October 13, 2011

An inside presence



So far, the nose guard combination of Kwame Geathers and Jonathan Jenkins has given Georgia's defense just the sort of muscle it was looking for.

Mass in the middle was certainly an aspect that was missing from the Bulldog defensive line last year. No longer.

With the two 350-pounders anchoring the middle of the Bulldog front line it hasn't been quite so easy for opposing offensive lines to shove them around and as a result Georgia's defense is playing some of the best football in the SEC.

"It's meant a lot. It's really helped us and really solidified what we hoped to accomplish in the run game," said Richt, of the defense which is ranked third in the conference, giving up an average of just 85 yards per contest. "You want the big men in there to stop the run. We've got some good things going on."

So far, Geathers and Jenkins have worked out exactly as planned.

According to defensive line coach Rodney Garner, the two have basically split the reps at nose right down the middle, although it was Jenkins who earned his first career start in last week's game at Tennessee.

"We're pretty much splitting the responsibilities and that's helped both of us," Geathers said. "We've both been able to stay pretty fresh late in the games."

That was the ultimate idea, although the road hasn't been easy for either player, especially Jenkins, whose first taste of big-time football has at times been difficult to swallow.

"Man, I'm just trying to improve and live through actions," Jenkins said. "It was hard coming from camp and into the season, going against the talent we see week after week. It's hard, but I'm trying to improve."

Even Garner likes what he's starting to see.

That wasn't the case last year when the Bulldogs were forced to play DeAngelo Tyson out of position at nose for much of the year.

"I think we've got two guys right now who can play the nose, where last year we only had one in DeAngelo, and spot-played Kwame, so this year I at least feel we've got quality depth at the position, and actually have a third guy (Mike Thornton) if something catastrophic happened," Garner said. "So from a depth standpoint this year's has the advantage, but just the depth of knowledge of what we're doing, trying to do and understand the system. I think we've got a better feel for the overall defense."

With better results.

Besides being ranked 12th nationally against the run, Georgia also ranks sixth nationally in total defense (260.5), 11th in passing defense (174.7) and 20th in scoring defense (19.2).

The Bulldogs are also fourth nationally in third-down conversions as opponents are converting just 26.9 percent of their third down attempts.

"I think the whole defense has played well," Garner said. "I don't think it's just about one guy, but overall everybody is playing better, everybody understands the system better and doing a much better job of being more physical at the point of attack, which clears up things for other people."

Those "other people" include linebackers like Mike Gilliard and Jarvis Jones who lead the Bulldogs with 40 and 33 tackles, respectively, while safety Bacarri Rambo is tied for the league-lead in interceptions with four.

The fact that Georgia's defense hasn't allowed but two touchdowns in its last 16 quarters isn't too shabby, either.

"That's a big accomplishment," Jenkins said. "To me that's a real big deal and why we take a lot of pride in what we've done. But we still know we've got a lot of improving still to do before the end of the season."

Garner could not agree more.

"By no stretch of the imagination are they where they want to be or they where we want them to be. It's a continuous cycle where every game you come out of it with things you can work on, improve on and hopefully everyone accepts that challenge and doesn't look upon it as a negative because it's not meant to be that way at all," he said. "They all have goals that they have set, but the only way they're truly going to be able to achieve those goals is to come out and work. I don't think anybody can rest on any laurels."

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