Bulldogs dig deep into Tepper's tenure

ATHENS, Ga. -- Aaron Murray has been watching old footage of Indiana University of Pennsylvania football lately -- not for fun, but because it’s nearly as useful as watching 2011 film of Saturday’s opponent, Buffalo.

You see, Buffalo has a new defensive coordinator, Lou Tepper, so Georgia’s coaches and quarterback have scoured through heaps of old game tape from Tepper’s previous coaching stops, attempting to gain insight into the defensive concepts he might employ on Saturday.

“We’ve kind of studied the places he’s been and it’s not like everywhere he’s been it’s been this type of defense,” Georgia coach Mark Richt said. “There’s been a few different styles, a few different looks of defenses and we’re not 100 percent sure what we’re going to see, quite frankly, but we do know a lot of their personnel.”

Except for a three-year stint as LSU’s defensive coordinator between 1997-99, Tepper, 66, served as a head coach every season between 1991 and 2010 -- including six seasons at both Illinois (1991-96) and Edinboro University of Pennsylvania (2000-05) and five years at IUP (2006-2010).

While offensive coordinator Mike Bobo went deeper into the vault to look over Tepper’s defenses in his stints as defensive coordinator at programs like LSU, Colorado and Illinois, he asked Murray to watch only what he thought might be useful in preparing for Saturday.

“Coach Bobo’s watched most of it and he tells me what to watch then,” Murray said before Tuesday’s practice. “I watched some stuff from IUP. I watched that yesterday for a while, so lots of different cut-ups here and there.”

Tepper employs a 3-4 scheme, coached two Butkus Award winners -- Illinois’ Dana Howard and Kevin Hardy -- and is a notable linebackers coach. If that sounds somewhat like Georgia defensive coordinator Todd Grantham, the two men share similar football roots.

Tepper was linebackers coach at Grantham’s alma mater, Virginia Tech, from 1978-82, leaving Blacksburg just two years before Grantham enrolled to play offensive line for the Hokies. Grantham was a defensive assistant at Virginia Tech from 1990-97.

“He was actually a Virginia Tech guy and I met him way back then,” Grantham said. “We have a mutual friend named Chris Cosh who I worked with at one time [who coached with Tepper] when he was at Illinois. I know he’s a very sound coach. They had it going there at Illinois at one time, had some really good players. He’ll do a good job with their defense and he’ll obviously make them better. He’s a good coach.”

Grantham is not the only Georgia loyalist whose career ties overlap with Tepper’s. Former UGA athletics administrator Dick Bestwick actually coached against Tepper’s defenses from William & Mary and Virginia Tech when he was head coach at Virginia from 1976-81.

“I thought he was a good coach that you’d better be prepared for or you were going to get a licking,” Bestwick recalled.

Although Tepper -- who turns 67 next Friday -- is one of the nation’s oldest coordinators, Bestwick believes his experience coaching at major programs will benefit a smaller program like Buffalo.

“I think he’ll teach the basics for sure and his kids will be well-schooled in breaking down and tackling properly and things like that. Now whether they have the physical talent to do it as well as they’re going to need to playing us is another story,” Bestwick said. “But I think Lou would be a good man to have on your staff. Buffalo is lucky to have someone with that kind of experience.”

Murray said the Bulldogs have never in his career had to dig so deep into the archives to gain insight into an upcoming opponent’s possible defensive tendencies -- an issue he called “a pain in the butt.”

But considering Grantham’s defense also operates out of a 3-4 -- and as the nation’s No. 5 defense last season, they’re pretty good at it -- Murray is not overly concerned about what Tepper’s defense will throw at him on Saturday.

“The great thing is we face our defense every day and I don’t think there’s anything in the country that’s more confusing than our defense,” Murray said. “So I know whatever we see, we’re going to be able to adjust.”