March 29, 2010

Bulldog defense learning on the fly

Spring practice is always a time of constant evaluation, and for members of Georgia's defense this has certainly been true.

First impressions are always the best ones, and thus far players like Abry Jones and Cornelius Washington are busy trying to prove to new defensive coordinator Todd Grantham that they have what it takes to play integral roles for the Bulldogs this fall.

"We all pretty much getting evaluated equally," said Jones, one of a number of players being evaluated at defensive end in Grantham's 3-4 scheme. "He's pretty much just looking for guys who can make plays and will give effort, the type of people you want on the field in the time of crisis, guys you know will make plays when you need them to and won't give up on plays and things like that."

Washington has obviously made a quick impression.

The former Burke County standout has already been listed as a starter at Sam linebacker by Grantham, who also tabbed Justin Houston as his starter at Will.

"He's fine," Grantham said. "We're working on some things to improve his skills and I think he will continue to do that. We think he can be a force that other offenses are going to need to know where he's lining up at."

Grantham hasn't been shy about force-feeding info at a breath-taking pace.

"You would not even believe it," Washington said. "We're getting lots of stuff every single day but he (Grantham) does a good job of making sure everybody understands what he wants us to do, where he wants us to be and how he wants us to play."

Jones admits it hasn't been easy.

When you're getting so much new info at such a rapid speed, it can get extremely confusing.

"I'm not going to lie, it's real difficult because you've got to learn a lot of plays plus there are so many blitzes and different formations," Jones said. "When you look at it, you pretty much know everything but when you get on the field and you have to do it on the fly it gets confusing. But we're getting better with it."

Like Washington, Jones says the heightened pace has been somewhat of a surprise.

"I didn't think it would come this fast. I thought it would come at a little bit of a slower pace, take baby steps but he really didn't approach it like that," Jones said. "He understands it our first time. When we do it wrong he cuts us a little slack but as we've progressed, he figures that we should be able to learn it quicker. The slack is getting less and less, which it should."

It's been a lot to learn.

According to Washington, it depends on the circumstances whether or not he'll be asked to play with one hand on the ground, or in a standup position from his spot at Sam.

"Basically, it just depends on how Coach Grantham wants us to do that day," said Washington, who added he has no doubt that the Bulldogs' defensive will be putting plenty more pressure on opposing quarterbacks than it did last fall.

"Most definitely," he added. "We're going to have people coming from everywhere. That is going to be the major defense that people will notice from last year. We're going to have people coming from every which direction.

"It's definitely keeping us focused."

Head coach Mark Richt said coaches are being as patient as they can.

"I think we all understand that we are still learning," Richt said after Saturday's scrimmage at Sanford Stadium. "I think what the coaches are looking for is, 'Are the players trying to do it,' and 'Are they playing with intensity', and "Are they hitting hard?"

For the most part, Grantham said effort hasn't been the problem.

"I've been pleased with the effort of the guys," he said. "We have some talent, and although we still have a long way to go, I am seeing improvement every day but at the same time I'm seeing mistakes that we cannot make to be a good football team."

Georgia returns to the practice field Tuesday afternoon.

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