published Friday, September 20th, 2013

Georgia's defense seeking notable improvement

Georgia defenders Garrison Smith (56) and Amarlo Herrera (52) wrap up South Carolina tailback Mike Davis during their 2013 meeting in Athens.
Georgia defenders Garrison Smith (56) and Amarlo Herrera (52) wrap up South Carolina tailback Mike Davis during their 2013 meeting in Athens.
Photo by Contributed Photo /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

ATHENS, Ga. — The Georgia Bulldogs have been quite porous defensively during their first two games, but they're not into making excuses.

They're not playing it off on Jarvis Jones, Alec Ogletree and all the others from last year's defense who are now in the NFL. They're not attributing it to Clemson quarterback Tajh Boyd and South Carolina quarterback Connor Shaw, who are accustomed to putting up points. And they're certainly not blaming the youth on this year's unit.

"That was never an excuse," junior inside linebacker Amarlo Herrera said this week. "After that first game, you're not young anymore. You're young until you play your first game. After that, you're a grown man just like everybody else out there."

While most everybody inside Sanford Stadium on Saturday will be expecting the Bulldogs to pile up points on North Texas, there should be substantial curiosity regarding Georgia's defense. The Bulldogs have been off since opening the season with a 38-35 loss at Clemson on Aug. 31 and a 41-30 win over South Carolina on Sept. 7.

Georgia ranks 13th in the Southeastern Conference in both total defense (allowing 460.5 yards a game) and scoring defense (34.0).

"We've got to become better tacklers and communicate better in the back end," coach Mark Richt said. "We've got to get more pressure on the quarterback. There is just a lot of things we need to get better at defensively, individually and collectively, and hopefully that's what we're going to get done."

The Bulldogs have allowed 100-yard rushing games to Clemson's Roderick McDowell (132) and South Carolina's Mike Davis (149), and they've been victimized by the big play. Receiver Sammy Watkins had a 77-yard reception in the opener after cornerback Damian Swann botched a tackle, and Davis had a 75-yard run two weeks ago.

North Texas could provide at least somewhat of a gauge for Georgia's defense, having scored 95 points in its first three games against Idaho, Ohio and Ball State.

"We've got to stop hurting ourselves with all these self-inflicted wounds," senior defensive lineman Garrison Smith said. "Most of the things we've given up have been because of things we've done to ourselves. I haven't seen one time where we've just been physically manhandled."

Said Swann: "We've had two weeks of game experience and an off week to get prepared, and I just want to see our guys play consistent and create turnovers."

Georgia has forced two turnovers through two games after collecting 30 in 14 games last season.

There is some momentum from which Georgia can build. After allowing 233 first-half yards and 24 first-half points to the Gamecocks, the Bulldogs yielded 221 second-half yards but forced a third-quarter fumble and had a fourth-quarter goal-line stand.

"Any time you play well, you get some energy from it and some excitement from it," fourth-year coordinator Todd Grantham said. "I think that can carry over, and I think our players have done a good job of understanding the things we have to do to become better. That was the framework of last week and a little bit of this week."

Contact David Paschall at dpaschall@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6524.

about David Paschall...

David Paschall is a sports writer for the Times Free Press. He started at the Chattanooga Free Press in 1990 and was part of the Times Free Press when the paper started in 1999. David covers University of Georgia football, as well as SEC football recruiting, SEC basketball, Chattanooga Lookouts baseball and other sports stories. He is a Chattanooga native and graduate of the Baylor School and Auburn University. David has received numerous honors for ...

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