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Thursday, September 3, 2009

Defense Puts '08 Behind Them

If you watched much of the Georgia defense down the stretch last season, this assessment of the Oklahoma State offense should probably have you worried.

“We played offenses like that where they’ve had a running quarterback, and I don’t feel like this is any different," linebacker Rennie Curran said. "When you have a running quarterback, you just have to be really disciplined in containing him and making them one-dimensional, taking away that run ability. If you can do that, it can get really frustrating for them. You just can’t let them build momentum and confidence.”

In Georgia's final five games last year, containing mobile quarterbacks, stopping the run and playing disciplined football were all areas that didn't exactly give fans the warm fuzzies.

So if Oklahoma State presents many of the same challenges that a team like Kentucky, which had lesser talent at the skill positions, presented a year ago, how can Georgia fans have much hope of leaving Stillwater with a smile on their faces?

Well, how about four reasons?

1.) Lessons learned.

As much as fans may have been frustrated by what they saw on the field a year ago, it was nothing to how much it hurt Curran and his fellow defenders. The sinking feeling walking off the field, the criticism of their defensive coordinator and most of all, the losses -- they've stuck with the Bulldogs throughout the offseason and served as a reminder of what needs to be done better this time around.

“Really just from those experiences we had in the past, I feel like we’ve grown immensely from those," Curran said. "As a defense, I can say without a doubt that we all trust each other, that we all know how hard each of us have worked, and now we’re just ready to get on the field.”

2.) New blood.

I'm not sure if it's that Curran is glad to see a few folks from last year's defense gone, but he's definitely pleased with the new faces replacing them. Last season, Curran talked often about a lack of trust between the players on defense -- they weren't sure what to expect when game day came around. That's not true this season, and that's a big step for the defense.

“I feel like we have just a lot of hungry guys who are ready to get out there and make things happen," Curran said. "You look at the guys who left and the guys who are replacing them – Brandon Boykin for Asher Allen, Darryl Gamble coming in there for Dannell (Ellerbe), Bryan Evans – these are guys who have been waiting to get the opportunity and are just hungry and excited about wearing the ‘G’ and are dedicated. I’m excited. Whenever we step out on the field as a defense, it’s a good feeling knowing I’ve got guys who are as dedicated as I am and want us to win as much as possible.”

3.) New Focus.

For all the problems with fundamentals Georgia's defense demonstrated at times last year, there were two major problems that plagued the team all year: The first was a lack of pressure on the quarterback. The second was a lack of turnovers.

While it's hard to say those will both be solved Saturday, there's no doubt the issues have gotten plenty of attention from the team during the past eight months.

“Definitely in the standpoint of just getting to the ball and just the quickness of the defense," Boykin said. "It’s really standing out. Everybody’s trying to get to the ball and make turnovers. It’s kind of like a competition to see who can get there and get a pick first and things like that. That’s the fun thing about it and I feel like that’s going to carry over Saturday.”

4.) Leadership.

Last season, CJ Byrd was the only Georgia senior to start all 13 games on defense. Corvey Irvin was the only other consistent senior contributor, and he was only in his second season with the Bulldogs after transferring from Georgia Military College.

That won't be the case this year. Georgia will have six senior starters and four more experienced juniors on the field to kick off the game against Oklahoma State. Only Boykin has less than a year of significant playing time under his belt, and the veterans have raved about his ability to step in right away. It's a far different atmosphere than the one that pervaded the defense a year ago, redshirt freshman Makiri Pugh said.

“I think we have great leadership this year," Pugh said. "We have a lot of guys being accountable for their responsibilities. When a guy messes up, that guy knows he messed up and knows he has to fix it. There’s a sense of responsibility to Georgia that I can really feel. They’re a great team that will make you pay if you make a fundamental mistake, so that’s one of the things we’ve been focusing on.”

So... are you encouraged? Have some of your fears been assuaged? Or are you taking an "I'll believe it when I see it" attitude? OK, you really just want to type something bad about Willie Martinez, don't you? Go ahead. Get it over with. I won't hold it against you.

Seriously though... what is your prediction for this game? How many points will Oklahoma State score? If the high-powered Cowboys tally something in the high 20s or low 30s, can that be considered a success if Georgia still comes out on top?


Sports Dawg said...

I'm cautiously optimistic. It won't be a talent issue, and I hope the execution won't be a negative. It's the philosophy of the defensive staff that still concerns me.

Anonymous said...

I'm hopeful for 3 reasons:

Stafford seemed to throw a lot of picks and get our defense in a bad spot the last 3 years.

The kickoff team last year seemed awful and gave the ball to the opposing team on the 35 to 40 yard line too many times.

Lastly, the tackling was the worst I've ever seen for UGA (ever being only 9 years but still pretty bad). It can only get better...I hope.

So if you improve some in all those areas it should be worth at least 7-10 points a game.

jferg said...

I can't see OSU not scoring points. Talent wise at the skill position they are a lot like UGA last year. And we scored points.

If our D doesn't get behind by 10+ early, I like our chances a lot.

This seems eerily similar to OSU game of '07. I'd like to see history repeat itself.

I think 24-20 Dawgs.
J Cox: 11-16 180 yds. 2 TD (1 to Moore. 1 to Lynch)
RS: 16 att 93 yds (long 38)
CT: 8 att 63 yds (long 44)
Rennie: 8 solo 4 asst
B Evans: 4 solo 7 asst
4 sacks

Calvin said...

If the Dawgs hold Okie State to under 30 I feel good about our chances. I think we can score over 30 on them; I just don't want us to have to score 40 or more to win.

Ryan said...

I'm calling 35-31 Dawgs with a cheap one late. Completely agree about the sentiment that there's just too much firepower to shut them down completely but the idea of complete containment is not off the table.

From what you are hearing is there anything to the rumblings that Robinson's leg injuries are more than whats being let on?

Anonymous said...

UGA - 38
OSU - 27

Richard Samuel has a "coming out party" with 150 yards, long of 50+. Cox is efficient and effective.
We get up on them early and hold on late.

IveyLeaguer said...

Great piece.

It's been looking good all year, so we'll see. One thing you didn't mention is the players and Richt having to put up with the questions about last year. That's been going on all offseason. They gotta be super-sick of it.

I don't predict scores, but I think Georgia wins, maybe big. Despite 6 puppies in the mix on offense, and 4 or 5 on defense, I think the leadership will carry them through.

Every week will test our ability to handle the grind until we get to the off week. And we haven't been able to handle that since 2002.

But I feel like this team has more potential than any since then. If we don't self-destruct, there's no game we shouldn't win, IMO, as I point out in the post linked above.


Anonymous said...


Pokes score one late.


Anonymous said...

I have to admit while I dogged the D last year I really like their attitude. I am going to chalk last year up to injuries, leadership issues, and poor performance.

This year is different. Just because we lose some good players and two 1st rounders does not mean we have a drop off in talent. I have a feeling this D will be stingy. Not because of CWM's schemes but because of the raucous D.

My prediction for OSU is not as good. I don't think they are who they think they are. OSU is not what people have made them out to be. I am going to take into account the injuries of Lemon and the absence of Mosley to put the score in more of a blow out by UGA.

UGA - 38
OSU - 7

That maybe a bit inflated but I think that we run over that D with Samuel all night. No D leadership or middle linebacker who was both. No chance.

sc-hell said...

i think who ever wins will win by double digits. i dont see a close a game. if GA can stop em then they will shut em down, if they cant - then it could be a ugly first weekend and the start of a long year. as much as i cussed Willie last year, i hope i eat crow all day saturday.

Anonymous said...

42-21 Dawgs

Close game early, but UGA pulls away in the second half. Gray and Cox combine for 4 passing TDs, Samuel tacks on 2 rushing.

Greg said...

Ivey Leaguer is the worst poster on here. His posts annoy the hell out of me

David Hale said...

It's because he's one of those snooty Harvard men, right? Looking down from his ivory tower? Bet he thinks "Frasier" was funny, too.

Billy D said...

I think the defense is going to be WAY different this year. Getting Owens back is huge. The DE's look like they are actually getting to the QB in practice/scrimmages and when Houston gets back the rotation for the front 4 should be incredible.

We are absolutely stacked at LB and the secondary is loaded with young talent too. Hopefully they really all did take those awful losses to heart this offseason.