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New defensive coaches have brought a fresh approach to practice. A new defensive scheme has players learning on the fly. Position changes have been abundant as veterans adjust to their new roles in Todd Grantham’s 3-4 defense. And, of course, there’s that quarterback competition.
But while fans may be eagerly awaiting their first look at the new-look Bulldogs, head coach Mark Richt isn’t promising all their questions will be answered during today’s G-Day game at Sanford Stadium.
"I know the fans are probably waiting for a lot of this, that and the other,” Richt said. “We might do this, that and not the other.”
After all, there’s no sense giving away any trade secrets at this point. With the new defensive scheme shrouded in mystery, Richt isn’t interested in spoiling the surprise for Georgia’s early season competitors this fall.
But that doesn’t mean there won’t be a few things worth keeping an eye on at Sanford Stadium today. Here’s some of what fans should be watching for:
-- The new defensive scheme. The 3-4 defense represents a vast departure from the scheme employed by Brian Van Gorder and Willie Martinez during the first nine years of Mark Richt’s tenure in Athens. Players are lining up at new positions, the blitzes can come from all directions, and the secondary has been tasked with a new, more aggressive approach. That’s all music to most fans’ ears, and Richt promises at least a taste of what’s to come this fall.
“I don't want to say it's going to be vanilla, because it won't be,” Richt said. “We'll be doing some blitzing and stunting defensively, and there'll be plenty of plays offensively we think we can run that we'll have a chance to score. But as much of the strategy, the nuts and bolts of how we operate, we're going to try to keep other people from learning too much about our defense, I would guess."
-- The personalities of the new coaches. Grantham, the new defensive coordinator and outside linebackers coach, has made a lot of fans already with his tough talk about a renewed effort on defense. Fans will get their first chance to see him interacting with his players today as he works from the sidelines – where he plans to coach during the season, too, he said – and calls the shots for Georgia’s “Black Team,” which includes most of the top defensive players.
Scott Lakatos, the new defensive backs coach, and new linebackers coach Warren Belin will also be on display for the first time in front of fans today, and both will be showcasing plenty of new talent. Lakatos is tasked with replacing three of Georgia’s four starters in the defensive backfield from last season, while Belin is looking to find the right mix at inside linebacker, a position that has been shaken up of late with Darryl Gamble’s move to the outside.
-- How the quarterbacks handle the pressure. For one, Aaron Murray, Zach Mettenberger and Logan Gray will be facing a stiff challenge from defenders hoping to prove their metal in front of fans for the first time. But perhaps more importantly, the three quarterbacks will be facing the pressure of coming up big in their final chance to impress Richt before a depth chart is released in the days to come.
Richt said he has been pleased with the performances of all three quarterbacks so far in what has been a particularly balanced competition, with each player receiving roughly the same number of snaps during practice and rotating between the first- and second-team offenses.
Richt said he’s curious to see how his quarterbacks will perform in front of TV cameras and fans, and Murray admits G-Day will have a lasting impact for all three competitors.
"I think it's big for all of us,” Murray said. “The practices are like the quizzes, the other two scrimmages were the tests and this could be like the final. But the final's not your whole grade, it's just part of it. It's most of it, but I think everything we've done so far in the practices and scrimmages goes a lot in these coaches' eyes. So we've just got to look at it as another day to go out there and get better."