The University of Georgia began its preseason practices Monday, with a new quarterback and a new defense.
Mark Richt, in his 10th year as head coach, wasn’t looking to change to the 3-4 defense after he let Willie Martinez and two defensive assistants go following the 2009 season. He brought in Todd Grantham, who had been coaching the Dallas Cowboys’ defensive line, and Grantham brought with him the 3-4.
“I like what Todd’s doing,” Richt said. “I was really just looking for the right man for the job. He just happened to be running the 3-4. The 3-4 is a very good, aggressive, attacking style of defense. We’ve got enough personnel to run it effectively. But it’s not what you run, it’s how you run it.
The question is how we do it and how many mistakes we make along the way. It’s going to be a learning curve.”
It also helped prompt Monday’s start to preseason practices.
“Because we have a new defense, I thought it would be wise to get as many teaching opportunities as possible,” Richt said.
Grantham didn’t bring any assistants with him, so they’re learning his tactics too before they can pass it on to the players. One change Richt would like to see from the defense, aside from giving up nearly 26 points and 340 yards per game, is getting the ball back to the offense.
Georgia forced just 12 turnovers a year ago and the defense only had two fumble recoveries for the entire 13-game season.
“On the other end, we hope to pressure people to turn the ball over a lot more than we did a year ago,” Richt said.
DeMarcus Dobbs and Justin Houston return to anchor the front seven, now in its new formation, but Akeem Dent will miss several weeks with a toe injury. Baccari Rambo is the lone starter back in the secondary.
The offense has 10 starters back, including the entire offensive line, wide receiver A.J. Green and running backs Washaun Ealey and Caleb King. Ealey and King combined for more than 1,300 yards and 10 touchdowns.
“Our goal is to maximize the talent we have,” Richt said. “You need to still enjoy it along the way. I want these guys to enjoy their experience, too.
Winning is more fun than losing, and we want to have a lot of fun.”
Because of the NCAA’s five-day acclimatization period, a measure adopted in 2003 for preseason football practices, the Bulldogs will be in shorts and helmets through today’s practices. The Bulldogs will don shoulder pads Wednesday. Georgia’s first session — there will be 29 preseason practices — in full pads is slated for Saturday.
Classes resume at UGA on Aug. 16. The annual fans’ picture day will be Aug. 21 in Sanford Stadium. Interim Bulldog mascot “Russ” will be available for photos that day from 1-3 p.m. while the 2010 Bulldogs will be at the stadium from 3-5 p.m.
The season opener Sept. 4 against Louisiana-Lafayette is set for a 12:21 p.m. kickoff.