Martinez struggles with depth issues

Earlier this year when the suspension bug hit Georgia, no one knew that the Bulldogs would have a rash of injuries that would put a victory over Clemson in question before they even entered Death Valley.

ATHENS – Earlier this year when the suspension bug hit Georgia, no one knew that the Bulldogs would have a rash of injuries that would put a victory over Clemson in question before they even entered Death Valley.

But now with two of its non-suspended secondary players out for the Clemson game because of injuries, Georgia Secondary Coach Willie Martinez is starting to wonder how he and his Dawgs are going to cover the explosive Tigers.

"You would like to have 2-deep and that's 6 cover corners in the nickel two-deep but right now we don't have that," said Martinez.

Starter Kentrell Curry was injured in the first couple days of fall camp and his back up, Greg Blue, was hurt shortly thereafter. Neither is expected to play against Clemson. Those two devastating injuries combined with the preseason suspensions has made it hard for Martinez to find players in Georgia's secondary to even practice with.

The depth in the secondary is so bad for Georgia that one back up in the secondary is a true freshman; and not even the true freshman that most though would contribute right away.

"Kenny Bailey, Mike Gilliam, (and true freshman) Thomas Flowers are right now in the backup roles," said Martinez. "We can't even get enough out there and practice nickel right now."

That statement alone should have Tiger fans excited about this Saturday.

But what is a bit misleading about the rash of suspensions and injuries is that with the exception of one player, all of the missing players are back ups and reserves. Curry is the only starter that is scheduled to miss the game. Bruce Thornton, Sean Jones, and DeCory Bryant will still be in their starting positions. Still, the lack of depth is a difficult to deal with Martinez.

"Right now, like I told some of these guys, I am not ruling anyone out," he said.

Martinez went on to say that if Georgia can avoid situations where depth will be a factor, the secondary can manage.

"We would like to have 6 corners ready to go, not that we can't play a game because we don't have six," he said. "All you need is two to stay in our regular defense," he said of the situation.

But what will happen when Clemson lines up with multiple wide receivers and gets Georgia out of its regular defense? How will Georgia defend Clemson in obvious nickel situations without the correct personnel in the game?

One thing that makes the coaching staff breath a little bit easier is the fact that current starting linebacker Thomas Davis has been moved back to safety for the Clemson game.

That means that Arnold Harrison, who played the bulk of past season's game against the Tigers because of Tony Gilbert's injury during the game, has been shoved into the starting linebacker to replace Davis. That move helps the secondary out, but the carousel moves around and around for the rest of the defense as the team tries to plug as many holes as possible at linebacker and defensive end.

All told Georgia will have one linebacker "out of position" (although he played all last season there) and will have no back up player with experience in the nickel package.

Flowers, a true freshman, will have to play a lot against Clemson because of his location on the depth chart. Martinez said that he is happy with the way that Flowers has played this fall. "Flowers is going now. He is starting to pick up some confidence and is starting to make more plays," said Martinez. But according to Martinez playing true freshman is a risk: "A freshman's eyes are wide open the first ball game of the year."

"Clemson has great wideouts and we know that. They are very talented. It is going to be a major challenge for us. There is a concern there, no doubt about it. We'll have to wait and see with the injures how it goes with the young kids." he added.

Head Coach Mark Richt said Georgia's current situation is unsettling. "We're going to have to play players that aren't quite ready to go."

Ready or not, once Clemson runs down the field, Georgia's secondary will have to be ready to go no matter what level of experience they are.

Tommorow... How David Greene plans to rebound from last season's disappointing game with Clemson... How Mark Richt feels going into the game.

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