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December 29, 2012


A heated topic of conversation among some family members of mine on Christmas Day was Georgia's overall defensive effort this season, considering its perceived collective talent level.  After I noted the Bulldogs' current and unheard of streak of allowing three consecutive opponents to rush for 300+ yards, a relative quipped, "And just imagine how many yards Georgia would be allowing if 'Willie Mo' was still the defensive coordinator instead of Grantham."
Ah, Willie Mo, or Willie Martinez...  I hadn't associated the name with the UGA football program since I, along with most of the Bulldog Nation, breathed a sigh of relief upon his firing in early December of 2009.  Recalling Martinez's tenure as defensive coordinator a five-year stint of seemingly a steady decline in defensive performance with each passing season and the Bulldogs' disappointing defensive play in 2012 invoked a question of whether or not Georgia's defense had actually performed better under Grantham compared to the final few seasons coordinated by Martinez.
In the past, I've compared the Bulldogs' offensive production statistics of when Mark Richt was calling the plays to that of Mike Bobo.  I decided to make a similar comparison, examining Georgia's defense in the three seasons under Grantham (2010-2012) to that of Martinez's final three years as the Bulldog DC (2007 through 2009 regular season).

A quick look at the numbers reveals the 40-game Grantham regime having a slight edge in fewest total yards allowed per game (TG- 318.0; WM- 321.0) and yards yielded per play (TG- 4.92; WM- 4.96).  In the 38 games under Martinez, Georgia did total more sacks per game (WM- 2.45; TG- 2.15).  But above all, the Bulldogs under Grantham had the advantage in the two most important defensive categories of those considered: turnovers forced (TG- 2.13; WM- 1.37) and offensive touchdowns allowed (TG- 2.33; WM- 2.71) per game.

However, there is an existing perception that Grantham's defenses normally play quite well when pitted against average to lower-tier offenses; however, Grantham's troops have often had their struggles in stopping productive offenses.

Therefore, believing it would be a better comparison of the effectiveness of their defensive units, I compared the two coordinators when only faced with an offense that would finish its respective season ranked in the nation's top 50 in total offense, or slightly better than the top half of the approximately 120 FBS teams (current total offense rankings were considered for Grantham in 2012).  During the three-season periods, both coordinators faced a top-50 offense roughly one third of the time (Martinez- 12 games; Grantham- 13 games). 

For what the comparison is worth, which might be little, its results were rather one sided and a little surprising to me (PG= per game; Three-and-Outs %= the percentage of the opposition's offensive possessions which resulted in a punt or turnover in one to three plays):
                                             WM         TG
Total Yards PG:                        363.5     407.4
Yards Per Rush:                     3.8        4.4
Yards Per Pass:                     7.5         7.9
Yards Per Play:                      5.5        5.7
Off. Touchdowns PG:              3.3        3.5
Sacks PG:                                    3.1        1.5
Turnovers Forced PG:            1.8         2.2
3rd Down %:                         37.7       46.4
3rd + 4th Down %:              37.3       46.3
Pts Per Red Zone Visit:            4.5         5.2
Three-and-Outs %:             25.9       26.1

Against offenses I defined as productive, Grantham's defenses forced a few more turnovers and had the slightest edge in three-and-out percentage.  However, Georgia's defenses from 2007 to 2009 performed better in every other category, particularly in yards allowed (nearly 45 less per game), yards per rush (more than a half-yard difference), sacks (twice as many), and 3rd/4th-down conversions (nearly a 10% difference).

As was the case with my Richt vs. Bobo comparison, I realize simply comparing statistics doesn't reveal the entire story, so to speak, especially when considering merely 12 or 13 games.  Personally, I prefer Todd Grantham over Willie Martinez as Georgia's DC on any day and against any offense, whether productive or one not so much.  However, what is evident is that Grantham's defenses have overall performed at a sub-par level against efficient offenses.  Apparently, this is especially the case even when compared to the final three seasons of Willie Mo's tenure.

Perhaps most telling, Georgia's record is 7-6 when Grantham's defensive unit has faced a top-50 offense; the Bulldogs were 9-3 in the 12 games with Martinez under the same circumstances from 2007 to 2009. 

Let me add, the Bulldogs will face the FBS' 24th-ranked offense (8th in rushing offense!) in a few days down in the Capital One Bowl.  Let's hope the performance by Grantham's defenders against Nebraska coincides with the viewed collective talent level of the defense, and any perception of Georgia having struggles in stopping productive offenses is at least put on hold.


KeithD said...

I would be interested to see those statistics without the first transition year to the 3-4. Very interesting read though.

Anonymous said...

We played 3 quality opponents this year - we didn't score until the final minute bs SC, we only scored 17 despite the benefit of 6 turnovers and, while our offense scored 3 TD's vs Bama, the other 8 drives prior to the last desperation drive averaged right at 3 plays, 6 yards and a little over a minute off the clock. Our 2nd longest drive in the entire game was right at 3 minutes - a 7 play, 7 yard "drive" that resulted in a missed FG after the D put the O in great position with a turnover.

When you combine the lack of quality depth on D with the offense's inability to keep our D off the field for any length of time(mostly because our O-line is still a work in progress and we fail to convert too many 3rd and short yardage situations because of that), then Grantham is put in a very difficult situation in the "big games".

As for the Martinez comparison, I'm surprised at those numbers, but we all know what we see on the field. With Willie, you had a D that played on their heels in zone coverage, hoping not to make mistake. I'll never forget that Tennessee game in Athens where we went from up 24-7 to losing 51-33 as Ainge and UT scored one TD after another on Willie's D. With Grantham, we have an attacking D that takes it to the opponent. I'll take the attacking approach over the counter-punching approach any day.

Anonymous said...

Rodney Garner underperformed as a DT coach under both guys.The UGA DL has been subpar for the last 5 years.

Anonymous said...

Funny thing here is,by the numbers,Willie had better numbers in his first 3 years as DC than Grantham has produced.