Georgia defenders embrace fresh start

Georgia defenders embrace fresh start

August 23rd, 2013 by David Paschall in Sports - College

Georgia cornerback Damian Swann (5) returns an interception in the 2012 win over Florida.

Photo by Contributed Photo/Times Free Press.

ATHENS, Ga. - There is no doubting the talent on Georgia's defense last season, which was reflected by seven Bulldogs defenders being selected in April's NFL draft.

Yet several returning players have commented this month that complacency and entitlement may have accompanied the undeniable ability of last season's defenders. The most notable to speak out was junior receiver Malcolm Mitchell, who was asked if this year's veteran offense could experience a similar issue.

"I don't think we're in the same situation that we were in last year," Mitchell said. "You had a bunch of seniors and a bunch of people who were worried about where they were going. Granted, we do have offensive linemen who might be in that place, but, as we know, offensive linemen won't get as much attention as our defensive players did last year.

"I don't think we'll have that problem."

Georgia had one of the nation's top five defenses in 2011 and returned nine starters last year, including All-America outside linebacker Jarvis Jones and All-America safety Bacarri Rambo. The Bulldogs allowed an average of 277.2 yards a game in '11, but that average swelled to 357.8 last season.

Rambo and inside linebacker Alec Ogletree were suspended for the first four games a year ago, which certainly altered the defensive dynamic, and Jones missed two games due to injury.

"We had some suspensions where guys were sitting out four games, and it kind of took a while for everybody to mold," junior cornerback Damian Swann said. "Once we molded, we put ourselves in position to play the type of football that we're capable of playing here."

The Bulldogs did assemble an impressive defensive stretch against Florida, Ole Miss, Auburn, Georgia Southern and Georgia Tech. That, however, preceded Georgia allowing a combined 955 yards to Alabama in the SEC title game and Nebraska in the Capital One Bowl.

This year's defense has seven new starters, and some of them promise that the change will be good.

"The guys we have are all passionate," junior nose tackle Mike Thornton said. "Everybody wants to make plays, and that's a great thing about this defense. A lot of guys haven't been set in their ways."

A vote for Murray

The SEC office on Thursday released the preseason all-conference teams as voted on by the coaches.

Georgia's Aaron Murray was the first-team quarterback, placing ahead of reigning Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Manziel of Texas A&M and two-time BCS champion AJ McCarron of Alabama. Murray is the first quarterback in SEC history to throw for 3,000 yards in each of his first three seasons.

"He'd be my pick," Bulldogs offensive coordinator Mike Bobo said after Thursday's 90-minute situational scrimmage inside Sanford Stadium. "He's our guy, and I wouldn't trade him for anybody in the league or anybody in the country."

In last month's media balloting, Murray was third behind Manziel and McCarron.

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