Dawgs must slow down Southern's vaunted option

ATHENS — Georgia's defensive coaches recruit based on speed. They preach fast, fast, fast in every practice. They believe in the power of speed.And now, in the first game of the season, they have to go slow. Georgia Southern's trademark triple option, one of most dynamic offenses in the country, forces that.

"We're pretty much playing fast every time we're on the field," safety Thomas Davis said. "With the option, we have to play slow to fast. You can't be as aggressive as you usually can. We have to sit back and react."The No. 3 Bulldogs play the Eagles on Saturday at 3 p.m. in Sanford Stadium. The game will be televised by Fox Sports.

"We're a gang that runs fairly well and is used to getting a lot of hats on the ball," defensive coordinator Brian VanGorder said. "Now you're talking about who's got the back, who's got the pitch. It takes away some of your flow on defense."

Southern is the first triple-option team Georgia's current coaching staff has faced while at the school. The only option they've seen at all is the splashes that New Mexico State and Vanderbilt have used, VanGorder said.

The option poses challenges for Georgia's scout team as well, which must try to learn the offense well enough to provide a reasonable test for the defense in practice. It's almost an impossible task, Coach Mark Richt said.

"You have to have 11 guys doing it right. We might have 1 doing it right," he said. "(The Eagles) are going to cause all kind of problems for us because we can't simulate their option. I would imagine they are going to break some big runs and a big throw here or there."

GSU has led Division I (both A and AA) in rushing in both of Coach Mike Sewak's two seasons as head coach. Last year, they averaged 335.6 yards per game on the ground, almost as much as Georgia gained overall (380.3) per game.

Junior fullback Jermaine Austin is Southern's leading returning rusher. Austin, the preseason Southern Conference player of the year, gained 1,461 yards last season, the third-best total in school history.

"He's a very dangerous runner," Richt said, "maybe as good as they've ever had at that position."

Stopping the fullback is the top priority against Southern's option, Richt said.

"If you don't stop the fullback, you're done," he said.

Quarterback Chaz Williams is next on the list. Williams is in charge of running the system and can make life hard on defenses because he is a running threat. In a traditional running game, the quarterback is not an option, which gives the defense one extra player on every snap.

"That's the beauty of the scheme," Richt said. "You may have a blocker on every guy. It's very difficult to stop that kind of offense if everybody blocks well and the quarterback makes the right decisions." But at least one Georgia defender thinks there are some positives to defending the triple option.

"I'm excited about facing it," sophomore linebacker Danny Verdun Wheeler said. "They're going to run, run, run. Hey, somebody might get 15 or 20 tackles."

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