November 28, 2012

Friend downplays reunion

Georgia offensive line coach Will Friend begrudgingly made himself available for interviews, but after his session began he soon started to have second thoughts.

A former four-year starter at Alabama (1994-97), Friend already knew what the line of questioning would be.

"I can't believe you're asking about a bad player 20 years ago," said Friend, shaking his head. "All these good players about to play in a big game and you're asking about one from 20 years ago?"

Actually, Friend couldn't be downplaying his college career any more.

Besides being a four-year starter at guard, the native of Philadelphia, Miss. was a two-time All-SEC selection and named to Alabama's Team of the Decade.

"The University of Alabama was good to me and I've been fortunate enough to be at two great places as a player, as a graduate assistant," Friend said. "The people at Alabama were very good to me, the people, and how good the University of Georgia has been good to be, too. I've been lucky, but that hasn't got anything to do with this game or anything like that."

Still, the way Bulldog guard Chris Burnette sees it, that fact Georgia (11-1) is getting ready to play Alabama (11-) for the SEC Championship (4 p.m., CBS) makes for a perfect opportunity to have a little fun at his coach's expense.

"I'm actually going to try and find some film if I get some free time," Burnette laughed. "I'm going to have to check YouTube or something. I know he was a good player, but I want to see if he was using the proper footwork to see if we can nag him about it. I want to check out his hand-placement."
Burnette was just ribbing the Bulldogs' second-year assistant.

Since taking over for Stacy Searels, it didn't take Friend long to win over his new pupils.

"He's not buddy-buddy, but he is someone you can really relate to," Burnette said. "The first time he met with us we knew there was a lot he was going to be able to teach us. It was just going to be up to us to learn."

By all accounts, Friend had his work cut out when Georgia began preseason drills back in August.

The Bulldogs lost three starters off last year's offensive line - Cordy Glenn, Ben Jones and Justin Anderson - each of who were selected in the NFL Draft.

Early on, Georgia's inexperience showed.

With a true freshman in John Theus at right tackle, a sophomore with barely any game experience at center in David Andrews, there were early inconsistencies.

But like the rest of the Bulldog team, as the season hit the mid-way point, Georgia's O-line began to gel.

"They've improved. We've improved each week and we've got to keep going that way because the season is a long way from over," Friend said. "There's more time to get better, there's more time to become more consistent."

With Alabama and arguably the best defensive front the Bulldogs have seen all year waiting in the Georgia Dome, knows his offensive line will have to play its best game of the year.

"They've got a great defense. Obviously, their stats speak for themselves because as soon as you put the tape in, you see their technique, how hard they play, that they're doing the things their coaches want them to play," They've got tons of players and it's all over the field. They roll in their twos and looks like they don't miss a beat. We've watched them all year and they just keep rolling."

Of course, dealing with the Crimson Tide's front seven is Friend's biggest concern, starting with 320-pound nose Jesse Williams, who anchors Alabama's stingy 3-4 defensive scheme.

"They're just very good on the defensive front and we've got to play well," Friend said. "We've just got to do good job there these next few days to see if we can come up with some sort of a plan. We've got to be ready to play."