ATHENS – You figured somebody would say something eventually. Monday night, Georgia strong safety Shawn Williams obliged.
The Bulldogs’ senior and de facto defensive captain ripped into his unit for what he called “soft play” all season. And Williams wasn’t above calling out a few teammates, identifying a couple of linebackers he didn’t think were playing up to snuff.
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“We’re playing too soft as a defense,” said Williams, talking to reporters after Monday night’s practice. “That goes for the D-line, linebackers, corners, safeties, everybody. We’re just not playing with the same attitude we were last year. I don’t know what it is.”
Asked if he had communicated his frustration to his defensive mates, Williams said he did during the Kentucky game and he plans to again this week as the Bulldogs prepare for Saturday’s game against No. 2 Florida in Jacksonville.
“After the first series [against Kentucky], I told everybody we played too soft,” said Williams, Georgia’s leading tackler with 51 stops. “They got the ball at the 20 and went 80 yards right up the middle. I came to the sideline and said ‘y’all are playing soft.’ It gets frustrating because I’m sitting here and I’m giving all I got and I feel like I’ve got some guys that are not. I feel we’ve got some guys that are in a whole different place.”
Asked what he thought needed to be done, Williams said, “I don’t know. I’m trying to see if I have to take somebody’s helmet off and slap them and say, ‘what’s going on’? We’re not playing with any emotion right now. Period.”
Willliams then got into specifics.
“Personally, if I was the coaches, I can’t tell them what to do, but I’d have Amarlo Herrera in the game more,” Williams said of Georgia’s starting Mike linebacker. “I wouldn’t bring him out. . . . I want to see Amarlo (Herrera) and (Alec) Ogletree in the game at linebacker; I don’t want to see anybody else at linebacker. I feel like they’re two guys that are going to go out and give you all they got, no matter if they mess up or do right. I feel like they’re going to get to the ball and tackle. That’s what we need.”
As it stands, those two are playing the most at Georgia’s inside linebacker positions. Seniors Mike Gillard and Christian Robinson split time with Herrera at the Mike. But Herrera played less against Kentucky than he has in the previous six games. He came in averaging 7.8 tackles per game. Against the Wildcats he had three, tying his season low.
“I just feel like he’s better,” Williams said. “I don’t know what he’s doing that’s better than them, getting off blocks, getting around blocks. He just gets to the football, and that’s what we need, somebody who gets to the football and tackles.”
More than any specific individuals, Williams indicated it was attitude in general that has seen the Bulldogs plunge down the national defensive rankings. Heading into Saturday’s game against run-heavy Florida, Georgia is ranked 47th in total defense (367.43 yards per game), 72nd against the run (167.86) and 49th in scoring (24.14 ppg). They were top 23 in all those categories to end last season. Kentucky rushed for 206 of their 329 total yards in a 29-24 Georgia victory.
“Right now, Florida plays very physical and they’re going to come out and try to just manhandle you,” Williams said. “So I’m really looking forward to seeing what we do. Somebody’s gonna get punched in the mouth. It’s going to be us or them. Whoever gets punched in the mouth is going to have to decide, ‘what do we do now?’ You’re either going to give in or you’re going to fight back. Point blank that’s what we’ve got to do.”
Williams’ teammates – at least those available after Monday night’s late-finishing practice — concurred with his assessment.
“I understand where he’s coming from,” senior free safety Bacarri Rambo said. “He wants to win and he wants to be the best in whatever he does. I’m in the same boat with him. I see him as a leader and a captain of the defense. He just wants what’s best for the team and the defense. So if he feels like that I feel the same way. . . . That’s what we’re upset about, because we’re not playing the best we can play, not to the potential we have as a defense.”
Said Malcolm Mitchell, who played nearly half the season at cornerback before switching back to defense full time: “Yeah, we’ve got to amp it up. We’ve got to play harder.”
Williams was asked if he thought some players were worried too much about NFL and complacent because they’ve already proven themselves. Williams is among four Georgia starters that have been projected as first-round draft picks.
“I don’t know if it’s the NFL or worried about messing up or worried about a game down the road,” Williams said. “We’ve just got to do what we do and play physical football. And we’re not. That’s what you’ve got to do to win.”
NOTES . . .
Junior outside linebacker Jarvis Jones, who was nominated as a Butkus Award semifinalist on Monday, was not listed on Monday’s injury report. Generally that means he was able to practice without limitations. The 2011 All-American was unable to play against Kentucky due to right ankle sprain. Neither Jones nor any coaches were available to comment after practice… . Starting defensive end Abry Jones was listed on the practice report as “out.” He left the Kentucky game on the second defensive play with a left ankle injury… . Quarterback Aaron Murray was named the SEC’s offensive player of the week Monday for his 427-yard, four-touchdown passing performance against Kentucky. Murray was also tabbed a semifinalist for the Davey O’Brien Award for the nation’s best quarterback on Monday.
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