September 3, 2009

Big game for defensive ends

Disappointed? Yes. Embarrassed? Yeah, that too: Junior Demarcus Dobbs said you could pick out any similar adjective and have a pretty good idea what emotions he and the rest of the defense felt following last year's 10-3 campaign.

While another 10-win season was certainly a point of pride, there were many aspects about the defense that weren't so pleasing to the eye.

Georgia ranked eighth in the Southeastern Conference in passing defense (189.7), 10th in scoring defense (24.5) and eighth in sacks with just 24.

For a program that's longed prided itself for its defensive excellence, Dobb said such numbers were unacceptable.

But instead of lamenting what went wrong, Dobbs said last year's mistakes have only served to refocus the Bulldog defense.

"Basically, we said we are going to buy into the system and the people that want to play for Georgia have to look deep down within their heart and determine whether this is for them," Dobbs said. "I think as a whole we have rallied together. We've trained hard, we've lifted weights together; everybody's done everything together. Everyone's head is into this. Everyone's heart is into this. It's hard to beat brothers.

"It's hard to beat someone if they're close and banded together. When you go to war, you want to go with guys you can trust and I think we've got that trust factor down. I think we're more of a team."

No position felt the brunt of the embarrassment more than Dobbs' teammates at defensive end.

The Bulldogs struggled finding a consistent pass rush for most of the season, getting only 8.5 sacks from the defensive end position.

"We got pretty smashed last year by the media, but since the first day all we've (the defensive ends) have talked about is proving ourselves and doing what we can to help the team," Dobbs said. "I think you're going to see us play with more intensity, really the defense as a whole. You're going to see us rally to the ball more. I think people are going to notice a whole new change in the attitude."

Senior Marcus Washington concurred.

"If you're a player, anytime you hear somebody say you're unproductive, you're going to go out and try to prove those people wrong and do better," he said. "It's the same if you're a linebacker, the same if you're a quarterback, the same if you play any position. That kind of thing is going to make you work harder and that's what this defense has been doing."

With Oklahoma State and its ballyhooed trio of quarterback Zac Robinson, running back Kendall Hunter and wide receiver Dez Bryant up next, the Bulldogs will need to be at their best.

Dobbs and senior Roderick Battle will start at defensive end against the Cowboys, with redshirt freshman Cornelius Washington, true freshman Montez Robinson and Marcus Washington, who will be making his debut at defensive end after moving over from Mike linebacker earlier in camp. Kiante Tripp would have figured into the mix but he won't be traveling to Stillwater, Okla. after suffering a shoulder stinger in practice.

"I'm really excited," Marcus Washington said. "It's been a long time coming for me. It's been over a year since I've played, and with this new position, I feel kind of like a freshman but I'm ready to go out and give it my all."

But don't look for Washington to be in awe of his new surroundings.

The thought of possible having to lineup against All-Big 12 Conference left tackle Russell Okung (6-5, 300) doesn't faze him in the least.

"You've got to have the mentality as a player that whomever they put in front of you that you're going to beat them," Washington said. "That's my mentality and that's my teammates' mentality - whomever they put in front of us, we're going to beat you."

Don't rule out an Okung-Washington matchup taking place.

According to Dobbs, he and Battle will flip flop at their respective positions, depending on what defensive play is being called at that particular time.

"We all have to know how to play both sides, so that's never a big deal," Dobbs said. "We're just ready to play."

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