“You create sloppy play when you go (up) tempo. That’s no offense to Ole Miss and that’s no offense to Alabama. I see it with us. Somebody goes tempo, it gets really sloppy. At times, offensively, we’ve gone tempo, and it gets really sloppy. I think you just have to be aware that that can happen.”
To combat the sloppiness that can occur when an opponent increases the tempo, which is becoming more common throughout the SEC and college football as a whole, Smart’s staff focuses on two keys. One, they work on a fundamental element of football — something like tackling or a specific block protection — every day in practice. Two, as senior defensive back Richard LeCounte described it, they practice “very fast.”
“Our defensive staff has done a great job of harping on the fundamentals,” Smart said. “I think that fundamentals are a foregone conclusion. It’s like it’s lost in football now. Everybody’s defenses are just giving up. They’re just like, ‘OK, let’s get the ball back to the offense. Let’s try to cause turnovers and sacks and give up big plays. Either they’ll score or they won’t.’ We’re trying every day to do something fundamentally.”
Georgia’s defense is one of the stingiest units in the country, particularly in the run game. The Bulldogs have the nation’s best run defense and give up an average of only 38.3 rushing yards per game. Part of that success comes from a focus on fundamentals like tackling technique, which is key for stopping the run.
The fact that Georgia’s players take pride in their brand of defense and their work on fundamentals helps, too.
“That’s something we pride ourselves on,” LeCounte said. “It’s 11 guys to the ball every time the ball is being snapped, 11 guys playing together. That’s something that you can always count on coming from this Georgia defense. Monday through Friday we practice like there’s not gonna be no tomorrow. We hit each other. We thud each other. That’s the way football needs to be played and (we) keep the fine principles defined.”