Alabama-like Bulldogs defenders seeking own identity

Georgia safety J.R. Reed brings down Notre Dame quarterback Brandon Wimbush as inside linebacker Natrez Patrick gives chase during the Bulldogs' 20-19 win on Sept. 9.

ATHENS, Ga. - Alabama-like.

There is no greater compliment in college football right now than to be compared to Nick Saban's Alabama Crimson Tide, who have won four of the last eight national titles and have compiled a staggering 117-13 record since the start of the 2008 season.

Having Alabama-like productivity on the field or in recruiting is a measurement of success, and Georgia's defense is being compared to the Crimson Tide as a result of the Bulldogs whipping Mississippi State and Tennessee the past two weeks by the combined score of 72-3. Adding to the link is the fact Georgia head coach Kirby Smart and defensive coordinator Mel Tucker arrived in Athens from Tuscaloosa.

"We want to be our own defense," said Georgia redshirt sophomore safety J.R. Reed, who had an interception and a fumble recovery in last Saturday's 41-0 trampling of Tennessee in Knoxville. "This is a Georgia defense. Alabama has had a good defense for years, and you get that a lot with Coach Smart and Coach Tucker coming from there, but I think we're building our own identity."

The No. 5 Bulldogs continued preparations for this weekend's game at Vanderbilt with Tuesday's two-hour practice.

Several Southeastern Conference schools in recent seasons have challenged Alabama for defensive supremacy, most notably LSU and Florida, but now it's Georgia giving the Tide a legitimate run. The Bulldogs lead the league in total defense, allowing 244 yards per game, with Alabama next at 249.

The Tide's 8.6 points per game allowed ranks just ahead of Georgia's 9.2-point clip. Alabama and Georgia rank 1-2 nationally in scoring defense, while Auburn is sixth at 11.0 points a contest.

"I would argue that Erk Russell would say that we're playing Junkyard Dawg-like," Smart said. "That has a lot more pride to me, being a Georgia alum, that our kids are playing hard and playing with standards that have been created a long time around here of flying to the ball and hitting people."

Russell was Georgia's defensive coordinator for the first 17 seasons (1964-80) of Vince Dooley's 25-year run as Georgia's coach. He guided the "Junkyard Dawg" defenses of the mid-1970s and was a vital part of Georgia's 1980 national championship team before becoming Georgia Southern's head coach and leading the Eagles to three FCS (known then as I-AA) national titles during the 1980s.

When asked about the Junkyard Dawgs moniker, Reed said, "I like the name, and I think it describes our defense really well." When asked about Russell, he said, "I don't even know who that is, but I will do the research."

Georgia was expected to have a stout defense this season with 14 of last year's top 15 tacklers returning. Outside linebackers Lorenzo Carter and Davin Bellamy announced last December their intentions to return for their senior seasons, and Reed joined the lineup after sitting out last season after transferring from Tulsa.

As for the everyone else, such as defensive tackle Trenton Thompson, inside linebackers Roquan Smith and Natrez Patrick and a veteran secondary, they're another year older and another year better.

Reed describes Tucker as a "real down-to-earth guy who really relates well to us," adding that he doesn't bring up his time at Alabama at all.

As for the identity Bulldogs defenders are building?

"Fun, fast and physical, and keeping it really basic like that," Reed said. "We want to be fast to the ball, and we want to be physical. At the end of the day, we want to have fun."

Kind of like Alabama has been doing the past decade.

Odds and ends

Vanderbilt coach Derek Mason on Smart not naming a starting quarterback yet this week between Jake Fromm and Jacob Eason: "He's not fooling me. That Fromm has won ballgames." ... When told of Mason's comments after Tuesday's practice, Smart said, "Derek Mason is entitled to his opinion. Derek Mason is not at our practices. He doesn't watch our practice tape that I know of, so I'm not really concerned with those comments.'' ... Smart on the quarterbacks this week: "They've both been great. They understand the situation. We have talked to them and explained the situation. They both completely understand, and they see it from our perspective, the team's perspective."

Contact David Paschall at or 423-757-6524.