Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Five Questions, Defense

If there are questions with regards to a young Georgetown offense, the outlook for the Hoyas on defense is much more secure. A strong returning cast will continue a two decade strong tradition of defensive resilience, but will that be enough in an upgraded Patriot League? Here are five questions to consider:

1. Is This Jordan Richardson's Year? There is not a better candidate to rise to the top of the national defensive charts than Jordan Richardson, but now is the time.  He picked up only 20 solo tackles last season and while the nose guard position isn't a natural position for statistics, Richardson has the tools to be a much more impactful player on the line. Many opponents will look to run against the Hoyas and Richardson needs to take over that line.

2.  Who is Next In Line?: During Rob Sgarlata's run as defensive coordinator, there was a run of solid Hoya linebackers, most recently with Robert McCabe and Dustin Wharton.  Senior Nick Alfieri figures to continue this tradition, along side senior Patrick Boyle, who led the team in tackles last season. Together, they could form the best linebacker pair at Georgetown in the PL era, but the adjustments each must make within Coach Luke Thompson's defensive philosophy will be essential.

Overall, no position on the roster has the depth of linebacker for the Hoyas. As many as seven players could see time this year and despite the scholarship gap, Georgetown has continued to recruit well in this space.

3.  Can The Pass Defense Be Fixed?  Depth at linebacker is balanced by a secondary that has been picked apart in recent years. Georgetown allowed opponent quarterbacks to complete over 70 percent of its passes in PL play last season, and that won't cut it. The defense managed just three interceptions in PL play for a total of 14 yards.

The Hoyas averaged 262.7 yards per game in PL play, and with resurgent passing games at Fordham, Holy Cross, and Lafayette, that number could get worse before it gets better. It allowed 78 first downs by the pass last season, most among any PL team. A rough start in the opener versus Wagner and the road game at Dayton will be a bad omen for the team as a whole.

4. Can the Special Teams Respond? Georgetown rotates in a new punter and kicker this season, with sophomore Ben Priddy as the early leader for both. But of more concern is a special teams that allowed a league-high 33 net yards per kickoff return in the 2013 PL season with just one touchback. Giving opponents a short field on kickoffs is a recipe for problem against the kind of offense s Georgetown will face in 2014.

5. Who Manages Time Of Possession?  However much we would hope for the defense, the time of possession issue resides in the offense. When it's three and out, the defense bends and eventually breaks.  The time of possession fell from 28:57 in 2012 to 27:56 in 2013. Over the course of a season, that's literally 10  extra minutes for opposing offenses, and Georgetown can't stay ahead of that for long.

The number bottomed out at 25:46 in the winless 2009 season.  It won't drop below that in 2014, but if the offense does not develop a consistent running game, the defense may see another 10 minutes go on the season- long clock.

Next week: Five questions for the 2014 schedule.