Georgia defensive coordinator Todd Grantham experienced his second national signing day this past week in Athens, but it didn't feel like it.
"This is really the first class as a defensive staff that we've had a chance to recruit," Grantham said. "We really started on it once I got in last year. I'm excited about all the players we have, and I think they have a tremendous upside. I think they can help us get back to where we want to go on defense, and I look forward to watching them compete in the summer."
Grantham was hired by Mark Richt three weeks before signing day last year, so he inherited all the defensive commitments compiled under former coordinator Willie Martinez. The Bulldogs used a 4-3 formation (four down linemen, three linebackers) under Martinez, but Grantham implemented a 3-4 that endured its share of growing pains last season as Georgia went 6-7 for its first losing season since 1996.
The Bulldogs allowed 30 or more points five times for the third year in a row.
"They switched over last year to a 3-4, and it's not like you're just going to magically have the right personnel to run that scheme," ESPN recruiting analyst Jamie Newberg said. "On that side of the ball, I think they've done a great job of selling the opportunity, which there is."
Georgia added a nose tackle to its 2011 class Saturday when 6-foot-4, 345-pound Johnathan Jenkins of Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College signed. Adding Jenkins is expected to allow DeAngelo Tyson to move to defensive end, and it should help address a point of attack that was often exposed last season, when Colorado, Florida, Auburn and Georgia Tech each amassed more than 230 rushing yards.
Jenkins joins a class that contains Ray Drew, the nation's No. 1 weakside defensive end according to Rivals.com and the potential successor to Justin Houston at outside linebacker, and one of the nation's top secondary collections. Malcolm Mitchell and Damian Swann were rated the No. 1 and No. 3 cornerbacks nationally by Rivals.com, though Richt said this past Wednesday that Mitchell likely will start out at receiver.
"It looks like I'm going to have to recruit him again," Grantham said smiling.
Even without Mitchell, defensive backs coach Scott Lakatos is quite pleased with new corners Swann and Nick Marshall, and new safeties Corey Moore, Chris Sanders and Quintavious Harrow.
"The thing that's exciting about this group is that they're all very talented on both sides of the ball," Lakatos said. "They were all very good in high school when they were on offense, and they were all very good when they were on defense. They're just really good football players, and we're going to figure out ways to use them."
Such figuring will start with preliminary plans, Lakatos said, and then once the players arrive this summer and start competing in preseason camp, the coaches will get a feel for their strong points. He believes they each will be able to do something special.
Grantham never had much chance to tout the 3-4 when he arrived last winter, but he enjoyed making that a selling point to recruits in recent months.
"Kids like to make plays, and in this defense you're going to have opportunities to be aggressive and attack people," Grantham said. "It really gets down to winning one-on-one battles, and if you're a guy who has a little swagger to you and some athletic ability, you want to play like that. I think that is appealing to a lot of players.
"These guys are going to provide some exciting times here at Georgia."