The Bulldogs did not rank within the top 50 of red zone offense or defense in 2016 season, which proved to be to the detriment of the entire team. Kirby Smart and company will have to show improvement in both of these areas if they hope to challenge for not only the SEC East title but also the conference championship.
RED ZONE OFFENSE
The Bulldogs ranked 64th overall in terms of red zone offense last season as they scored on 38 out of their 45 possessions in the red zone with only 25 of those scores coming as touchdowns. The Bulldogs not only will need to find a way to score more consistently in the red zone but will also need to find a way to score touchdowns.
During spring drills, tight end, Jeb Blazevich expressed how his unit and the team were put into specific drills to improve in 2017.
“A lot of stressful situations, a lot of intentional in terms of the low red zone, the high red zone,” said Blazevich. “Just the little things, little competitions, making it more important and then playing the film so in our minds, we understand this is where were lacking and learning from it, growing from it, and the continuing to rep it.”
Without question, Blazevich, one of the Bulldogs team leaders on the offensive side of the ball next season, should play a large role in not only helping increase their production in the red zone, but also leading the team back to the SEC championship game.
RED ZONE DEFENSE
Although the Bulldogs offense struggles were apparent, their defensive struggles in the red zone were even more noticeable. The Bulldogs defense was ranked 113th in the country in keeping opposing offenses from scoring in the red zone as they only stopped their opposition four times out of 43 attempts. Allowing opposing offenses to have that much success is a huge issue and the Bulldogs must address this if they hope to contend in such a tough conference like the SEC.
The Bulldogs return 10 starters on the defensive side of the ball and that experience should help them have more success in stopping offenses in the red zone. One returning starter that should play a huge role in their red zone success is inside linebacker Natrez Patrick.
Because Patrick plays inside linebacker, which is often viewed as the quarterback of the defense, he understands how important these situations are and that they must improve on their performance last year.
“There’s definitely been a focus point this spring, we know we were like the 121st red zone defense which is outrageous and shouldn’t be like that,” said Patrick. “Every time we get down there, we’re trying to keep the offense out, no matter what.”
Patrick clearly showed how huge of a focus the team has placed on improving in this area and he went on to detail how the defense is working to make these much-needed improvements.
“Striking blockers, when it is down there it is basically mono-a-mono, your playbook shortens, you’re not tricking anybody, you just got to win,” said Patrick. “Our edges, discipline, there’s a lot that tied into it last year.”
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