This season has been a tough one for Georgia’s football program, in terms of their high hopes that this season would include a trip to Pasadena, California for the BCS National Championship Game. Instead, the Bulldogs are 5-3 and many blame this record on the defense.
Now, the defense looks as if it’s starting to round into shape and many of the players and coaches think it isn’t by mistake. Georgia nose tackle Chris Mayes thinks the improvements over the last two games are simple.
“We’ve been correcting on third downs,” Mayes said. “We’ve just been on top of our material, playing harder, and running to the ball.”
Over the first six games the Georgia defense was giving up about 336 total yards of offense and teams were converting on third down an average of six out of 14 times. Since they’ve “improved”, the squad is surrendering about 328 yards of total offense and teams convert about seven out of 17 third downs in their last two games against Vanderbilt and Florida.
Georgia sophomore outside linebacker Jordan Jenkins thinks a huge part of the defense playing better is from more accountability being taken by each player.
“We’ve really focused on doing our jobs,” Jenkins said. “Not worrying about if this person’s going to be there, or if he’s going to do his job. We’re just focusing on your own job and just having trust in each other that we’re going to be where we’re supposed to be.”
One player in particular for the Georgia defense that has been looked at for giving up huge plays at times is junior cornerback Damion Swann. In fact, Swann was even called out by head coach Mark Richt during one of his Tuesday press conference’s, by saying that Swann “needed to play better.” Swann says he didn’t mind the coach calling him out.
“If anybody’s been paying attention to the game, they could tell that I wasn’t playing well,” Swann said. “It wasn’t like it was a secret between the team, it was showing. I had no choice but to better my play.”
Swann is pretty convinced that things have gotten better for him on the field over the past couple of games.
“I think my previous two games have been somewhat to the play that I’m expected of,” Swann said. “It’s not all the way there.”
One stalwart of the 2013 Georgia defense has been inside linebacker Ramik Wilson. So far, through eight games Wilson has racked up 80 total tackles and two sacks. The junior linebacker had to wait his turn to finally become a starter for the defense and his head coach Mark Richt thinks that time has paid off.
“Sometimes it’s not bad for it not to happen right away,” Richt said. “Sometimes it’s hard to be a starter as a freshman. Sometimes you just got to mature a little bit, grow a little bit, and grow in the system.”
Wilson has definitely done that alongside fellow junior linebacker Amarlo Herrera to put up a combined total 152 tackles and two and a half sacks. Plus the pair of inside linebackers are among the team leaders in tackles for a loss with their eight combined.
The truth of the matter this week, is that it should be an easy win for Georgia over Appalachian State. The Mountaineers are 2-7 on the season. However, next week the Bulldogs have to travel to Auburn and face a top 10 Tigers football squad inside Jordan-Hare Stadium. This season, head coach Gus Malzahn has his offense putting up about 37 points a game, on an average of about 495 yards in those games. Even though the Georgia defense has been good against the run this season, they’ll have to concern themselves with junior running back Tre Mason. The Palm Beach, Florida native has averaged about 102 yards a game on the ground with 13 touchdowns over the season. Needless to say, defensive coordinator Todd Grantham will probably turn the Auburn film on early and often after this upcoming game against Appalachian State.