February 12, 2010

Linebackers, ends, wait to hear new roles

When breaking down Georgia's linebackers from 2009, it's impossible to revisit the past and not consider where the Bulldogs are going.

Gone are leading tackler Rennie Curran and Marcus Washington from last year's linebacker corps, which even if Georgia were not switching to a new 3-4 alignment this spring, their absence would have dictated change.

But since new defensive coordinator Todd Grantham is scrapping the 4-3, linebackers like Chase Vasser will have some additional adjusting to do.

"I think everybody's excited to be in a new defense, because he's (Grantham) talking about how aggressive he wants us to be," Vasser said. "He's always going to be sending one linebacker for sure, but the other one, you aren't going to know where he's coming from, so that's going to be exciting for sure."

Grantham and former Vanderbilt assistant Warren Belin will coach the linebackers.

Originally, Grantham was going to coach the inside group, but earlier this week it was determined that Belin would handle those duties with Grantham tutoring those on the outside.

"We're going to play one-gap defense, we're going to attack blockers up front and we're going to rush the passer," Grantham said recently. "Our outside backers are going to be edge-setters, they're going to be aggressive and they're going to be coming. They're going to be solid, setting the edge on the run but we're going to develop those guys as pass-rushers. Our inside backers, they're going to be downhill guys to the ball."

But who will play where?

The answers to those questions probably will not be answered until later in spring practice, but there appears to be no shortage of players for the new coaches to choose.

Cornelius Washington isn't sure where he might be asked to play.

"Nobody really knows," said Washington, who has bulked up to 256 pounds. "But wherever he (Grantham) wants me to play will work for me."

Washington, along with 2009 sack leader Justin Houston, would seem to be ideal candidates for the outside backer roles, along with Demarcus Dobbs and Jeremy Longo. Montez Robinson could also figure into the mix once head coach Mark Richt deems his current indefinite suspension over.

Grantham will also have to decide how to best employ a quartet of incoming freshmen, who originally signed as defensive ends, a list that includes T.J. Stripling, Jalen Fields, Brandon Burrows and Dexter Morant.

But until Grantham says so, nothing is for certain.

That includes who will line up at the two inside linebacker positions now known as "Mike" and "Moe."

Again, Grantham will have plenty of choices.

Seniors Darryl Gamble and Akeem Dent, along with Marcus Dowtin, Nick Williams, Christian Robinson, Vasser, Mike Gilliard, Akeem Hebron plus incoming freshman Demetre Baker will all receive looks.

"We're going to be multiple," Grantham said. "We're always going to match personnel or have the ability to match personnel, meaning if somebody were to add a third wideout into the game we will have the ability to add an extra DB from that standpoint. We can end up playing multiple fronts out of the nickel package, whether it's four-down or three down, kind of go that route."

That approach is music to the ears of Vasser, who said the Bulldogs' new attack first philosophy is something he grew accustomed to while playing at Chestatee High.

"When I played in high school, all we did was blitz," Vasser said. "We may have had three drop-back converges; we were always coming. That's my cup of tea. I can't wait for spring to learn the system."

Grantham said the best defensive players will be the ones who get on the field. There will be no favoritism.

"I really believe the best way to go about it is you rank your players, one through 50. You find a way to get your top players on the field because to be an aggressive, attacking-style defense and to make plays, you have to have playmakers and you have to give those playmakers the opportunity to make plays," Grantham said. "The most important thing to do is to evaluate the players and find out what their strengths are and put them in position to make plays."

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