September 5, 2012

A different kind of spread

Georgia's defense has come across offenses based out of the spread before.

However, when it comes to the variation run by Saturday night's opponent Missouri, defensive coordinator Todd Grantham says the Bulldogs are about to face a different animal they haven't faced before.

"They're entirely new. They have a formula for how they want to win the game and what they want to do," Grantham said. "They are very productive with their system and they're going to run it and throw it. We've just got to understand what's happening and be ready to play."

One of the biggest misconceptions is how often the Tigers will actually run the ball.

Often when one hears of a program running the spread, it conjures up thoughts of quarterbacks slinging the football all over the field at a breakneck pace.

While the Tigers (1-0) certainly have a quarterback capable of doing that in junior James Franklin, Missouri's high-tempo version will look to do much of its damage on the ground.

In fact, Missouri finished the year ranked 9th in team rushing, averaging 244 yards per game, with Franklin rushing for 981 and 15 touchdowns combined with completing 238 of 376 passes for 2,865 yards and 21 scores.

"That's designed runs," Grantham said of Franklin. "if you look they're probably going to run the ball 40 times a game and I think as a matter of fact, (10) of the 12 games they played they ran the ball 40 times at least, so they're going to try to run its as well as throw it.

"Obviously, with their tempo they can get more plays, but they want to be physical so that's a little bit of a misconception when you say they're a spread team you're not going to run the ball, but they will run, be physical, and attack you."

All-American linebacker Jarvis Jones said it's a challenge he and his defensive teammates take seriously.

"I think we've just got to be disciplined, execute and make the big plays when they present themselves," He said. "They're very well-coached, their QB is a smart guy and he knows where his guys are at and he knows how to get the ball to them. "

Still, Grantham knows his players will need to be a lot more consistent than they were the first half of Saturday's 45-23 win over Buffalo when the Bulls surprised the Bulldogs with 16 first-half points to close within eight at halftime.

The news was better in the second half when Georgia limited Buffalo to just 96 total yards, but against a Missouri squad, there might not be any second chances.

"I thought there were some good plays but some inconsistencies, particularly in the first half. Really, in the second half they had five series for like 19 yards and they had one first down right before that last drive," Grantham said. "So from that aspect I was pleased with the way the guys handled some things that we went over with them at halftime, how we were going to play the second half and the way we were going to play. We've just got to hone in and try to be more consistent."

Last week, the Bulldogs allowed 199 rushing yards to the Bulls, including 83 by quarterback Alex Zordich on 14 attempts.

But as Grantham is quick to point out, the majority of the yardage did not come on designed runs, instead on pass-first plays where Zordich took off after failing to locate a receiver.

"Anytime you have split-safety coverage and you're rushing four guys, that means there's six gaps for four guys, so it's critical that you collapse the pocket outside the end so you can constrict that area," Grantham explained. "But if you create a seam in there, a guy can get out and make some yards because you've got vertical separation between the rush going this way and the receivers going down-field . When that happens, the guys can run because nobody is there. We addressed it with the players and what they needed to do, they were better at it (Tuesday) and we'll continue to work to make sure it doesn't happen again."

Grantham disagreed with the notion that simply keeping linebackers at home to help fill those gaps would necessarily be the cure.

"Not really, it's one of those things that you've got to understand leverage on the quarterback, you've got to understand distribution in your rush lanes and those kinds of things," Grantham said. "It's going to happen. I saw it happen in a game Saturday night that I was watching, so you've just go to understand why it's happening and what you've got to do to keep it from happening too often."

Having all their defensive bullets would certainly help Georgia's cause.

However, the Bulldogs will be without cornerback Sanders Commings (suspension), linebacker Chase Vasser (suspension) and are also expected to be without safety Bacarri Rambo (suspension) and linebacker Alec Ogletree (suspension), although head coach Mark Richt has not officially revealed their status for Saturday night's game (7:45, ESPN2).

There is also the question of cornerback Malcolm Mitchell, who missed last week's game with a sprained ankle. Mitchell has been limited in practice thus far this week and his status remains unclear.

Considering the Tigers will also throw four wides - with six of their three-deep listed at 6-foot-3 or better, Georgia could need all the secondary help it can get.

Sophomore Damian Swann, however, said he believes the Bulldogs can still be successful.

"You've got to be physical at the line of scrimmage; you've got to be disruptive of routes and timing. That's key," Swann said. "You know you're going to have help from the big guys we've got up front and as long as all of us work together, we should get it done."

Grantham has his fingers crossed.

"I think what you've got to understand is the position that you're in, the leverage where your help is and those types of things," he said. "Basically, you've got to understand what is happening before the ball is snapped and be ready to play. I think our guys will compete."