ATHENS – Georgia did a pretty good job of slowing down Georgia Southern’s spread-option attack this past Saturday. The Eagles managed 302 rushing yards and 19 first downs. But that turned out to be more annoying than agonizing as the Bulldogs cruised to a 45-14 victory.
Enter Georgia Tech, which runs essentially the same offense. But any notion that Georgia will be dealing with the same challenge is incorrect.
Yellow Jackets’ coach Paul Johnson is considered the modern-day guru of the spread option. And with the athletes Tech will bring to Sanford Stadium, for Georgia’s defenders it will be like going from minor league to major-league pitching.
“He knows it so well that he doesn’t even need a call sheet,” Georgia coach Mark Richt said of Johnson. “It’s in his brain and he’s seen just about everything under the sun as far as people trying to defend it. When he sees something, he knows where to go next, and that’s the beauty of the system that they have. They know what to do to counteract what a defense is trying to do to stop something or slow it down.”
There’s that, and then there’s this: While Georgia Southern’s offensive line was under-sized, Tech’s averages 6-foot-3 and 297 pounds. The Yellow Jackets feature a B-back in David Sims, who weighs 222 pounds, a bevy of A-backs who can fly and two quarterbacks who can run and pass.
In all, the Jackets count 11 different players who are averaging 5 yards per carry or better. They’re third in the nation in rushing at 324.9 yards per game and have run the football for more yards than any FBS team in the nation since 2008.
“They’re different,” Georgia defensive coordinator Todd Grantham said. “Formationally they’re different. Conceptually, as far as trying to get the ball on the edge with some of the options, they’re the same. But it’s like any defense or offense; you kind of take on the personality of the guy doing it. And Paul does a good job.”
Georgia has gotten better at facing Johnson’s option, though it has yet to shut it down. The Bulldogs gave up 409 yards rushing the first time they saw it in 2008 and lost 45-42. Since then, Georgia has allowed 205, 411 and 243 yards rushing, respectively, in the last three meetings and won by an average of 9.3 points.
“Anytime you do something, continuity is good,” Grantham said. “The more you see things the better you are at it. And I think the players understand it, too, from the standpoint we got to do it last week. But it’s going to be a challenge because, if you don’t execute, you’re going to give up explosive plays.”
Healthy pack of Dogs
Georgia has been somewhat unlucky in that it has lost three starters to season-ending injuries — receiver Marlon Brown, receiver Michael Bennett (knee) and linebacker Chase Vasser (shoulder) — and another for an extended period (defensive end Abry Jones, five games, ankle surgery). But the Bulldogs arrive at the 12th game of the season an otherwise healthy team.
Richt confirmed following Wednesday’s practice that the Bulldogs will go into the Tech game with roughly the same lineup they have the last two games with the addition of starting right guard Chris Burnette. Burnette missed the last two games with a shoulder injury.
“We’ve had no issues that I know of,” Richt said. “I just walked off the field with Ron and he didn’t mention anything to me, so that probably means nothing today.”
Georgia practiced in full pads Wednesday will again Thursday morning before turning the Bulldogs loose to celebrate Thanksgiving with their families. And when that happens, Richt said he doesn’t want the players thinking about football.
“What I want them to do is focus until about 10 a.m. (Thursday) morning,” Richt said. “Then I’ll tell them, ‘enjoy Thanksgiving. Think about everything you’re thankful for and enjoy the day.’ It’s healthy to take a break.”
Richt said the Bulldogs will conduct a rare Friday practice to make sure they get their minds back on business. “I want to get them moving around after all they might eat and get their brains locked into the game plan and such. We’ll do about a 50-minute practice that will allow us to hopefully get our minds back on our business.”
Georgia also altered its schedule because Saturday’s game is a noon kickoff. The Bulldogs practiced at noon Wednesday, went in the morning on Thursday and will go early again on Friday.
“We wanted to try to get them up about the time they’ll get up game day,” Richt said “We just want to get their bodies used to waking up in the morning and moving, concentrating and focusing on plays during the time the game will be played.”
Twenty-one seniors to be honored
Twenty-one UGA football players will be honored in the Bulldogs’ annual Senior Day ceremony at 11:46 a.m. Saturday. Kickoff for the regular-season finale against Tech is set for 12:01 p.m. (ESPN).
The seniors are: Taylor Bradberry, Winder; Marlon Brown, Memphis; Luis Capella, Augusta; Sanders Commings, Augusta; Scott Eichler, Oakwood; Reuben Faloughi, Martinez; Ty Frix, Calhoun; Michael Gilliard, Valdosta; John Jenkins, Meriden, Conn.; Abry Jones, Warner Robins; Tavarres King, Mount Airy; Jamie Lindley, Savannah; Ricky Lowe, Duluth; Bacarri Rambo, Donalsonville.; Ben Reynolds, Bainbridge; Christian Robinson, Norcross; Dustin Royston, Royston; Richard Samuel, Cartersville, Ga.; Branden Smith, Atlanta, Ga.; Cornelius Washington, Hephzibah, Ga.; Shawn Williams, Damascus, Ga.
Etc. . . .
Georgia offensive coordinator Mike Bobo is included among 29 nominees for the 2012 Broyles Award, which goes annually to the nation’s top assistant coach in college football. Under Bobo’s guidance, the Bulldogs have already set a school record for touchdowns in a season (55) and is on pace to break long-standing UGA marks for total offense and points per game for a season. Also among the nominees are Notre Dame defensive coordinator Bob Diaco and Alabama special teams coach Bobby Williams. . . . Georgia junior Jarvis Jones was named one of five finalists for the Butkus Award, which goes to the nation’s top linebacker. The other finalists are: Oregon’s Dion Jordan, LSU’s Kevin Minter, Alabama’s C.J. Mosley and Notre Dame’s Manti Te’o are the other finalists for the Butkus Award. The Butkus Foundation will announce the winner during the first week of December.