October 14, 2009

Backups to get expanded roles

Don't look for that many changes on defense when Georgia tries to snap its two-game losing streak Saturday afternoon at Vanderbilt.

According to defensive coordinator Willie Martinez, the Bulldogs (3-3, 2-2) will stick with their current starting lineup, although a couple of backup players are expected to receive more snaps than they have before.

"We'll continue to play the guys we're playing, although there are some we want to give more reps," Martinez said. "I know we'll be playing Bacarri (Rambo) more, which we have already done. He's been very productive and getting really confident in our scheme, understanding it, along with some of the other guys."

Freshman cornerback Branden Smith is also expected to see additional time in place of wide corner Prince Miller.

Head coach Mark Richt explained why this is being done.

"We mentioned Reshad Jones is probably getting too many reps. To get every rep is not good for anybody in my opinion. I think there needs to be a time when you are not on the field every single down," Richt said. "Prince Miller is getting a ton of reps. He's getting a ton of defensive reps, he's been the gunner just about every play on the punt team. He's been the punt return man; he's the safety on the kickoff team. He's playing a lot of reps, and we need to get Branden (Smith) in there more."

As it turns out, Smith will have no choice but to get more playing time.

With Vance Cuff suspended for Saturday's game at Vanderbilt, Smith is assured of seeing extensive time as the backup for Miller with Sanders Commings likely to get just as much PT subbing for Brandon Boykin on the short side.

"Once we get in the nickel, we get Branden in there a good bit because Prince moves to the nickel," Richt said. "Again, I think he could use a break in there."

But regardless of who's playing where, Martinez says there's obviously tons of improvement that needs to be made following last week's 45-19 debacle at Tennessee.

In the game, quarterback Jonathan Crompton enjoyed a career day throwing for 310 yards, many of those coming when the senior was consistently able to bootleg away from pressure before routinely finding an open receiver.

"There has to be 11 guys hitting on all cylinders when you're playing defense. Last week we would have nine doing their job, two guys who weren't; 10 guys doing their job, one guy who wasn't," he said. "We had opportunities to make plays when they were running these play-action plays but just didn't make them."

But figuring out a way to slow down the bootleg pass isn't the defense's only concern.

According to Richt, Georgia's inability to keep opponents from converting third-and-long situations has been a large part of the problem for the defense, which has given up a league-worst 30.7 points per game. Tennessee converted five of 11 third down opportunities against the Bulldogs.

"I think when we get people in the third and long situations, the possession down, we need to nail it more often. We need to get off the field when we get them there. There are a lot of things we have to improve on all the way across the board with the entire football team," Richt said. "We've gotten ourselves in that position on enough occasions where if we could just finish it I think the outcome of a couple of our games would have been different too."

This week, the Bulldogs will have to deal with sophomore quarterback Larry Smith, who ranks 12th in the SEC in total offense averaging 157.8, but has struggled throwing the football completing just 77 of 166 passes for 846 yards and two touchdowns while rushing for 101 yards and two scores.

Vandy (2-4, 0-3) is led on the ground by a pair of freshmen tailbacks in Zac Stacy and Warren Norman who have rushed for 282 and 398 yards, respectively.

"Anytime have an athletic quarterback, can get out of the pocket, run, throw, it's going to cause some problems defensively," Martinez said. "You've got to do a good job of communicating and they make you defend them because there's option involved and anytime there's option involved, it slows down a defense because you can't get too wild in case you get divided really quick."

The rest of Georgia's defensive lineup is expected to remain the same as Georgia is still expected to be without linebackers Akeem Dent (hamstring) and Marcus Dowtin (finger).

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