ATHENS – The Georgia defense, so mediocre this season amid high expectations, used the bye week to air things out and get to know each other again.
At least that’s according to senior safety Shawn Williams, who said the unit met last week to discuss their problems.
“People got what was on their chest out, said what they had to say,” Williams said. “We’ve got to be accountable for our actions, eliminate the big plays, and just come out and play hard every game.”
Georgia’s defense was gashed by South Carolina two weeks ago in a 35-7 loss, but the problems had emerged long before that.
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After ranking fifth nationally in total defense in 2011, the Bulldogs are 50th this year. They have had just one completely good game, against Vanderbilt, and struggled in a win over Tennessee, the week before losing to the Gamecocks.
Williams, speaking to the media for the first time since the season began, centered on continuity as the main culprit. The defense has been rotating a lot of personnel, with Williams one of the few players to start every game; cornerback Sanders Commings and linebacker Chase Vasser sat out the first two games, and safety Bacarri Rambo and linebacker Alec Ogletree were suspended the first four.
Everybody was back for the Tennessee and South Carolina games. But Williams indicated that the team used the bye week to get reacquainted. In fact he called the bye week “much-needed,” and expressed confidence that "we're back to where we need to be."
So is communication that key to the overall performance of the defense?
“I mean yeah, because when you’re playing with certain guys, knowing where certain guys will be at certain times, then all of a sudden you look up and there’s another guy in there," Williams said. "You don’t know if you’re on the same page or you’re not comfortable with that same guy. So I guess we’ve got everybody back and gotta be on the same page and communicate better.”
According to Williams, the coaches broke down the stats to show the problem with big plays: He estimated that about 170 passes average out to four yards apiece, and we’ve got 13 passes where we gave up several hundred yards on.
“So when you look at it, it’s the big plays,” Williams said. “Who knows where we’d be at if we could just eliminate the big plays.”
A few other defensive notes after Monday's practice:
- Jarvis Jones (sprained ankle) missed another practice on Monday. But head coach Mark Richt said Sunday he had no doubt that his star linebacker would be able to play against Kentucky.
Defensive end Abry Jones admitted that his sprained ankle has slowed him the past two games. The senior from Warner Robins practiced at about full-speed on Monday, and said the ankle was hurting him less and less.
“I’m doing pretty good today. Getting a little bit of power back, pushing against folks in practice and all that,” Abry Jones said. “So confidence is growing as each practice goes by, so I’m feeling pretty good.”
- A pair of defensive reserves are on the injury shelf: Defensive end Sterling Bailey had thumb surgery on Monday, and inside linebacker Brandon Burrows had surgery for a hand fracture on Thursday.
There was no timetable listed for either player’s return.