September 11, 2013

Dawgs don't want excuses


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Yes, Georgia has played two top-10 programs and last Saturday five of the team's defensive starters were either sophomores or freshmen.

But Amarlo Herrera doesn't want to hear any excuses.

"We know we've got to start doing a better job if we want to compete for an SEC Championship," the Bulldogs' junior linebacker said.

He's got a point.

After giving up 38 points to Clemson and 30 last week to South Carolina, Bulldog defenders knows there's plenty they need to shore up before next week's game against North Texas, and especially before the showdown with LSU on Sept. 28.

Points allowed are just part of the problem.

Stopping the run continues to be a major issue for the Bulldogs. In fact, opponents have rushed for over 200 yards in five of the last six games against Georgia, and the only one that didn't - Clemson - ran for 197.

So, what's up?

Yes, the Bulldogs start two freshmen - safety Tray Matthews and cornerback Brendan Langley - in what's a very young secondary.

But according to defensive end Sterling Bailey, it all starts up front.

"The teams we played, they're good teams and they got a lot of yards," Bailey said. "We just need to work on being more physical up front."

Last week's defensive line featured a different look.

Senior Garrison Smith started his first game at nose, with Bailey moving from right end to left and junior Ray Drew sliding in to make his first career start at right end.

"It was pretty cool, finally getting to see your name on the board as a starter. That's what you come here for," Drew said. "I'm not going to say that I made it. I wouldn't say that was my ultimate goal, the ultimate goal is to win the national but we've got to do the little things to get there."

Bailey certainly made a solid account for himself, collecting a career-high 10 tackles, including one of Georgia's two sacks against Connor Shaw. Smith and Herrera accounted for the other.

"We knew that Connor would look at that first check-down and then start scrambling," Bailey said. "I'm just thankful the secondary kept the receivers in check because that's what let me get to the quarterback."

Head coach Mark Richt acknowledges his team's run defense has been a concern.

Against the Gamecocks, Georgia rotated four defensive linemen into the game - Toby Johnson, Mike Thornton, John Taylor and Josh Dawson, a number that should grow next week with the likely addition of junior college transfer Chris Mayes, who has missed the first two contests while recovering from the concussion he suffered in fall camp.

DeAndre Johnson and John Atkins have yet to play as coaches don't feel they're quite ready to make a contribution.

The Bulldogs are also looking for some additional help at inside linebacker.

Herrera and Ramik Wilson have taken the majority of the reps at Moe and Mike, respectively, and Richt mentioned Sunday he'd like to see some of his freshmen at the position begin to assert themselves in order to give the two veterans an occasional respite.

Last week, Reggie Carter and Tim Kimbrough did receive some limited snaps against the Gamecocks and they, along with fellow freshman Johnny O'Neal and Ryne Rankin, could see additional time against North Texas.

"I thought the biggest thing we showed Saturday was effort," Bailey said. "I thought we were being physical. It's just some things we've got to tune up and I think we'll be OK.""I think it's more on a personal level. We can watch the film and see what we need to improve on," he said. "But we all need to continue to get better as individuals. Each week we talk about what we can do to get better as a team, but as an individual, if you get better, the team will get better also. I think we will."

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