations for the coming season.
Hamilton and offensive lineman Kolton Houston enrolled early and have spent the past two weeks in school, getting accustomed to classes while hitting the weight room and working out with teammates.
“I just wanted to get an edge on some of the other players and get stronger and faster and learn the playbook, so when they get in here, I already know all that stuff,” Houston said. “Just adjust to the college life without all the practice stress in the summer and fall.”
The adjustment to college isn’t quite as big a transition for Hamilton, who spent two years studying for the role under the strict rules at Georgia Military College and head football coach Bert Williams.
So while his new teammates warned him about the big obstacles ahead, he hasn’t gotten particularly stressed about meeting the challenge.
“Coach Williams is a great coach, and I know he pushes everybody there that plays football hard,” Hamilton said. “Everybody kept talking about mat drills. We did mat drills there, too, but it was like 5:30 in the morning outside in the cold.”