ATHENS, Ga. — Don’t think just because the cast that Todd Grantham has to work with this season has gone through major changes that the expectation is lowered.
It hasn’t for the Georgia defensive coordinator or his players.
“We’re a young defense. We already have been counted out by most people, but one thing about our defense is we’re vicious and we’re aggressive and we’re coming,” cornerback Sheldon Dawson said. “Our mentality is where it needs to be to have a great, successful year.”
Developing mental and physical toughness is what Grantham said he instilled in the defense after his first season in 2010.
The Bulldogs have reached the Southeastern Conference championship game each of the past two seasons.
“As coaches, we’re going to challenge ourselves that we’ve got a certain standard to uphold,” Grantham said in late spring. “We won 22 games in two years, won the SEC East the last two years, we’re 14-2 in the SEC. That standard is set. There’s a lot of different ways to win ball games. Turnovers is a way. Playing good in the red zone is a way. Each game is different.”
Georgia’s nucleus on defense was mostly the same in 2011 and 2012, but in the major statistical categories the Bulldogs slipped as a defense in most measures except for scoring defense.
Grantham views those trend lines against the backdrop of a defense hit with multiple suspensions to start the season when players were forced to shift positions.
When suspended players Alec Ogletree and Bacarri Rambo returned, they were plugged in while other players shifted to other spots.
“There were some timing issues with that, so that developed some inconsistencies in the middle (of the season),” Grantham said. “From the Florida game on, we probably played as good as anybody if you look at those stats.”
Swann paints a picture of players stepping into prominent roles this season, of being hungry to prove themselves on the college level and not thinking of what’s ahead for them in their careers.
“We’ve got young guys that are ready to play, that’s not really focusing on the next level, that has two or three more years left to play before they can even think about whatever else is going on, and I think that’s going to be big throughout the whole defense,” Swann said.