Going into the season, Georgia’s defense was expected to be one of the best in the conference. Then suspensions and attrition set in and the Dawgs struggled early. But as star players have returned to the field, Todd Grantham’s unit hasn’t shown a whole lot of improvement.
Individual athletes? Check. A strong unit? No.
Against SEC competition only, UGA currently ranks ninth in the SEC in scoring defense, 10th in rushing defense, seventh in passing defense, and ninth in total defense. That’s just not good enough. And even a Bulldog defenders is now saying so. Forcefully.
Senior safety Shawn Williams let it all hang out yesterday:
“We’ve gotta stop playing soft. We’re playing too soft defensively,” Williams said. “That goes for D-line, linebackers, corners, safeties. I don’t know, we’re not playing with the same attitude we played with last year. I don’t know what it is…
It gets frustrating, because I’m sitting here and I’m giving all I got, and I feel like I’ve got some guys that’s not. I feel like that I’ve some guys that’s in a whole different plays.”
Asked who might not be giving their all, Williams said: “Everybody. We’ve got a side of the ball that’s seniors and juniors, so it’s everybody.”
He went on from there. From calling some teammates out in general to — apparently — calling some teammates out specifically. And then he went all the way to the Saints’ Bounty-gate scandal:
* “I’m trying to see if I just have to take someone’s helmet off and just slap them, or what’s going on? We’re not playing with any emotion right now, period.”
* “Me personally, if I was the coaches, I can’t tell them what to do, but I’d have (linebacker) Amarlo Herrera in the game more. I wouldn’t take him out. I’d leave him and (linebacker Alec) Ogletree in the game. That’s what I want. Me as a player, I want to see Amarlo in the game, Amarlo and Ogletree in the game at linebacker. I don’t want to see anybody else in the game at linebacker.” (Mike Gilliard and Christian Robinson are the players who see some time at the inside linebacker spots of which Williams spoke.)
* “It seems like we need the coach from the Saints, it seems liek we need him. It seems like we need a pay-for-play system. That’s what it seems like we need though. We need Sean Payton.” (According to Seth Emerson of The Macon Telegraph, Williams “seemed only half-joking when he invoked” the Saints scandal.)
There’s a fine line between delivering a fire-and-brimstone speech and burning down your own house. With a season-defining game with Florida coming up on Saturday, Georgia fans had better hope Williams’ “pep talk” inspires his fellow players. If not, his comments could be seen as pretty darn divisive after the fact.