Dogs focused on better tackling

Dogs focused on better tackling

September 17th, 2010 by David Paschall in Sports - College

Contributed Photo Georgia defensive backs Branden Smith (1) and Jakar Hamilton (23) trying to tackle South Carolina receiver Tori Gurley

ATHENS, Ga. - Not long ago, the only complaint about Georgia's defense was one busted coverage.

Actually it was just last week, when the Bulldogs were rather giddy after safety Bacarri Rambo's gaffe was the lone notable miscue in a 55-7 opening rout of Louisiana-Lafayette. Rambo allowed a 60-yard touchdown by taking his eyes off a tight end down the sideline, but the Ragin' Cajuns otherwise managed 68 yards in 52 plays.

Last Saturday's 17-6 loss at South Carolina provided a lesser feeling for Georgia's defense, as Gamecocks freshman tailback Marcus Lattimore rushed for 182 yards and two touchdowns. The Bulldogs did not allow a rush for more than 5 yards against ULL but yielded 12 such gains to Lattimore.

"Sometimes it's just like that," Georgia inside linebacker Christian Robinson said this week. "You have to be able to deal with the praise and some negative comments. You just have to realize that it's an opportunity to get better and rise to the occasion."

The Bulldogs suffered a plethora of missed tackles at Williams-Brice Stadium and addressed those issues Monday, which is when coaches conduct their correction periods. Tuesday, head coach Mark Richt stressed that his defenders had to do a better job of wrapping up runners and running through tackles.

"Our defensive backs, in my opinion, were not doing that," Richt said at his weekly news conference. "They were deciding to try to go low on the guy or they were trying to knock the guy down and not really get right down the middle of him and wrap him up. You watch games, and there are a lot of DBs that are doing the very same thing.

"Once a defender begins to wrap up a guy, then the other guys can come along and strip the ball or join the posse and knock him back."

By Tuesday's practice, the Bulldogs still had the objective of tackling better but were prepping for a completely new offense. After facing 37 carries by Lattimore last week, Georgia easily could be looking at a similar number of passes Saturday when quarterback Ryan Mallett leads No. 12 Arkansas to Sanford Stadium.

Mallett threw 39 times last year in a 52-41 loss to Georgia in Fayetteville, completing 21 for 408 yards and five touchdowns.

"We couldn't have much more of a challenge," Georgia secondary coach Scott Lakatos said. "He's one of the best quarterbacks in the country. If you make an error, he's going to expose you."

A 6-foot-6, 238-pound junior, Mallett has completed 49 of 67 passes (73.1 percent) for 701 yards and six touchdowns in opening routs of Tennessee Tech and Louisiana-Monroe, and he's been intercepted twice. The Bulldogs missed tackles on sizable South Carolina receivers Alshon Jeffery and Tori Gurley last week, and 6-3, 217-pounder Greg Childs could pose a similar challenge for the Razorbacks.

Yet Georgia coaches are quick to caution that not every concern resides within the aerial assault overseen by Hogs third-year coach Bobby Petrino.

"These guys will run the ball too, now," Bulldogs defensive coordinator Todd Grantham said. "They've got an excellent coach who's like anybody else - if you don't stop something, they're going to run it."

Georgia's studying of the Arkansas offense has not included watching video from last season's shootout. Grantham said he saw some of that tape when he took over in January for the purpose of evaluating the returning players.

Asked why he never looked at the tape, Lakatos joked, "Get depressed, maybe? I don't know."

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