November 27, 2012

Dawgs defend their swag

For those not familiar with the modern day vernacular of your typical college football player, the word "swag" can be taken one or two ways.

For example:

The common definition of the word means "loot," "spoils" or perhaps "contraband." Although that's true, the definition as explained by linebacker Christian Robinson has nothing to do with some tangible object or gain. It has everything to do with attitude, something members of the Bulldog defense haven't been shy about expressing regarding Saturday's SEC title game against second-ranked Alabama (4 p.m., CBS).

Arrogance? Some may think so.

When safety Bacarri Rambo and Sanders Commings recently stated their belief that Georgia's defense was the best in the SEC, many took it a slap at the tradition of defensive greatness established by Nick Saban and the defending national champion Crimson Tide.

Not so, says Robinson.

"I think it's just confidence, it's just going out there and expecting good things to happen," he said. "Jarvis' (Jones) forced fumble against Florida; you're expecting good things to happen. The fumble on Saturday that Rambo got. No one's jumping ship. We know that someone is going to step up and make a play. To me, that's swagger, that's how I define it."

That said, many thought Rambo crossed a line when he gave his opinion of Georgia's defense during a radio interview with ESPN.

"I feel like we are more talented. We have better players at each position, across the board, especially on defense. It's gonna be a great challenge, I know it's gonna be a great battle," Rambo said. "It's gonna come down to who has the best defense. It's gonna come down to who makes more turnovers. It's gonna be a battle of the defenses."

Commings echoed those comments on Monday.

"No, it's definitely good to play with confidence. Confidence is just another word for swagger. When we step on the field, our swag is turned all the way up," Commings said. "We feel we can shut anybody down and shut anybody out. In order to play, you've got to have confidence; you've got to have swagger."

Other Bulldog defenders spoken to Tuesday felt the same way. There was no backing down.

"I feel the same. I back those guys up, you know?" linebacker Amarlo Herrera said. "I (haven't) seen nobody play better than us the second half of the season. I don't feel anybody has."

Statistically, Rambo has a point.

In the past five games, Georgia has surrendered an average of just 8.6 points. Alabama, over its last five contests has allowed an average of 10.6, a number that reflects the Crimson Tide's 29-24 loss to Texas A&M.

Is that bragging?

The Bulldogs don't think so.

"I bet Claude (Georgia Sports information director Claude Felton) wasn't too happy, but what this game is going to come down to is who has the better team, who has the better players and what coach gets those players to play the best," Robinson said. I'm going to stand behind my team. I think we do have the best players, but it comes down to do we show up on Saturday and do those things that ultimately do help us win."

Head coach Mark Richt didn't seem to have any issues either when asked about it during Tuesday's press conference.

"They're all young and excited, and they say what they want to say sometimes," Richt said. "I don't think it's going to matter much what everybody says before the game. I think it's going to matter when we kick it off, so I'm not too worried about that."

Georgia certainly didn't display much "swag" in its first seven games when the Bulldogs surrendered an average of 24.5 points.

But after Shawn Williams "soft" comments prior to the game against Florida regarding the play of the Georgia defense something clicked and that swagger the Bulldogs were missing suddenly returned.

"Yeah. That helped, and that whole week of practice, preparing like we did from that day on and really playing up to par," Herrera said of Williams' strong words. "We weren't doing what we were supposed to. But now we've got that swagger back and we're feeling like that."

Robinson - who was an indirect target of Williams - had to agree.

During his conversation with reporters, Williams unabashedly suggested that Herrera should never come out of the game. Herrera plays Mike linebacker, the same position as Robinson and fellow senior Mike Gilliard.

"I think it was a wakeup call. It's obvious we weren't playing up to our standards, either as a person or as unit. It's a collective defense," Robinson said. "If people are messing up, we were trying to compensate for somebody else and I think we stopped doing that after the Kentucky game and showed up at the right time."

You won't find wide receiver Rhett McGowan saying negative about the defense's "swag."

"You don't want to get them mad, even at practice. They're just a physical bunch of guys, they love contact and they're not going to back away from it," McGowan said. "They love the game of football. That's one thing about them. When they get hot, it makes them play better."

Especially Williams, McGowan said.

"You definitely want Shawn mad on Game Day," added McGowan. "He's a football player; he's flying around and hitting people. Right now we've got a lot of guys doing that."