Seemingly the Georgia defense has been one of the main focus points for the fans of this team and those who cover college football all throughout 2013. As the Dawgs prepare for Vanderbilt on Saturday, they do so after another performance of surrendering at least 40 points.
Last weekend against Missouri the Georgia defense gave up 41 points, on 375 yards of total offense. Plus, the team again found themselves surrendering crucial third down conversions. Although the numbers were alarming (5 of 12), it was when they happened.
As the team shifts their focus this weekend to Vanderbilt, the players say that defensive coordinator Todd Grantham has kept the mood positive in the meeting/film rooms. Players like freshman outside linebacker Leonard Floyd said as much earlier this week.
“He felt good about the way we played,” Floyd said. “He just said move on, because we still control our destiny (for the SEC East Title). We just moved onto Vandy.”
That destiny now includes Georgia having to win their remaining games and get two conference losses from Missouri to make their third consecutive trip back to the Georgia Dome to face the SEC West champ.
One bright spot for the Dawgs defense this season has been the ability to play well against the run and also the play of the defensive line. Defensive coordinator Todd Grantham has really been impressed with the group that is lead by senior defensive end Garrison Smith.
“Those guys all have made strides as players,” Grantham said. “I think because of their strength, their physicality, its allowed us to be pretty good against the run as far as being physical.”
So far this season, the defense for Georgia has allowed an average of 3.79 yards a carry for the opponents running game.
Another positive story for this defensive front for the Bulldogs has been junior defensive end Ray Drew out of Thomasville, Georgia. In 2013, Drew has picked up five sacks and 22 total tackles. Many considered the former Parade All-American’s career to be off to a slow start since getting to Athens. Drew has another way of looking at his career path with the Bulldogs.
“As far as describing my career here at UGA, I believe that you could say that I’ve been in the crock pot,” Drew said. “The product has finally come out and it’s tasting pretty good right now.”
Drew was making the analogy of cooking something in a microwave and getting your food cooked faster or cooking it slowly in a crock pot.
Another part of this defense that many people look at for getting off to a slow start, is sophomore outside linebacker Jordan Jenkins. So far this season Jenkins has just one sack and 20 tackles. The sophomore from Hamilton says he’s not sure why his sack totals aren’t up.
“(It’s) something that I definitely think about,” Jenkins said “I try not to think about it too much, because I don’t want it to take away (from) run defense. I’ve got good faith I’ll still be able to get the number up by the end of the season.”
Last season, Jordan Jenkins had 31 tackles with five sacks in six starts for the Georgia defense.
This season too Jenkins says the fan criticism has gotten to him a little bit. So much that he’s even taken the Twitter app off his phone.
“I saw this one guy tweet (ILB) Amarlo (Herrera) “you’re no Jarvis (Jones) or (Alec) Ogletree, you make plays sometimes, but you’ve got too much North Clayton(HS) in you and too little brain,’” Jenkins said. “That’s the kind of stuff that gets at me.”
Jenkins continued on talking about dealing with fair weather fans during his high school years in Hamilton as well. He said that even teachers would join in on ridiculing the team for poor performance. However when the team started to have success, those same people turned into their biggest fans.
This week the Bulldogs will face Vanderbilt, a team that features star wide receiver Jordan Matthews. According to Georgia head coach Mark Richt, Matthews just needs 103 yards to pass former Bulldogs wide receiver Terrence Edwards for the most career receiving yards in Southeastern Conference history. Right now, Jordan Matthews has 2,991 career receiving yards. In addition to the Dawgs challenge on Saturday, the defense will likely be without standout freshman safety Tray Matthews with a hamstring issue again. Matthews has missed the last two games with that injury.