August 29, 2009

Curran says defense on mission to succeed

Demarcus Dobbs can't quote the exact number. He just knows Georgia isn't favored to win Saturday's season-opener at Oklahoma State.

For record, Las Vegas picks the Cowboys to beat the Bulldogs by six. It's a figure no doubt attributed to the loss of Matthew Stafford and Knowshon Moreno, plus the fact that Georgia wasn't exactly solid on the defensive side.

It's the last part of that equation that bugs Dobbs the most.

"For us, that's the biggest motivation," Dobbs said. "We're a big-time SEC school that has a lot of pride in its program. When people talk down about us with the history we have, it's like a slap in the face. We're Georgia, we want to show that we can play and run with the Big Dogs."

Linebacker Rennie Curran felt the same way.

"I believe we've got a lot of hungry guys that are ready to get out there and make something happen. Between the guys who left and the guys we've got replacing them, like Brandon Boykin replacing Asher Allen, Darryl Gamble coming in there for Dannell (Ellerbe), Bryan Evans … those are guys who have been waiting to get that opportunity, are hungry and excited about wearing the G, that's caring and dedicated. I'm excited about getting out there with them as a defense and it's a good feeling knowing I've got guys as dedicated as I am and want us to win as bad as possible."

As far as season-openers ago, they don't much bigger than Saturday's 3:30 tilt in Stillwater, Okla. between the 9th-ranked Cowboys and 13th-ranked Bulldogs.

Oklahoma State features a veteran offensive team, led by quarterback Zac Robinson, running back Kendall Hunter and wide receiver Dez Bryant, a group many claim to be one of the country's most explosive trios.

Robinson has passed for more than 6,200 career yards and has rushed for more than 1,500 career yards. In its last 19 home games, OSU has scored at least 40 points 13 times.

No doubt the Cowboys want to show the nation that they're ready to contend for a Big 12 championship, and a win over Georgia would certainly be huge confidence builder.

But Curran said he and his teammates have a mission of their own.

"Oklahoma State's offense is very highly-ranked and a veteran bunch," Curran said. "But we've faced guys who were highly-ranked before like when we played in the Sugar Bowl against Colt Brennan. I just feel like this is another one where we have a chance to set the tempo and show that our defense is focused and that it has the desire to go out and make plays."

Defensive coordinator Willie Martinez hopes that's the case.

While Martinez believes his squad will be ready, he does worry how quickly his defense will be able to adjust to the tempo, much less establish one against Robinson and company.

"That's the big concern. It's (tempo) hard to simulate in practice. You do the best you can with the scout team in practice, so this is going to be a big challenge for us," Martinez said. "They've got an excellent group, but we've got some guys who are looking forward to it. We're getting where we need to be, we're not there yet, but we've still got another week to get familiar with what they do and what we have to defend and expect."

From a position standpoint, the Bulldogs appear set with their starting lineup.

Martinez announced Saturday that Dobbs and Roderick Battle will open at defensive end.

The only position that remains a little bit uncertain is Sam linebacker, where Darius Dewberry and Akeem Dent are still battling for the starting job. Curran and Gamble will man Will and Mike, respectively.

Georgia's starting secondary will consist of Boykin (short corner), Prince Miller (wide corner), Evans (free safety) and Reshad Jones (strong safety).

Geno Atkins and Jeff Owens are set to anchor the defensive line.

"It's just exciting, knowing that we're about to go out there, wear that G, to get to represent our school, our family. … It's a good feeling," Curran said. "There's a lot at stake with this game. Not only are we representing our school, we're representing the SEC so this is a good opportunity to set ourselves up for the rest of the season. We want to start out with a good tempo and show everyone what we're all about."

This and that

• The Bulldogs went through a 90-minute "situational scrimmage" in full pads, according to head coach Mark Richt, and it was a productive workout. "Everyone is excited it, they can feel it with the countdown, that in a week's time, they know where they will be," said Richt. "If the juices weren't already flowing, they are now." Saturday's scrimmage featured 20 plays on offense, 20 plays on defense and approximately 20 kicks and Richt said the team "got out of it what we needed."

• Junior Kevin Perez continued to work with the first unit at center. "Kevin knows what to do, he got an opportunity to play today and did an admirable job," said Richt. "It's good to see him play and see that we can function with him in there. That is good for him too."

• Richt said that center Ben Jones and more than likely Chris Davis should return to practice Monday.

• Richt was planning to drive to Greenville, S.C. tonight (Saturday) to watch his son Jon who is a backup quarterback at Mars Hill which opens its season against Greenville College.

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