October 12, 2011

Secondary gains



Granted, Georgia's secondary hasn't faced a quarterback like Boise State's Kellen Moore in the season-opener and probably won't again.

Moore torched the Bulldogs with three touchdown passes that evening in the Georgia Dome, but in the five games that have followed, opponents are finding the airways a bit difficult to traverse, as Georgia has allowed just two touchdown passes since that opening loss to the Broncos.

"They're guys who have a little more experience now. They're running our package," secondary coach Scott Lakatos said. "The key to a good pass defense is a good pass rush and now we've got guys who can rush the passer, so it makes our job a little bit easier."

The stats bear Lakatos out.

After failing to sack Moore, the Bulldogs have recorded 13 in the five games since, all coming in the four SEC contests the team has played thus far.

The lone touchdowns since the Boise game came on a 34-yarder from Stephen Garcia to Alshon Jeffrey against South Carolina and a 38-yarder on a double-reverse throw in the 27-13 win at Ole Miss.

That's been it.

"We know we've got to work together as a defensive unit as a whole. When we play tight coverage it gives them more time to get to the quarterback," cornerback Brandon Boykin said. "That's something we've been able to do, but not just the secondary, but the line and the linebackers, too. Everybody is playing good together."

Bulldog defensive backs continue to make their share of big plays, too.

Ironically, last Saturday's 20-12 win at Tennessee marked the first time the Bulldogs did not intercept a pass all year and enter their game in Nashville against Vanderbilt with eight, including four by safety Bacarri Rambo, who is tied for the lead in the SEC.

"He's putting himself in position. When he does that, he has the opportunity to make some plays, and he's a good enough athlete, with good enough ball skills he can catch it," Lakatos said. "The thing he needs to do to make sure he is in position all the time, because sometimes when you play in the secondary you're out of position, but you can get away with it because the offense doesn't notice it."

Sanders Commings, Boykin, Shawn Williams and Branden Smith have one interception each.

"As a group, they've (the secondary) gotten better. They really look at the things that have hurt us as a group to get those things corrected so that it doesn't happen again," Lakatos said. "They're playing for each other now, they're accountable to each other, trying to be accountable to the team and doing what you need to do to win football games and be successful."

They're also gaining a collective reputation for physical play, including Smith whose hit on Tennessee wide receiver Da'Rick Rogers helped shed the notion that the Atlanta native isn't a hard hitter.

"My thing is when I have to hit, I hit; when I don't, I don't," said Smith, who has started three of Georgia's six games.

"Branden's come a long way. He's a guy who wants to be better and guy who shows up every day and works hard," Lakatos said. "He wants to know what he did right and what he did wrong on every play, get it corrected and go at it. He wants to be a great player and he's working at it."

Then again, Lakatos said the same could be said for every member of his secondary.

But nobody's satisfied.

"Each guy has certain things that he needs to get better at," Lakatos said. "If every member does that - and that really goes for the whole team - then we'll grow as a football team."

Anthony Dasher is the managing editor for UGASports
and he can be reached via email at dash@ugasports.com.