Linebacker Darryl Gamble didn't mince words.
When asked about the absence of wide receiver A.J. Green, due to miss the next three games as part of his four-game suspension handed down Wednesday by the NCAA, the senior was succinct when asked the impact for Saturday's noon kickoff at South Carolina.
"We're still going to play," shrugged Gamble.
Indeed they are.
While many in the Bulldog Nation are still lamenting the loss of the team's biggest offensive star, defensive players like Gamble - while disappointed he won't play - explains that the loss really has no impact on the defensive side.
"We've still got do our thing," Gamble said. "We've still got to keep them out of the end zone."
Of course, the Gamecocks (1-0) have suspension problems of their own.
Tight end Weslye Saunders is still unavailable due to suspension and there remains no word on left tackle Jarriel King, who's involved in an investigation of their own. Cornerback Chris Culliver was cleared Thursday afternoon, the same day the NCAA announced it was officially beginning an inquiry into the Gamecock football program.
But while all of the pregame attention for Saturday has been on who won't be playing, such thoughts will quickly be forgotten when kickoff rolls around at noon (ESPN2).
As it is every year, the annual SEC opener is huge for both schools.
For Georgia, some of the same questions that existed last week will need to be answered again. IE, how will quarterback Aaron Murray fare in his first SEC road game and can Todd Grantham's 3-4 attack enjoy some of the same success it did in last week's 55-7 demolition of Louisiana-Lafayette?
For his part, Murray said he's prepared for Saturday's test the same as he did last week's home-opener.
"I take every opponent the same. You have to go in each week with the right mindset, make sure you know everything there is to know about this defense, those players, what blitzes you'll see," Murray said. "I'll put the same work I did against Louisiana Lafayette into South Carolina this weekend and for the rest of the games this year."
Still, he acknowledges his first road game will present some significant challenges, like blocking out the crowd noise from what's sure to be a rocking environment at William-Brice Stadium.
"It'll be a little different (than the noise in Sanford Stadium). Stadiums are not quiet regardless, but on the road you have people screaming at you and trying to disrupt you. But we have ways to communicate, and last year I did get to travel and experience crowd noise and how to deal with it," Murray said earlier this week. "We'll be signaling things, working on the huddle, and doing it in practice to review for the game. We'll be ready by the time we get there."
Head coach Mark Richt has already given Murray plenty of advice, but stressed the rest of the offense will have to do its job.
That includes the offensive line, which Richt admits struggled with its run blocking last week against Louisiana-Lafayette.
"We'll also have ways of communicating. He has to learn to communicate non-verbally, with hand signals and things of that nature that he has to be able to do. We've been practicing that all along; he has to know that. But until you live through it, it's just difficult. Our veteran linemen, we jumped three times in our home game. So hopefully we don't repeat that," Richt said. "Usually you say it was loud, it was tough and no matter how many times you do it, it's still hard, but we have enough veteran players that it shouldn't be a problem. No excuses on that."
Murray will have some help when he takes the field.
Back are running back Washaun Ealey and wide receiver Tavarres King will return after serving their one-game suspension last week and figure to play prominent roles in the Bulldogs' offensive attack.
Defensively, Bulldog fans hope Grantham's defense can keep up last week's exciting pace, although Gamecock coach Steve Spurrier said Georgia's 3-4 is atypical in a lot of ways.
"I don't think they're a pure 3-4 type defense," Spurrier contended. "They don't put a guy right on the center's nose all the time. Occasionally they do, but they move him around. But a lot of times they actually have four defensive linemen or have one of their linebackers put their hand on the ground. It's a combination of the 3-4 and 4-3, which a lot of teams do. In the 3-4, you probably get a little more speed on the field with your outside linebackers."
Georgia's D would likely have pitched a shutout in its first game, if not for a blown coverage by safety Bacarri Rambo which allowed a 60-yard touchdown play.
Still, Richt was extremely pleased with the effort and the fact that the defense was able to gain some confidence, albeit against a weaker opponent.
"I'm glad in some sense that there was a little mental error that happened that didn't cost us the game but you can also teach from it, not only Rambo, but everybody. One mistake and a team could score. That was probably good to have that point driven home for everybody," Richt said. "There were a couple of sideline runs where we had the chance to blast the guy right there and it was close whether it was sideline or not, and we pulled off. I think we played physical without playing stupid. We have to keep it going."
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