ATHENS—It has been a long time since a Georgia football team was identified more so by its defense, rather than its offense; by my assessment, it’s been nine years, the 2006 season. And, armed with Nick Chubb, four of five starting offensive linemen returning, a group of gifted receivers, and a trio of quarterbacks—each of whom could probably start for a number of FBS teams—it seems the Bulldogs’ long-standing trend of having an offensive identity would continue this season.
However, if spring practice is any indication, Georgia might be back “on the defensive” in 2015.
“It was really kind of a sloppy day for the offense,” head coach Mark Richt said following Thursday’s practice. “We had a lot of penalties, and the defense, I thought, practiced harder today quite frankly.
After 12 spring practices, including two scrimmages, leading into the G-Day Game two days from now, something I’ve personally gathered is Georgia’s defense, overall, has out performed its offense the last three weeks. Again, by my assessment, what Richt described—sloppy offensive play, good defensively—has transpired for at least a couple of other practices this spring before today.
Granted, a “sloppy” offense, which is a different offense than before, coordinated by a new coach, possibly should be what’s expected at this point—still, nearly five months until the Bulldogs open their season against Louisiana-Monroe on September 5th.
How different is Georgia’s new offense coordinated by Brian Schottenheimer—a college assistant for the first time since coaching Southern California’s tight ends 15 years ago in 2000?
“It’s a lot more in depth in terms of what we do, switching up things, spreading around the responsibility of knowing what to do on offense,” tight end Jeb Blazevich said following practice. “[In the previous offense] everything was put on the quarterback and linemen, but now they can share the responsibility—widened the load.”
One of those linemen, sixth-year senior Kolton Houston, mentioned how well the defense under second-year defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt has played, and “they’re really clicking,” plus, adding, “it’s a challenge for us on offense—trying to learn a new playbook.”
Houston indicated although the G-Day rosters had been posted by the end of practice, he had yet to see them. Regardless, he said the two teams—the Red, and the Black—will probably be split up like in previous years: first-team offense, second-team defense on one team, second-team offense, first-team defense the other.
In 2014, Pruitt’s defense forced 29 turnovers and was only the second Georgia defense the last seven seasons to allow the opposition less than five yards per offensive play. More so, last season was vastly improved over the 2013 unit, when the Bulldogs featured arguably their worst defense in the modern era of Georgia football.
And, under Coach Pruitt, one would think, Georgia’s defense should only get better. However, as far as the offense, Richt had little good to say about it on Thursday: “there were too many [offensive] mistakes, too many penalties, too many decisions by the quarterbacks that put the ball in harm’s way.”
What does this—Georgia being more so identified as a defensive team during the spring—mean for the 2015 season? Probably little, if anything—perhaps as much as if the champion of baseball’s exhibition season translated to it being a champion during the regular season. However, it could mean plenty for Saturday’s G-Day—like, I’m currently not sure which team I like to win, but I’ll definitely take whichever squad features the first-team defense.