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Let the Big 'Dawgs Eat: Why the Georgia Bulldogs Have the Means to Field a Successful Defense in 2010

We College World Series refugees have to stick together. While South Carolina fans prepare for the possibility of bringing a national championship trophy from Omaha to Columbia, Georgia and LSU fans are left to regret their respective teams’ absence from Rosenblatt Stadium. Accordingly, I am grateful to Poseur for calling my attention to this excellent offering from Bud Elliott.

Elliott’s thesis is that the size of a football team’s defensive front is significant. While this intuitively makes sense, not everything that intuitively makes sense is true, and Bud offers the requisite disclaimers, noting:

Having size in the front-7 will not guarantee a great defense. Certainly there are examples of defenses having good size and failing to perform at an elite level. But not having size is almost a guarantee that a defense will not be among the 20 best in college football. That is to say that having a sizable front-7 is a necessary but not sufficient condition to having an elite defense.

Having thus acknowledged that there is a lot more to playing stout defense than just being stout, Elliott refines his premise by examining the total tonnage of the best defenses in the region and drawing specific conclusions about the bulk needed to field a top-flight D.

Bud found that ten of the top twenty defenses in college football hailed from the ACC and the SEC. Using that representative regional data set as his starting point, he determined that the cutoff point is at a cumulative 1,780 pounds for a team’s starting front seven. Explains Elliott:

50% of ACC/SEC defenses over 1780 lbs were among the best 20 defenses. Only 25% of ACC/SEC defenses under 1780 lbs were among the best 20 defenses. This seems pretty cut and dry. Having a defense over 1780 lbs doubled a team's chance of fielding a best 20 defense!

With respect to the Bulldogs, Bud found that, although "Georgia had plenty of size and NFL talent," the program "rightfully fired its defensive coordinator as the defense continued to backslide for the third consecutive year." Elliott offers the numbers to support this contention, noting that the Red and Black boasted the SEC’s third-biggest front seven in 2009, behind only Alabama and Florida, yet failed to field a top twenty defense. Size-wise, the only team in either the ACC or the SEC that underachieved more than the Bulldogs was Maryland. (No, that is not a Ralph Friedgen fat joke: Bud estimates that the Terrapins’ front seven tipped the scales at 1,864 pounds, slightly ahead of the Classic City Canines’ 1,846-pound total.)

As Elliott alludes, the Bulldogs’ heft (or lack thereof; Georgia is getting smaller up front) could make a significant difference in 2010 because of the Athenians’ shift to a 3-4 scheme. Size up front, and particularly in the middle of the defensive line, is critical to the success of the 3-4. 365-pound Terrence Cody provides a recent example of a successful nose tackle; an historical example is the Clemson Tigers’ 1987 defensive line, which was made up of 280-pound right tackle Michael Dean Perry, 300-pound middle guard Tony Stephens, and 295-pound left tackle Raymond Chavous, who once rode together from the athletic dorm to Memorial Stadium in a Toyota that could not exceed five miles per hour because it was sitting too low to the ground.

Obviously, the loss of Geno Atkins and Jeff Owens affects both the quality and the quantity of the Georgia defensive front, but, according to the Bulldogs’ post-spring depth chart, the Red and Black still will be within Bud Elliott’s acceptable range.

Double check my math, but 290-pound left end Abry Jones, 294-pound nose tackle DeAngelo Tyson, 274-pound right end Demarcus Dobbs, 248-pound sam linebacker Cornelius Washington, 259-pound will linebacker Justin Houston, 233-pound mike linebacker Akeem Dent, and 216-pound mo linebacker Christian Robinson together bring 1,814 pounds to bear for the Bulldogs. While it would be nice to bring that to an even ton, I’m not going to get greedy, since the ‘Dawgs clear the bar Bud Elliott has set.

As Bud reminds us, sufficient bulk up front is just the starting point, and is no guarantee of success. (It is interesting to note, though, that the South Carolina Gamecocks are shedding 65 pounds from their front seven, which might make a difference when they go up against the Georgia offensive line.) Todd Grantham still faces a difficult task ahead, but at least he has adequate raw materials at his disposal with which to work. Thanks to Bud Elliott, we now know the Bulldogs have the size; it is up to them to decide how they will use it.

Go ‘Dawgs!