Georgia had one of the best defenses in the country last season, ranking No. 1 in both scoring and rushing defense, giving up just 12.6 points and 74.64 yards on the ground per game. Second-year defensive coordinator Dan Lanning knows that his unit isn’t the legendary ’85 Bears defense though, and that there is still plenty of room for improvement heading into the 2020 season.
“The biggest thing I think we’ve emphasized so far this offseason is the finish,” Lanning said. “We’ve talked about Havoc plays a lot here in the past. That’s still definitely a big focus. We want to get the ball out, we want to finish, we want to impact the game by having some game-changing plays that we can create and our players have really embraced that so far.”
Despite being so highly ranked in most categories, the one area where the Bulldogs were not was in turnovers forced. Georgia was 89th in the nation, tenth in the SEC, in interceptions with eight and 59th in the country, sixth in the conference, with eight fumble recoveries. Their 16 total turnovers forced ranked 49th in all of college football. Improving in the turnover category would certainly help Georgia achieve its goal of finishing plays better.
Lanning said that the focus on finishing comes doesn’t necessarily come as a result it being a weak link last season, rather a factor of how football is played. As he said, football is a unique sport where one team can win 90 percent of a play, but if the last 10 percent goes the other way, the result likely is a net loss.
Returning to this year’s defense are eight starters from last year’s unit, including several players drawing preseason recognition. While last year’s defense drew the name of being a “no-name” unit, Lanning says that stemmed from their unselfish nature rather than their play on the field. This season, his group understands that despite everything they accomplished a year ago, they are starting from square one.
“We’ve got a good group. We have a bunch of dogs,” Lanning said. “We have a lot of guys who want the ball in their hands at the end of the game, want to be on the field for fourth down. There’s a lot of guys on the defense I’d want to go to war with right now. I don’t know if I’d want to pick one alpha dog, but we’ve got a really good group of guys.”
“We have to start from scratch,” he continued. “We’ve got a lot of work to do. Our guys are embracing the challenge of getting better and focusing on that. It starts with the details, right? It starts with today, not tomorrow, not the first game. We’ve got to really focus on today.”