Friday, February 5, 2010
SUPERIOR ATHLETES AND THE DAWGS 34 PUZZLE
One of the unforeseen highlights of Signing Day 2010 was the announcement that Richard Samuel will be moving from running back to linebacker this spring. This news has been received well by most DAWG fans. Whether that is because they are frustrated with the results Samuel produced as a running back or because they believe his skill set and robo-athlete measureables make him a lock for future All-SEC consideration…well, that you can decide for yourself.
Courtesy Kelly Lambert
I am riding the train of thought that says there is not a defensive coach alive that would not drool over the opportunity to have a 6’2”, 222 lb rocket ranging from sideline to sideline on the glide at sub 4.4. If you disagree, then you’ve never known a defensive coach. Richard is smart and he really wants to please his coaches. I really hope this move is a fantastic success. I want this not only because it will make the athleticism of the DAWGS defensive squad start to look downright scary, but also because I am rooting for a young man that wants to do the right thing to have success.
This will hardly be the first instance of a player switching positions…or not…during the last nine seasons.
Courtesy Kelly Lambert
One of the many whipping posts the former defensive regime in Athens was regularly tied to was the charge that defensive players were not being coached up or utilized correctly. I can be counted among those that felt players were not always put in the best position to make plays. The example that I point to most often is former DAWG Brandon Miller. Miller came to Georgia as a five-star talent with a skill level that allowed him to play both defensive end and linebacker in high school, while also lining up to play wide receiver when the offense was on the field. As a DAWG, Miller played Sam linebacker and was never able to lock down a full time starting job. When he did play, Miller often came off the field in the passing situations in favor of the nickel set which features an extra defensive back. I saw this as a waist of a tremendous talent. To me, an obvious option here would have been to have Miller put his hand in the dirt as a defensive end (he clearly had the size and strength to do so) and turn him loose to rush the passer off the edge. This would allow you to bump another DE inside to tackle to keep your best pass rushers on the field and you could still match-up on the outside with the extra defensive back. LSU has done something similar in recent years with a personnel group they call their “express package” by playing four defensive ends along the defensive front in pass rush situations to get their best players on the field at the same time. Makes sense to me. What is the purpose of recruiting superior athletes if you do not allow them to use their ability?
On the other side of the ledger, there is Kiante Tripp. Tripp came to Georgia as a big time recruit and a four-star talent that played offensive tackle in high school. Since arriving in Athens, Tripp has played defensive end, offensive tackle and even tight end for the DAWGS. To his credit, Tripp has approached the game with a team-first attitude and has done everything the coaches have asked of him. Tripp will be a senior in 2010. Early word has it that he will be back on the defensive side of the ball this spring learning the new 3-4 scheme that Coach Grantham will be installing. If there is any sort of justice in the world, Tripp will find a home and find some success on Saturday’s inside Sanford Stadium this fall.
As David Hale wrote about on Friday, virtually every returning player in Georgia's defensive front seven as well as the DAWGS newly signed recruits could be in store for a position change from what they have played most recently. There is talk of Justin Anderson switching from the offensive to the defensive line, Alec Ogletree could end up at one of the outside linebacker positions and the ultimate position destinations for Kwame Geathers and AJ Harmon will be interesting to watch as well.
There is no doubt that one of the main reasons Coach Grantham is at Georgia today is because of his reputation as an evaluator of talent, and one of the absolutes of Coach Grantham’s short time with Georgia has been the importance that has been placed on talent evaluation of the current roster. The defensive plan that the DAWGS new coaching staff will implement in the coming months is an empty puzzle and the players are the pieces. I hope that the changes that are coming for the DAWGS will fit all the pieces of that defensive puzzle together as the designer intends, for the good of the players and the good of the team.