ATHENS – It’s not clear whether defensive coordinator Mel Tucker came up with the analogy himself. It’s also not certain whether all of his Georgia football players can appreciate the outdated nature of it.
This much is apparent, though. It’s working.
Allow J.R. Reed, Georgia’s sophomore defensive back, to explain:
“You’re in a phone booth with the guy lined up across from you. If you’re going against him, do your job, beat him, don’t give up one-for-ones. If he’s trying to block you, defeat the blocks. If you’ve got to cover him, cover him.”
It’s another version of the “do your job” mantra that Georgia coach Kirby Smart learned during a week with Bill Belichick and the New England Patriots. And “do your job” is something Georgia players quote, too.
But Tucker has used the phone booth analogy to emphasize the one-on-one nature of defense.
“Basically he’s saying that football is a one-on-one match,” Georgia junior cornerback Deandre Baker said. “Everyone win their one-on-ones, and everyone comes together as a team effort by winning their assignment.”
Baker then smiled when asked if he knew what a phone booth was.
“Yes sir, I know what a phone booth is,” he said.
Right now the phone booth defense is dialing up a lot of great things. Georgia ranks third nationally in fewest yards allowed, at just 244 per game, and second in scoring defense at just 9.2 points per game. The Bulldogs haven’t allowed a touchdown in 133 minutes and 49 seconds of game time, the longest active streak at the FBS level.
Georgia defensive coordinator Mel Tucker has emphasized the ‘phone booth’ philosophy, which Kirby Smart (left) said has ‘stuck with the players.’ (AJ Reynolds/special)
Smart said the phone booth analogy isn’t “the overriding philosophy,” just part of the “win your box” emphasis.
“That obviously stuck with them,” Smart said. “That’s one of coach Tucker’s sayings. I wouldn’t say it’s the mantra or anything like that. A lot more of it goes into it than that because some of those guys don’t play in a phone booth, they play on an island. Everybody’s different based on their position. I’d say the front guys are very much like that.”
This also must be pointed out: It helps to be more talented than the other guy. The phone booth, one-on-one stuff doesn’t go as well if a team is out-matched in most of those one-on-ones.
Georgia, on the other hand, has a defense full of former 4- and 5-star recruits. Put together on the same defense, they’re playing like a 5-star unit this season.
“It’s all about doing your job. It comes down to that,” Reed said. “It’s like what Bill Belichick said — great coach — he said you’ve just got to do your job. So the phone booth comes down to you’re one-on-one with your guy, your job, what you’ve got to do to complete that job, and everything else will be fine.”