Just because Georgia has played in a couple of shootouts already this season doesn‚Äôt mean Todd Grantham is expecting that‚Äôs the way it will be for the duration of this season for better or worse.
‚ÄúI certainly hope not,‚Äù the Bulldogs‚Äô fourth year-defensive coordinator said.
Georgia‚Äôs defense was expected to have some growing pains with the loss of eight starters from last year‚Äôs team, and it has.
With as many as three freshmen starting, Georgia has given up a combined 921 yards and 68 points in two games, but allowed only six points in the second half of a 41-30 victory over then-No. 6 South Carolina on Saturday.
‚ÄúWe‚Äôve got a long way to go,‚Äù junior linebacker Amarlo Herrera said. ‚ÄúWe‚Äôve got a long way to go if we want to win the national championship and compete for the SEC title. We‚Äôve just got to keep working.‚Äù
The Bulldogs are doing that during this bye week before their next game against North Texas on Sept. 21.
There were positives to take away from Saturday‚Äôs win, the biggest a goal-line stand in the fourth quarter.
‚ÄúThe initial feeling was good because we won the game, but we know that we gave up touchdowns and we gave up big plays that we should not have given up,‚Äù Herrera said.
‚ÄúWe‚Äôve got to get a lot better,‚Äù defensive lineman Garrison Smith said. ‚ÄúWe gave up plays. We‚Äôre still doing things to ourselves. We‚Äôre making simple mistakes that are hurting us. We‚Äôre self-inflicting a lot of wounds. We‚Äôve got to change that.‚Äù
Herrera isn‚Äôt blaming youth for the breakdowns.
‚ÄúAnybody can come out here and play, we‚Äôre just missing assignments,‚Äù he said. ‚ÄúInexperience is part of it, but if you know it in and out, then you can make plays.‚Äù
He said he thinks improvement will come as players better grasp the playbook and can play faster.
Georgia had issues with tackling against Clemson, particularly on the perimeter, but defensive end Sterling Bailey saw improvement against the Gamecocks.
‚ÄúWe‚Äôre playing physical, we‚Äôre starting to outwork our opponents,‚Äù Bailey said. ‚ÄúThat‚Äôs one thing I think we‚Äôre improving on.‚Äù
Georgia‚Äôs starting inside linebackers rank 1-2 in the SEC in tackles. Herrera has 24 and Ramik Wilson 22, but coach Mark Richt wants more substitution at that position. That would mean more playing time for freshmen Reggie Carter and Tim Kimbrough, but Herrera doesn‚Äôt sound like he wants to come out of the game.
‚ÄúI‚Äôm probably not going to come out unless I get hurt,‚Äù said Herrera, who said he played all 61 defensive snaps against South Carolina and only came out of the Clemson game when he had cramps.
Grantham was encouraged by improvement in the red zone Saturday, forcing a field goal and making the stand at the goal line.
‚ÄúI think the more they play, the better they‚Äôre going to get and I think their confidence will exemplify that,‚Äù Grantham said.
Herrera and Wilson snuffed out Mike Davis on an option pitch on a fourth-and-goal at the Georgia 1-yard line.
‚ÄúWe‚Äôve got a lot of work to do, but I feel like we made plays when it counted the most,‚Äù said sophomore Josh Harvey-Clemons. ‚ÄúThat‚Äôs what really matters. This off week is going to give us a chance to get our chemistry all the way together. Once we get that going, I feel like it‚Äôs going to be trouble for a lot of offenses coming.‚Äù
Richt liked what he saw from Bailey and Ray Drew, but he said wants to see more from the line. He said Bailey and Drew are playing with their pads down but other linemen stood up to much and got moved on a day Georgia gave up 226 rushing yards.
‚ÄúWe‚Äôve got to have guys that will force double teams, guys that will drop anchor and not let people move them,‚Äù Richt said. ‚ÄúI think our perimeter is going to get better just by virtue that they‚Äôre getting this experience.‚Äù
Georgia has first-year starters in the secondary in freshmen Brendan Langley and Tray Matthews and Harvey-Clemons, a sophomore who returned from a one-game suspension.
‚ÄúI know on the first kickoff he knocked some guy down,‚Äù Richt said of Harvey-Clemons. ‚ÄúYou can tell he couldn‚Äôt wait to hit somebody.‚Äù
Harvey-Clemons, who played the star nickel back for most of the game, was rusty in some areas, Richt said, losing contain on one big run.
‚ÄúOur safeties have to take better angles when it comes to tackling,‚Äù Richt said. ‚ÄúHe‚Äôs one of those guys.‚Äù
Langley had trouble in pass coverage on two touchdowns.
‚ÄúOnce we get it together,‚Äù Langley said, ‚Äúwe‚Äôll be a pretty good darn defense.‚Äù