ATHENS, Ga. - Georgia has multiple ways of dealing with South Carolina defensive end Jadeveon Clowney this Saturday inside Sanford Stadium, but the premise is simple.
"Don't turn a bad play into a catastrophe," Bulldogs offensive coordinator Mike Bobo said. "If the guy is sacking you, hold on to the ball."
The 6-foot-6, 274-pound Clowney has been a menace for Georgia since signing with the Gamecocks in 2011 as the nation's top-rated prep prospect. He sacked and stripped Bulldogs quarterback Aaron Murray with 3:12 remaining in the 2011 game, causing a fumble that Melvin Ingram recovered and raced in for a 5-yard touchdown that put the Gamecocks up 45-35 in their eventual 45-42 road win.
Clowney tallied two sacks in that game and added a sack and another tackle for loss in last year's matchup at Williams-Brice Stadium, when the Gamecocks rolled 35-7 and held Georgia to 224 yards.
"He's a great athlete overall, and the thing about going up against him is that you can't try to be perfect," Georgia left tackle Kenarious Gates said. "You have to play hard and give great effort, because when you try to be perfect, you try to do too much. That's when the mistakes start happening."
Gates, a 6-5, 327-pound senior, has drawn the primary assignment of containing Clowney for a second straight year. It's one of the greatest SEC mismatches on paper, with Clowney the nation's premier player and Gates an unheralded three-star prospect in 2010 who was headed to Kentucky before Georgia came up with a late scholarship offer.
The Bulldogs are hoping Gates can benefit from having faced Clowney last year.
"From a personal standpoint, I think I have gotten better overall and have dropped some weight," Gates said. "I'm quicker and more explosive, and I think we're an explosive offense that is always ready to throw down the hammer. This is a game I've been looking forward to, because everybody says he's going to be the first overall pick and stuff like that. You want to be the player who can dominate that kind of player."
Said head coach Mark Richt: "He is the guy that has the best shot at matching up out there. We wouldn't be playing him at left tackle if we didn't think he could do it."
Though he was the most lightly regarded member of Georgia's 2010 class, Gates made three starts at guard as a true freshman. He was primarily a guard until last season, when he made 12 starts at left tackle and two at left guard when Chris Burnette was nursing a sore shoulder.
Not that Clowney will be marveling at Gates and his career of overachieving with the Bulldogs, who allowed four sacks last Saturday night at Clemson, including one that resulted in a Murray fumble.
"He definitely wreaked havoc against us last year and made some plays, but there were times Kenarious did a good job, too," Bobo said. "Last year we got down and got into too many third-and-longs, and you can't do that against a team that really has a bunch of good pass rushers.
"We're going to do some different things against him, but he beats double teams and he beats chips. If you've got somebody chipping him or cutting him, he jumps over it. The guy is a great player, and we're going to have to know where he is."
Clowney will travel to Georgia after a disappointing opener last Thursday, when he had just three tackles in a 27-10 win over visiting North Carolina. Gamecocks coach Steve Spurrier said this week that Clowney is much better at rushing the passer than he displayed and wants his star to play "more like he's capable of."
Bobo offered a different take.
"I thought he was trying to win the Heisman in the first 25 snaps by how hard he was playing, and I think he just got tired," Bobo said. "It was really hot that night, and if you watch the tape, he was affecting plays even though he wasn't making plays. Other guys get sacks because you're worried about him, and there were two or three plays in that game where he was on the other side of the field but got in on the tackle."
Odds and ends
Georgia worked 90 minutes Wednesday in full pads, spending half the workout tackling to correct mistakes and blocking to prepare for Saturday. ... Freshman cornerback Brendan Langley (leg) sat out but is expected to play. ... Richt said that freshman receiver Tramel Terry likely will redshirt. ... Sophomore kicker Marshall Morgan will return from suspension for the Sept. 21 game against North Texas. ... Secondary coach Scott Lakatos on whether redshirt sophomore cornerback Devin Bowman will play after sitting out the opener: "We'll see what his situation turns out as the week rolls on. He's just waiting for his opportunity. He's working his tail off, and I think he will wind up helping us this year."
Contact David Paschall at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6524.