November 30, 2011

Ready for a battle

Defensive line coach Rodney Garner has never been one to resort to hyperbole, whether it's about his own players or Saturday's opponent in the SEC Championship, top-ranked LSU.

So, when Garner talks about the challenge Georgia's defense faces against a Tiger offense, whose philosophy is to line up and ram the football down your throat, his answer is as cut and dried as it can possibly be.

"They're going to go out and try to wear people down," Garner said. "We've got to have the mentality that we're going to go in there and fight. It's going to be some kind of street brawl."

In an era where spread offenses are the rage and Fancy-Dan coordinators often feel the need to rely on trick plays to catch an opposing defense off guard, LSU's offensive philosophy is somewhat of a throw-back to days gone by.

"Their goal is not to trick anybody. Their goal is to line up, play real sound football in all three phases and basically, physically maul you; wear you down and wear you out, make you quit," head coach Mark Richt said. "They've been able to do it most every game they've played."

Hence the challenge for defensive coordinator Todd Grantham, who knows the Tiger offense will be looking to punch his defense right square in the mouth.

But Grantham says his defense will be ready.

"We're going to play the guys who have played for us all year, everybody will have a role, we'll continue to compete. We're looking forward to Saturday," Grantham said. "We're confident in our abilities, we're confident about where we are. We feel we've got some guys who have some size and strength to them also. It's just a matter of understanding the game plan we're going to have, executing it and understanding the things that have gotten us to 10 games in a row."

Linebacker Mike Gilliard said that's just what the Bulldogs will do.

"I feel like as a defense, we have something to prove. They are the number one team in the country and we have to go out there and make plays. This game is about the best team from the West playing the best team from the East. It doesn't get any better than that," he said. "LSU is a great team with a great quarterback and four really talented, young running backs who will pound you. I'm really excited about going out there and playing on Saturday."

It's that LSU running game which has received the most attention from Georgia's defensive coaches and players, and rightfully so.

The Tigers' four-headed monster of Spencer Ware (168-687), Michael Ford (117-721) Alfred Blue (70-449) and Kenny Hilliard (49-252) are four battering rams, with Ford and Blue the smallest at 215 pounds.

Ware and Hilliard come in at 223- and 240-pounds, respectively, and that doesn't include 6-5, 225-pound quarterback Jordan Jefferson, who has rushed 55 times for 291 yards.

"I haven't seen that in quite a while," Garner said of the Tigers and their four-back rotation. "Really, we have not faced an offense like that in quite a while. They don't worry about style points; just play old-school football."

Grantham said the fact the Tigers rotate their backs without missing a beat will force his defense to mind its Ps and Qs more than ever before.

"By rolling them in they can keep a guy fresh and coming hard which forces you to be on your toes the whole time, your angles have to be good, and you've got to make sure you've got to have good support and be on top of your game," Grantham said. "The thing about those guys is they can take it to the house. They can get the explosive plays."

But Georgia has some beef of its own up front in players like Jonathan Jenkins, Kwame Geathers and Abry Jones, DeAngelo Tyson and , and together with its linebacker corps of Gilliard, [db]Jarvis Jones, Alec Ogletree and Christian Robinson, Grantham is comfortable his front seven will be ready for the challenge.

I think we have confidence in our abilities and I think anytime you play the game from a defensive perspective, you're going to have that kind of confidence," Grantham said. We obviously respect their defense, we respect their team and we know they're a quality opponent. But we're going to continue to go out, play and compete."