Georgia's Defensive Philosophy
I look at how the Georgia defense works with examples from their National Championship and explain why it is an innovative force in all of football.
Some pundits felt there might be a slight drop-off for the Georgia defense following the historic 2022 NFL Draft that saw 15 players selected and five defensive players in the 1st Round. However, the ‘21 National Championship defense finished #1 overall in FEI (which rates efficiency) with a historic 1.93 number. The highest ever, according to BCFToys, with only the ‘16 Bama team approaching 1.88.
Remember, it was only five years ago that Lincoln Riley and Kyler Murray “broke” college football with the highest-ever efficiency rating of 2.32. LSU (and Bama) would exceed that number the following year, with Burrow & Co. with 2.43. Defenses were reeling, and behind the scenes, Georgia was building a monster to combat the onslaught.
Though not as dominant as the previous year, the 2022 Bulldog defense still carried plenty of firepower on both sides of the ball. Ironically, this year's most significant difference was the offense, which finished as FEI's #1 rated unit (1.86). Defensively, the talent was still there, just younger at certain spots.
According to several outlets, DL Jalen Carter, CB Kelee Ringo, and LB Nolan Smith have all received 1st Round grades. Additionally, 15 total Bulldogs attended this year’s NFL Combine. The ‘23 defense was a blend of young superstars in the making and peppered with upperclassman NFL talent. The results speak for themselves.
The Georgia scheme is a prime example of when elite coaching meets elite talent. Smart understands that to be truly dominant in today’s game, you have to be able to control the line of scrimmage with fewer players. So in the past several seasons, the Bulldogs have set out to recruit the best front-six prospects in the country.
DE Travon Walker, DT Jordan Davis, LB Quay Walker, DT Devonte Wyatt, LB Nakobe Dean, and LB Channing Tindall will most likely meet DT Carter, LB Smith, and ED Robert Beal Jr. as picks in the first three rounds. That is nine players total, not to mention the crop of young prospects in the waiting still in Athens. Georgia has built a monster, and one with a seemingly endless pipeline.
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The ‘22 version of the Bulldog’s defense finished 6th overall in EPA/play, #1 against the rush and #23 against the pass (CFB Graphs). If there was a chink in the armor of Georgia, it could be found in their youthful secondary, though it did not inhibit them from winning. Regarding FEI, Georgia finished #1 overall with a 1.45. The Bulldogs also finished in the top five in Points Per Drive (#4/PPD), which tracks how many points are given up per opponent possession, a metric that is insightful with the increase in offensive production. Overall, it was another stellar year for the Dawgs.
Smart’s philosophy starts with the ability to stop the run with as few players as possible. The concept is similar to what I have discussed since the creation of MatchQuarters: use six defenders to stop the run (Cautious Aggression & Anchor Points). At Baylor, we had to do this by teaching our DEs specific techniques like Heavy (Fist) and our Noses how to play a “G” (2i). Typical run fits against a basic Split Zone are illustrated below.