ATHENS, Ga. — Georgia quarterback Aaron Murray imagined a pregame conversation with Auburn defensive tackle Nick Fairley going something like this:
“I may say, ‘Hey, how are you doing today? Please don’t kill me.’ ”
Murray might have been only half kidding. This season, Fairley, a 6-foot-5, 298-pounder, has given one opposing quarterback (Arkansas’ Ryan Mallett) a concussion, and body-slammed another (LSU’s Jordan Jefferson).
“I don’t even want to think about that; that’s not a pleasant thought,” Murray said. “I’ll do some extra praying this week.
“Hopefully, I don’t get a concussion if it does happen. Maybe I’ll treat the offensive line a little better in practice this week and make sure they have my back this weekend.”
Fairley ranks second in the SEC with 7.5 sacks, behind only Georgia linebacker Justin Houston.
Georgia head coach Mark Richt was effusive in his praise of Fairley, calling him the best defensive tackle prospect he has seen since Warren Sapp.
“He’s the closest thing I’ve seen to Warren Sapp in all the years I’ve been coaching; he’s that big of a load,” Richt said. “You have to have some kind of plan for the guy, and even that doesn’t always work. He’s a good one.”
Grantham ponders Cowboys
Georgia defensive coordinator Todd Grantham hadn’t spoken to anyone in Dallas since the Monday firing of Cowboys head coach Wade Phillips. Grantham was the defensive line coach the past few years under Phillips in Dallas.
“Tough situation,” Grantham said. “That’s a good example of how hard it is to win in this league. I mean, we were what, 11-5 last year, and then now. It’s a tough situation, just because a ball here or a ball there and you can win some games. And then you get confidence. Just a tough situation.”
Paul Pasqualoni, who replaced Grantham on the Dallas staff, was elevated to defensive coordinator in the aftermath of Phillips’ firing.
Richt hurt worse
South Carolina’s loss to Arkansas didn’t escape Richt’s notice. It deepened the lost opportunity for Georgia: Had the Bulldogs defeated Florida, then a Florida win over South Carolina this Saturday would have sent Georgia to the SEC championship game.
The trip to Auburn wouldn’t have even mattered in the SEC East race.
“I was sick. It hurt worse,” Richt said. “It would have been a wonderful story, but it’s not. … We didn’t get it done.”
Parker Welch is a walk-on, scout team quarterback. But he may have one of the most important roles on the team this week in practice: He is imitating Auburn star quarterback Cameron Newton.
It’s not quite a perfect fit: At 6-foot-2, Welch is four inches shorter, and he’s also not an athletic quarterback. But it’s the best the Bulldogs can do.
Welch laughed when asked if he felt he had a lot on his shoulder this week.
“Of course, definitely,” he said. “It’s hard to imitate Cam Newton himself, and it’s just going to take everything I’ve got and the rest of the scout team to imitate and give the defense the best look we can, so when they see it Saturday it won’t be anything new to them.”
Welch was already feeling one of the effects of the role.
“I got hit by Justin Houston today,” he said. “That didn’t feel good.”