ATHENS, Ga. – Matthew Stafford might be in the market for some extra-strength aspirin come Thursday night.
That would be understandable after the Georgia quarterback and his teammates spend much of that evening practicing at Sanford Stadium with the music of Alabama’s marching band blaring over the loudspeakers.
"When we go to the stadium, that stuff cranks up pretty loud," said Stafford, who will lead the 22nd-ranked Bulldogs against No. 16 Alabama on Saturday. "It kind of gives me a headache."
Georgia typically ventures to the stadium on Thursdays before road games to make its final run-through and utilize the stadium’s sound system to play the opponent’s music and simulate the decibel level at the opposing venue.
Considering the relative youth of this Georgia team – particularly along the offensive line, where three starters will make their road debut – that simulation may be especially important this week.
"If you haven’t heard (crowd noise) before, it gets you ready," Stafford said. "I think it might be good for the young guys to hear that and really kinda feel what it’s like to play when you can’t hear yourself think."
That’s only one of the techniques the team uses to prepare for a noisy facility, however. Stafford’s coaches occasionally require him to whisper the calls and snap counts to his linemen as another way to prepare for the communication problems that arise on the road.
That method, said center Fernando Velasco, is more effective.
"I think the whispering helps more than the loudspeakers actually," Velasco said. "We’re really not gonna be able to hear the quarterback as precise as we would here at home games. So just whispering, it’s more of a realistic simulation of what you actually hear."
Or in this case, what you don’t.
Velasco and his teammates fully expect Alabama’s Bryant-Denny Stadium to boast a loud environment Saturday night, making it difficult for the Bulldog offense to function.
"I remember my first time (on the road), we went to LSU and everything was shaking it was so loud. It’s gonna be that type of atmosphere come Saturday," Velasco said. "I’ve never been to Tuscaloosa before, but I’ve heard stories about how loud and how rowdy that place can get."
Up in the air
There were some changes to Georgia’s starting lineup on Saturday and more could be on the way this week.
It’s not out of the realm of possibilities that it will include changes at all three linebacker spots. Dannell Ellerbe, who started the first three games at middle linebacker, worked as the No. 1 weakside linebacker ahead of previous starter Darius Dewberry on Tuesday.
Marcus Washington, whom coach Mark Richt said had "his best game for Georgia" against Western Carolina, could claim the starting middle linebacker role.
And it’s still unclear whether last week’s starter at strongside linebacker, Akeem Dent, will hold onto the job or whether it will return to senior Brandon Miller, who started the first two games.
"We’re splitting time with those guys," linebackers coach John Jancek said. "I’ll watch practice (Tuesday) and see where we’re at (today) and make that decision prior to heading to Tuscaloosa."
The potential changes drawing the most attention are on the offensive line, where the starting guards remain unclear.
Chris Davis and Clint Boling are working with the first-string offensive line, with Scott Haverkamp also figuring into the rotation. Meanwhile, senior Chester Adams figures to resume his role as starting right tackle, after being replaced in the starting lineup by Boling last week.
Cornerback Bryan Evans missed Saturday’s Western Carolina game with a knee injury, but should be back in the rotation this week. However, he’ll have to contend with last weekend’s starters Thomas Flowers and Asher Allen for a starting position.
Safety Kelin Johnson also returns to a starting job after missing the Western Carolina game with a rib injury. His replacement, redshirt freshman Reshad Jones, tied for the team lead with six tackles.
Aside from the numerous local connections on Alabama’s roster – offensive lineman Marlon Davis is from Columbus, Demetrius Goode is from LaGrange and Jonathan Lowe and Earl Alexander are from Phenix City – there is also a UGA connection among Crimson Tide players. Freshman walk-on quarterback Thomas Darrah of Newnan is the brother of Georgia women’s basketball senior Megan Darrah. … This week’s game captains will be center Fernando Velasco and quarterback Matthew Stafford (offense), defensive tackle Jeff Owens (defense) and Brandon Miller (special teams). … Former Georgia quarterback David Greene signed with the New England Patriots on Tuesday as a member of the team’s practice squad. Greene was with the Seattle Seahawks for two seasons before being cut early this month.