Sizing up the Dawgs, part two

Less than a week from kickoff, CUTigers caught up with Dawg Post publisher Dean Legge for his perspective on Georgia, next Saturday's game and much more.

The following Q&A is the second and final part of our series with Legge.

What is the biggest concern for the defense?
Legge: They're returning one guy back there, and that group was pretty good last year. Of the four starters that should be playing, at least one of them is going to be out, because of the suspension. Then, the other kid, who is a true freshman [Tray Matthews] and damn good, he's been hobbled. I'm trying to think of one guy in the secondary that has been ‘injured' this fall. I'm not sure I can remember who that is.

Given the number of departures from the defense, how much concern is there with so many inexperienced guys stepping into bigger roles?
Legge: Normally, you would say yeah. But, at middle linebacker, Alec Ogletree had been injured or suspended so many times the guy starting in place of him has five less career starts than Alec. Amarlo Herrara has been a really a very good linebacker, a very solid linebacker. He's got 13 starts. You've got him. You've got Jordan Jenkins, who's returning as a starter from last year. The guy to keep an eye on, [outside linebacker] James Deloach, he played last year, but didn't played a lot. He's a starter. Leonard Floyd is really catching a lot of people's attention. He's the backup there, for now. I don't think it would be wise to be in third-and-10 very often if you're Clemson. Those guys can really rush the passer. Georgia got tired at the end of last season on the defensive line. Rotating eight or nine guys on the defensive line, they shouldn't get tired this year, so we'll see. That front seven could be pretty good for Georgia.

How are things shaping up on the defensive line?
Legge: [Defensive tackle] had two guys, Kwame Geathers was 340 pounds and John [Jenkins] was 350. They don't have guys that big anymore, but they have a lot of guys who are approaching that size. Right now, it's Michael Thornton, but it's hard to say this kid's a nose. They all play multiple positions on that line. They play d-end, they play nose. John Taylor, James Deloach's teammate in high school, he'll play some at nose. Chris Mayes will play some at nose. The ends…Garrison Smith, for sure, will probably start. Sterling Bailey will probably start. Ray Drew will have a backup role. Josh Dawson will probably play. That's a lot of defensive linemen. They're not unstoppable. They're not just killing people, but they don't have to kill people. They just have to go as hard as they can go for that play or two then leave the game. It's going to be a wave of guys.

There are two starters returning at linebacker. What's going on outside of those two spots?
Legge: Amarlo Herrara and Ramik Wilson are the middle linebackers. Amarlo has started 12 or 13 games, whatever it is. Ramik has played outside linebacker and inside linebacker. I don't think he's unbelievable, but he's a guy that Todd Grantham really trust to be there and make the play. I don't think people should expect Ramik Wilson and Amarlo Herrara to be Alec Ogletree and Mike Gilliard. Those guys are better than Mike Gilliard, who started last year. I do think that they should expect them to be steady.

It sounds like there have been some injury issues in the secondary, kind of like there have been at Clemson. What's the latest there?
Legge: Shaquille Fluker is going to start at safety. Corey Moore is out with a knee. Josh Harvey-Clemmons is out with a suspension. Those guys are out, for sure. Brendan Langley and Shquille Fluker will probably start at safety, if I had to guess, besides Tray Matthews…that'

Is there a guy on the defensive side of the ball who isn't right now, but could be a household name by the end of the season?
Legge: I would say two guys. Leonard Floyd, for sure, he's going to be a big deal. That's a first two round NFL guy. You've got Tray Matthews he'll be a high round guy, too. But they've never played college football before. Leonard was a backup and Deloach has held him off for a while. They think Leonard Floyd is very good. Not that is surprising if you follow recruiting, but they think Leonard Floyd is very good. They think Tray Matthews is very good, but Tray's been hurt. Leonard broke his thumb, but he'll be fine.

How excited are Georgia fans now that this game is back for the next two seasons?
Legge: This is going to be it, I think. This game may get played four times over the next 30 years. It's just kind of going to go away. It looks like the SEC, the only thing that's good about this rivalry in the future -- it looks like the SEC will stick with eight games. That gives this ‘rivalry' a shot. These teams have played four times in 20 years. It's not what it used to be. I think Georgia fans, if Clemson wasn't highly ranked, would be wondering why they're playing this game. A lot of people have passed away since this game was a huge deal. I remember it in the 80s, for sure. That's a long time ago. None of these players remember that. They just don't…they're right there, the two schools should play sports more often. I don't know why they don't play basketball every single year. That's so stupid. Georgia fans have their pecking order and it doesn't really change very much. Clemson has this romantic notion of a rivalry, but that's kind of died. If they were playing Florida State in Tallahassee, I wonder what their reaction would be to that…the SEC has become such a monster -- right or wrong -- those games have taken on such importance, those out of conference games aren't what they used to be anymore.

What's the feeling amongst Georgia fans? How confident are they heading into this game?
Legge: There are all the issues in the secondary. They're only two-point favorite. There's hand wringing, particularly at the beginning of the year, because you don't know anything. The last game Clemson played, they looked like they were one of the better teams in the country. The game before that, they couldn't handle South Carolina at all. Which one is it? The short answer is what don't know. There is that sort of fear of the unknown. It's all wrapped up in a bunch of different things. You have the beginning of the season. You have the unknown. You also have the, ‘When is this going to happen for us?' moment. That's pretty much 365 days a year at Georgia now. They want to win a national championship. That's pretty much the only thing Mark [Richt] has not done, with the exception of an SEC Championship, it's the only thing Aaron [Murray] hasn't done. They know that this game, frankly, it's bigger for Clemson than it is for Georgia. But I think that the underlying SEC/ACC thing, they don't want to lose to an ACC team, period, even though Clemson isn't a typical ACC team. They want to win the first game.

Over the last couple of years, it seemed like Mark Richt was always on the hot seat. Did he bide some time with last year's run to the SEC title game?
Legge: I don't know if you're every safe in the SEC. He's safe until they kickoff against Clemson, or if they lose to Florida. That will get you run out. If you lose to [Georgia] Tech, that will get you fired. It just will. You lose to Tech twice, you'll be in trouble…it's not something you want to do.

Fill in the blank. If Clemson does [fill in the blank], they'll beat Georgia.
Legge: Runs the ball effectively. That does not mean Tajh Boyd. [Roderick] McDowell is going to have to run it. They're going to have to have about 115 yards, not junk. They'll have a shot. They've got to run the ball. If they can run the ball, they'll win. If they don't, they'll make it very complicated for themselves, same thing for Georgia.

Fill in the blank. If Georgia does [fill in the blank], they'll beat Clemson.
Legge: I would almost say if they don't turn it over. If they win the turnover battle, they'll win.

Who do you think will win?
Legge: I do think Georgia is going to win. I think one of three things will happen. I think Clemson could win tight, Georgia will win tight or Georgia is going to win by like seven or 10, a score. I think Georgia will pull it out because of the depth, in general, on the team. They've got some issues in the secondary. I think everybody knows that Aaron [Murray] can hurt himself, at times, against teams that have orange in their colors. I think something like 38-35, 38-31, something like that. Or, maybe, 42-31. It will be a very competitive game. Both teams think they're good. They're going to fight to try and win. But, to me, I think Georgia is going to squeak it out, barely, but I would not be surprised if Clemson won. I think that would be an upset. It would be, because they're not favored.

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