Bulldogs Talented but Inconsistent

Auburn defensive coordinator Will Muschamp takes a look at the Georgia defense.

Auburn, Ala.--There is a reason why Georgia is the defending SEC Champion, and there is a reason why the Bulldogs started the 2006 season at 5-0 and ranked in the Top 10 in the country. The 6-4 record doesn't show it, but lots of talent is there on the Georgia football team.

The Bulldogs have been plagued this season by turnovers, injuries and inconsistent play. The turnovers start with the quarterback position where true freshman Matthew Stafford is the starter. However, Auburn defensive coordinator Will Muschamp has a great deal of respect for his talents.

"He has tremendous arm strength and he can make all of the throws," Muschamp notes. "He can zip it, he can put touch on it, he can do everything. He rolls in the pocket. Against Colorado he rolls to his left, stops and flips it around a Colorado guy's helmet. It's phenomenal. I rewinded it five times going, ‘Gosh I can't believe this guy made this throw.' He's a very talented guy."

Stafford has thrown 12 interceptions this year and the Bulldogs have thrown 15 picks as a team. But the struggles in the passing game aren't limited to just the quarterbacks.

"You watch every game and it's six and eight balls being dropped," Muschamp notes. "The Florida game is a totally different game if they catch the ball down the field because they've got guys open and they've got guys beating coverage and they don't make some plays down the field."

Tight end Martrez Milner, who leads the team with 21 receptions, has had his share of drops as well.

Part of the problem at receiver is injuries. One of last year's starting wideouts, Sean Bailey, hasn't even played this season because a torn ACL suffered last December, and Mohamed Massaquoi has battled in recent weeks with a hip pointer. Demiko Goodman played against Kentucky, but later found out he had torn his ACL and is out for the season and Mario Raley is not likely to play against Auburn because of a scary head/neck injury suffered in Lexington.

"At wideout they are obviously banged up, but I think Massaquoi talent-wise is as good as anybody in the league," Muschamp notes. "The other kids just haven't played that much. Mikey Anderson is obviously a great returner and good with the ball in his hands."

The Bulldogs have a talented trio of running backs in Kregg Lumpkin, Danny Ware and Thomas Brown. However, they have played without Brown in recent weeks because of yet another ACL injury suffered on a kick return against Vanderbilt.

Lumpkin, who missed 2004 with a torn ACL, is this year's leading rusher with 603 yards and four touchdowns.

Ware has 241 yards on the ground and three scores and has contributed another 165 yards on 12 catches in the passing game.

"I think losing Thomas Brown hurts them as far as a big-play threat, although the two guys they've got are outstanding," Muschamp notes. "I think Lumpkin and Ware are very similar backs--one-cut, tough runners who are going to get down hill on you and do a good job. We need to stand up and do well against those guys. Brannan Southerland is the best fullback in the SEC. He's a tough, physical guy and they slip him out and he does a good job."

The Georgia offensive line, which is limited in numbers even when healthy, has also battled through injuries which has led to inconsistency. However, the front five could be back and close to top shape for the Auburn game.

"Every film you turn on there is a different guy playing a different position," Muschamp says. "They've had a lot of guys out. Secondary and offensive line you have to have continuity at those positions for everybody to be on the same page. If you don't have that then you'll tend to struggle a little bit.

"When they've been healthy they've been really good. They come off the ball. I know Neil (Callaway). Neil is an outstanding coach and he'll have them ready to go. They'll play tough, they'll play physical."

Callaway is Georgia's offensive coordinator and offensive line coach. He was offensive line coach at Auburn under Pat Dye from 1981 to 1992.

"The big thing is that they are getting Chester Adams back," Muschamp says of the only Georgia player from the state of Alabama. "He's probably their best guard and both tackles are still there. The center, Nick Jones, started against us (at LSU) in 2003. Their starting five is just fine. We've got to roll our defensive linemen a lot because they have to play their starting five. I don't know if they have any other guys that they can go to that they feel comfortable with. We're going to roll a lot of our D-linemen and keep our guys fresh in the game and try as much as we can to wear them out."

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