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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?


Anonymous said...

31-17 - Georgia

Anonymous said...

If the Cowboys score 30 I will be disappointed in our D. The Cowboys put up some gaudy & impressive numbers against lesser teams but when they played top tier teams they didn't do as well. I expect similar results Saturday.

Anonymous said...


ChattaDawg said...

If nothing else, sounds like we finally have some leaders on defense. Curran and Owens sound like the have ownership this year.

30 - 24 Dawgs!

Anonymous said...

I'll be happy with a W.

hinesacl said...

To me, it depends on how they score 30. If they score 30 like LSU last year...where we get a three TD lead and keep them at arm's length, I'll be fine.

If they score thirty because of our turnovers and we still win...I won't be mad at the D.

The score is not necessarily a perfect indicator of how the defense played.

Anonymous said...

Well I feel like I do need to get a comment about Willie out of my system...his D has given up progressively more yards (or points, I cannot remember which) in each of the last four years...what makes you think that it will be any different this year? (And I don't want to hear the leadership, "we wanna win more than they do" argument...I want FACTS).

Chris said...

The "we wanna win more than they do" statement is getting old... The fact is the Defense is more focused and its a good thing... would you rather them say "we don't care if we win"?

Anonymous said...

No, I would rather them not say anything and just show up for every game beating the living Christ out of each and every team they play. Their defensive play would speak for itself and they would actually get some credibility. This defensive hype and "more focused" attitude (as you say) is all well and good, but isn't that what they were saying about us, as a team, last year? And look how that turned out...
I'm not in here to argue, we all want the same thing: for the Dawgs to win. I just want some actual facts (from practices, scrimmages, or otherwise) that we can turn the D around this year and start smacking some people in the mouth.