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May 4, 2009

Georgia's Owens expects to be 'new and improved'

Anthony Dasher
Rivals.com College Football
Managing Editor
ATHENS, Ga. - Jeff Owens has a new nickname.

"Just call me 'Quarterback Killer,' " Georgia's gregarious senior defensive tackle said recently. Then he laughed.

This may sound like big talk coming from a player who tore his anterior cruciate ligament in the 2008 opener against Georgia Southern and missed the rest of the year.

But as the Bulldogs focus ahead to fall camp in August, Owens said fans have a lot to look forward to when he takes the field this fall.

"I think they'll see a new and improved Jeff Owens, that's the way I believe I'm going to be," Owens said. "I'm going to be more vocal, I'm going to be a big-time leader of this team and do what I can to make my team win. The first one is to start by killing quarterbacks.

Owens said he doesn't have any particular quarterback in mind.

"... I'm just focusing on Oklahoma State and start with them first," he said. "After that, just take on everyone else down the road."

Although Owens isn't expected to be cleared to begin practice until June, he said he feels close to 100 percent. He doesn't see himself being limited in any way.

"I'm quite ready," he said. "This injury has made me think a lot about what's important and how much I missed playing football and how much I love to play the game. It's a big part of my life."

The Bulldogs certainly missed him, especially teammate and fellow defensive tackle Geno Atkins.

With Owens out, Atkins was forced to deal with more than his share of double-teams. But with Owens back, he, Atkins, Kade Weston and DeAngelo Tyson are expected to form the core for what Owens said he believes will be one of the strongest defensive lines in the SEC.

"You look at any championship team, you always win the game between the trenches. That's common sense," Owens said. "If the offensive line doesn't block, the quarterback isn't going to have time and the running backs aren't going to have any holes to run through. If we don't get pressure on the quarterback, they're going to light us up. All great football teams; it all starts up front."

Owens does believe that the potential is there.

"It doesn't matter who is the best team, it matters who is the best team on that field," he said. "If we go out and play Georgia football there is no team that can stop us. That's my opinion."

So what if most experts don't agree? Owens says there's nothing at all wrong with being underrated.

"This season will be the most underrated team that we've had since I've been here," Owens said. "In 2006 we had concerns, 2005 we had concerns. This team has a lot of concerns and a lot of people think we've fallen off and won't be as good without Matthew [Stafford] and Knowshon [Moreno]. "But I have this saying: 'Tradition never graduates.' We've got a rich tradition here and it hasn't graduated."

Anthony Dasher is Managing Editor of News Content for UGASports.com. The Web site was the first online publication credentialed by the University of Georgia.
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