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September 9, 2008

Dealing with the Cut Blocks

Georgia's defensive ends didn't see a whole lot of cut blocks from opposing offensive linemen last season.

One of the few examples, senior Jeremy Lomax pointed out, came against Hawaii. Bulldog fans at the Superdome in New Orleans all saw how successful that was.

This year, however, it's been another story. Both Georgia Southern and Central Michigan lineman have used the cut block as a means to slow down the Bulldogs' pass rush, which last fall wasn't a problem with Marcus Howard leading the way with 10.5 sacks.

They've been relatively successful.

Georgia enters Saturday's game at South Carolina with just four sacks, three coming in the opener against the Eagles with just one occurring last week against Chippewa quarterback Dan LeFevour.

"Early recognition is the key," Lomax said. "When the pop and chop comes you have to see it coming. But it's hard. If you haven't seen it lot, it can be difficult to pick up."

It can also temper a defense's aggressiveness.

According to head coach Mark Richt, the inability to recognize the cut blocks before they occur has been difficult for some of the young defensive ends to pick up.

However, that's something that's going to have to change soon, hopefully, he said against South Carolina on Saturday afternoon.

"We do need more progress on the pass-rushing scene and I think we'll get opportunities to rush the passer this game. I do think our inside pressure has been better than our outside pressure to this point, although there have been some moments where we've done well on the edge," Richt said. "There have been some times when we've pushed the pocket in the face of the quarterback but then he's been able to break containment because our defensive ends didn't do a good job of containing him. That was a little disappointing, so the pressure and the ability, or the discipline to contain the quarterback is just as important."

Georgia's relative youth at position can't be discounted.

With the exception of Lomax, Demarcus Dobbs and Roderick Battle, none of the Bulldogs' current defensive ends were part of the active roster. Or like in the case of Jarius Wynn, did not start playing the position until late in the regular season.

"The best thing you can do is to just know it's coming after that just concentrate on what you're doing and take care of that before you do something else," Battle said. "What you want to do is stop his charge to keep him from getting into our legs. You want to try to keep him at a distance so he doesn't mix into your legs and trip you up."

However, Dobbs said the ends can't use their relative inexperience as an excuse.

"We're hard on ourselves and the coaches are hard on us, too. We know we can be bringing a lot more than what we've been doing lately," Dobbs said. "We can see it ourselves in practice and if we can see it, you know the coaches see it. We've just got to bring more to the table than what we are."

The Bulldogs should have ample opportunities to get pressure against the Gamecocks.

Quarterbacks Tommy Beecher and Chris Smelley are more your typical drop-back passer who likes to stand in the pocket before making a throw; unlike the past two weeks where the spread offenses of Georgia Southern and Central Michigan offered few chances to make that happen.

"If we get that quarterback in the pocket, and you're pushing those big guys up front, the hope is to come off that edge and have him fill it enough from the outside where he feels I have to step up in that pocket," Richt said. "Then when he steps up and he feels those bodies around him, those opportunities to make a nice throw probably won't be there and ultimately that's what you want to be able to accomplish."



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