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Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Practice Notes: Cats' Run D Better Than Stats Show

Mark Richt offered a warning Tuesday to any fans who might peruse the stats and assume Georgia’s suddenly resurgent running game might be in for another easy game against Kentucky this week.

Georgia’s tailbacks have totaled more than 130 yards rushing in each of the past four games, and Kentucky ranks 11th in the SEC and 98th nationally in rushing defense, but Richt said the game plan for success on the ground against the Wildcats isn’t quite so simple.

“There are some statistics of them maybe having some people running the ball against them relatively well, but most people that have hurt them running the ball have hurt them with the option game,” Richt said. “The more traditional zone, power, sprint draw, the things that we do the most, they’ve been much more tougher and physical against those types of runs.”

With a trio of burly linebackers and a solid defensive line, Kentucky is able to be physical at the point of attack, but struggles against teams with a more dynamic approach to their running game.

Against Florida, Kentucky allowed 362 yards rushing. Against Mississippi State, the Wildcats gave up another 348 yards on the ground. Those two teams averaged 7.3 yards per rush, while the rest of Kentucky’s opponents have managed just 3.7 yards per carry.

“It makes you want to put some option in, doesn’t it?” Richt said with a smile.

He may have been joking, but Georgia does have a few wrinkles to its running attack that could prove effective. Branden Smith’s speed has helped him score on two long touchdowns already this season – one on a reverse and one from the Wildcat package. Backup quarterback Logan Gray offers a more athletic option at the position, too, while receiver Rantavious Wooten has seen action on draw plays and reverses as well.

While those remain in the playbook, offensive coordinator Mike Bobo said it’s still unlikely the option game will play much of a role this week.

“We always have that going into certain game plans, but the teams that really have had a lot of success on them were teams that did that exclusively, quarterbacks that run that had more than just one or two wrinkles,” Bobo said. “Sometimes you think it might be easy to add this or that, but most teams that do that, they do that exclusively and that’s their system.”

SEEKING OUT SECOND

Virtually all of Georgia’s preseason goals have evaporated, but the Bulldogs can lock up a solid consolation prize Saturday with a win over Kentucky.

A victory would end Georgia’s conference slate with a 5-3 record in the SEC, good for sole possession of second place in the Eastern Division. While that’s a far cry from where Georgia had hoped it would be, it’s still a motivating factor the team has rallied around.

“That’s the best we can do now, and we definitely want finish up that way,” quarterback Joe Cox said. “It’s not what we wanted, but I would still be proud of finishing up this year strong and being right behind Florida in the East.”

Richt said he has talked about accomplishing that goal already this week, and tight end Aron White said a win would assure something more than just Georgia’s place in the standings.

Second place may be well short of Georgia’s original goal, White said, but it would help to restore some of the credibility that has been lost this year.

“Across the country, you want to stack up, but most importantly you have to think about your conference,” White said. “I feel like we get overlooked a lot of times in the East because a lot of people make a big deal about Tennessee and Florida being the big guys in the SEC East, but we definitely feel like we’re a force to be reckoned with, too.”

REPLACING RAMBO

Safety Bacarri Rambo won’t play this week after suffering a concussion on a game-saving tackle against Auburn. Richt said Saturday that, while Quintin Banks would likely see an increase in his snaps against Kentucky, the majority of Rambo’s work would go to Georgia’s two incumbent starters – Reshad Jones and Bryan Evans.

“I would think they’ll get more (reps) and I’m not saying there’s going to be a third guy plugged in to rotate,” Richt said. “Quintin Banks would be the first guy to do that. Makiri Pugh is also coming on at safety. It could be either one of those guys, but will it be the same reps that Rambo was getting? Probably not.”

PLAYING SMARTER

On Caleb King's final touchdown of the game last week -- a score that proved to be the difference in the contest -- it was sophomore center Ben Jones that opened up the hole that sprung King for a 24-yard run.

"Before the play, Ben just said, ‘Stick in behind me,’ and I said, 'OK,'" King said. "I listened to Ben and just followed him for the touchdown.”

That's the type of confidence Jones takes to virtually every play, Richt said, but that hasn't always been a plus.

"With that enthusiasm and energy and the mind-set of I want to finish every block, sometimes you grab on too tight and too long, and sometimes you maybe block past the whistle," Richt said. "He’s had a few penalties that aren’t very bright in that regard, but you don’t want to temper him where he doesn’t play hard."

It's been a difficult balance to find at times, but Richt said Jones seems to have finally grasped the keys to playing emotional and playing intellectually all at once.

“He loves the position of lineman. He is like a pig in slop out there," Richt said. "He loves trying to grind somebody into the ground every play, and he’s actually starting to play a little smarter. You have to get him where he plays smart because he does love it. He loves to see his boys get yards and touchdowns. He’s a good one.”

END OF THE ROAD?

Saturday will be the final time Georgia's seniors step onto the field for a game at Sanford Stadium, and it's always an emotional moment for the Bulldogs' veterans. But for Rennie Curran, a junior linebacker still pondering a potential early entry into the NFL, the idea that Saturday might be his final game, too, provides some mixed feelings.

“It is a thought that runs through my mind, but at the same time I do not have any decision made up yet," Curran said. "I have to sit down with my family and it is something that I have to pray about and leave it up to God. Whatever it looks like at the end of the season is what I’ll go by."

Curran said he plans to seek the advice of several of his former teammates who made early departures into the pros and will also weigh the costs and benefits of how another year might improve his draft stock vs. the risk of getting injured if he spends another year in college.

“It’s something that you work your whole entire life for, so when the opportunity comes, you’ve got to analyze everything," Curran said. “I’m not leaning any way at all because I don’t know what’s going to happen. That’s the biggest thing is the unknown, so you just have to work hard and focus on what’s gotten you to this point.”

CAPTAINS NAMED

The captains for Georgia's final home game of the season will be quarterback Joe Cox, defensive tackles Jeff Owens and Kade Weston and cornerback Prince Miller.

7 comments:

Anonymous said...

Rennie is having a great two year stretch at LB for Georgia, but it would be surprising to see him drafted highly by the NFL at this point in his career. I am sure he will honestly talk with his family and friends before deciding, but I hope he doesn't let the dream of dollar signs blind him. Another year to work on his pass ocverage skills and get stronger would give him a better chance.

Texas_Dawg said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Texas_Dawg said...

DHale,

+1 for you from me as well on the job you've done again this year. (Another out of stater... actually currently in your neck of the woods... Ithaca, NY, fwiw.)

Your reporting is great, but I like that you'll let us fire some questions and shots at your calls here in the comments section... but stand in and answer them as well.

Great stuff. Best UGA blog going by far. I think you'll be on to bigger and better beats in the near future, so I'm enjoying the great UGA coverage while we still have it.

David Hale said...

Thanks, Texas.

Bigger beats? Perhaps. Better beats? Never!

Have fun up there in Ithaca. That's another great town. And if you make it up to Syracuse, stop into Dinosaur BBQ and send me a pulled pork sandwich!

david e. said...

i think i heard that all of the seniors are captains for kentucky.

also, can we call him the ginga ninja?

David Hale said...

All seniors get the captain's 'C' on their jersey, but only four get to be at midfield for the coin flip.

Prince Lightfoot said...

Can we assume that Owens and Weston can be trusted to corral le Dauphin if he fields the coin-toss and tries to back-pedal past the 10-yd line?