Mysterious Georgia defense still talented

CLEMSON – When asked about Georgia's defense this week, Chad Morris was rather vague. And really, that's not surprising.

The biggest thing we know about the unit that'll line up across from Tajh Boyd and Clemson's offense in Memorial Stadium is that we don't know much.

Defensive coordinator Todd Grantham returns only four starters from a unit which allowed only 19.6 points and 358 yards per game. Linebacker Jarvis Jones, a first-round pick of the Pittsburgh Steelers, is beginning his first NFL season. So is fellow ‘backer Alec Ogletree, a first-round pick of the St. Louis Rams.

Junior cornerback Damian Swann is the secondary's only returning starter from 2012, and the unit has been further thinned by suspensions and injuries. Projected starting safety Josh Harvey-Clemons will miss this week due to a suspension connected to a May arrest for marijuana possession. And freshman Tray Matthews, a projected starter at free safety, is doubtful while battling shoulder and hamstring injuries which have limited him this month. In addition, fellow safeties Corey Moore (knee) and Shaquille Fluker (illness) are also questionable, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

How does Morris prepare his offense? Wait and see.

"They're going to come in and be as prepared as they've ever been," he said. "They've got a bunch of young guys that this'll be their first time in a starting role, but a lot of them have played and gotten reps in the course of their season. Until you get the final puzzle pieces and see how things are going to go, how they're going to play, it may take a couple series to see a few things."

That said, Morris remains confident that the young Dawgs will still have plenty of bite, noting that many of them received valuable experience a year ago.

"They've got a lot of those players. They've got a lot of them," he said. "Obviously, what we've been studying and going off of has been last year's film. The players they have returning from last year - they've got some really good young talent, and players that have gotten significant playing time from last year that maybe weren't starters, that we've got to be aware of. Absolutely."

The top four tacklers from a year ago – Ogletree, Jones, Shawn Williams and Bacarri Rambo – are all gone, but linebacker Amarlo Herrera (70 tackles, three for tackles for loss) and end Garrison Smith (57 tackles, 1 sack, two tackles for loss) return.

When asked what worried him most about Georgia's defense, however, Morris spoke in generalities.

"They play with such a great passion. Very well-coached," he said. "They're going to disguise their coverages, they're going to bring pressure just like everyone else does. They've got some young guys that are trying to earn their stripes. They're trying to get in there, prove a point that that's where they need to be. We see that, we've seen it on film, from guys they had last year. There are some young guys who got there in January who have been through spring and a fall camp and they're starters. They're very well coached, they're sound."

Returning most of an offense that averaged 41 points and 513 yards per game a year ago, Morris is more concerned about what he can control. With his players.

"You've got to worry about the Clemson Tigers," he said. "We've got to make sure we don't give them anything. We don't want to give them any freebies. That's the biggest thing this week and next week and going forward, it's about the Clemson Tigers right now, and we know what kind of an opponent we're going to get but we're not going to give them anything."

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