Banged up line looks to slow AU ground game

ATHENS -- When <b>Gerald Anderson</b> heard a pop in his knee in the third quarter of the Florida game, he was scared.

"I thought it was a torn ACL," the sophomore defensive tackle said.

Rodney Garner was scared, too. Georgia's defensive line coach has seen too many of his tackles limp off the field this season. Gerald Anderson, Ray Gant, Marcus Jackson and Ken Veal have all missed time due to injuries.

"It's pretty frustrating," Garner said last week. "I need another position. There's going to be an opening -- defensive line coach at Georgia."

Things are looking a little bright this week in Athens, though. It turns out Anderson's knee is structurally sound, and he'll be ready to play against Auburn on Saturday.

Anderson and Veal are expected to start and be relieved by Darrius Swain and Ray Gant. Marquis Elmore, who has moved from defensive end to defensive tackle, will be fifth in the rotation.

"I'm just glad we've got a rotation," Veal said. "It was getting pretty thin there in that Florida game."

The newfound depth comes just in time for the No. 7 Bulldogs (7-2, 4-2 SEC). The Tigers (6-4, 4-2) have the second-best rushing offense in the SEC (186.5 ypg) and, more than any other team in the league, pride themselves on a physical, inside running game.

"The thing about Auburn that makes them different from anybody we've played is their ability to run the football and to run power right at you," Coach Mark Richt said.

Auburn is paced by All-SEC candidate Carnell "Cadillac" Williams, who is averaging 99 yards per game. In the Tiger's six victories, they have averaged 262.4 yards rushing, including a 405-yard performance on 56 carries against Mississippi State.

"It's up to the defensive line," Veal said. "We need to make big plays for us to win. I like the challenge, bring it all on our shoulders."

Georgia has allowed just four teams to surpass 100 yards on the ground, and Vanderbilt's 116 is the most given up by the Bulldog defense. Georgia is second in the SEC and ninth in the country in rushing defense (86.6 ypg), and the Bulldogs and LSU are the only two teams in the country to have given up fewer than four rushing touchdowns. (Each has surrendered two.)

Still, Auburn's physical and relentless rushing attack worries Richt. The Tigers average 43.5 carries per game, tops in the SEC.

"It's just, 'Can you tackle these guys?' That's my biggest concern," Richt said. "We've got to tackle on a consistent basis. All it takes is one missed tackle. Every single down could be the down they pop it. You hammer long enough and usually something breaks."

Anderson has no doubt he and his linemates can hold up, he said.

"I know the kind of players who play with me between the tackles," he said. "I know we'll hold up against a team like Auburn. This is a team we dream about playing. This is our kind of game."

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