It is easy to look at the whole season, especially in context of last season, and say there was improvement. Because there was, particularly on the turnover front. However, it wasn't nearly as marked as you might think in most areas.
|Defensive Metric||2009 Total||2010 Total||Difference||'09 SEC/Nat Rank||'10 SEC/Nat Rank|
|Scoring||25.9 ppg||23.1 ppg||+2.8 ppg||10/63||7/49|
|Rushing||126.15 ypg||150.25 ypg||-24.1 ypg||3/36||7/59|
|Passing||213.2 ypg||185.8 ypg||+27.4 ypg||9/51||6/19|
|Total||339.4 ypg||335.8 ypg||+3.6 ypg||7/38||4/30|
|Int/game||.77 (1TD)||1.17 (3TD)||+.4||10t/83t||5/33t|
|3rd down conv||37.7 %||42.59%||-4.89 %||9t/45||12/87|
|Redzone Conv/TD %||82.93%/ |
*Through 12 games for 2010. Counting all 13 games from 2009.
Anecdotally, I would have been able to tell you that teams making it to the redzone were putting up TDs on Georgia, but I would have never thought that they scored TDs 3 of every 4 trips inside the 20. For comparison's sake, the teams right above and right below Georgia in redzone scoring % all had TD percentages in the 50's. When you think about that, there is no wonder we lost 6 games. Clearly, the defense didn't hunker down much, especially with their backs against the wall.
One other thing that jumped out at me was the improvement of the passing defense and the degradation of the rushing defense. The difference ended up being a push in total defense, but thinking about that stat with the 23 rushing TDs allowed (10th in the conference) with 21 of those coming from inside the redzone, it becomes obvious teams just decided to run at Georgia instead of pass at them. Again, for comparison sake, Georgia gave up 14 passing TDs, with only 4 of those coming from inside the redzone.
At some point, I would have been all over Lakatos for what I perceived to be the poor coverage. I will say that there has been some coverage issues, particularly with wide open receivers and big plays. Furthermore, of Georgia's 14 passing TDs allowed, 10 of them came from outside the redzone. When it was 3rd and long (7+ yards), teams were converting over 60% of their passes, gaining a first down on over 40% of those plays. However it is pretty clear the issues start somewhere in front of the secondary.
I am willing to give Grantham some slack here for two reasons. First, if he is any good at recruiting, we will fill some talent gaps. Not to say the guys that played this season aren't talented, but there were definite gaps in important places, particularly on the defensive line. Second, we have to see how he address other shortcomings, particularly in how his secondary coach handles the inability to coach up some fairly decent players. I am not saying Lakatos should be fired, but if there isn't improvement in the secondary next year, we are in trouble. Same goes if we can't get some beef in the middle and some depth around the defense.
One final thing, the defense is on the precipice. On one hand, you cannot possibly look at the 3rd down and the redzone TD conversion rate and not realize how tantalizingly close the Dawgs D was to a spectacular defensive season. With 26 of the total 37 tds surrendered by Georgia coming from redzone possessions, simply getting to a more average 55% redzone td conversion (and assuming teams would hit the FG in those 20% of the possessions) would change the scoring D numbers to a very respectable 20-21ppg, putting Georgia in the top four in the SEC and top 35 or so in the nation. Computing the value of a stronger 3rd down conversion rate is harder to quantify, but holding teams to a 5% lower 3rd down rate would result in one less conversion per game. Becoming merely average at 3rd and long would yield similar dividends
On the other, you also can't help but to think that we are another half a turnover a game away from being 3-9 either. Perhaps that will be the greatest measure of Grantham's prowess, the ability to continue the improvement in the passing defense and bring the rushing defense back around. That and instill some of that firebrand score over my dead body mentality that he has shown at times in his charges. Or the failure to do so could be his and coach Richt's downfall. One thing is for certain, he cannot count on Georgia putting up 33+ points per game to save his tail, nor should he.