Rodney Garner is a Much Happier Coach

ATHENS - Georgia defensive line coach Rodney Garner is a much happier man than he was a month ago.

Granted, he had a long way to come considering his starting point was the 294 rushing yards the third-ranked Bulldogs (4-0, 2-0 SEC) surrendered against Georgia Southern.

"After that first game, if I can say (pissed), he was (pissed) off at us," defensive tackle Kedric Golston said.

Rodney Garner is primarily responsible for two tackle positions, where Golston and Gerald Anderson start. Those two inside positions gets most of the credit or blame for rushing yards allowed.

Against Georgia Southern, Golston and Anderson "played awful," Garner said. Garner took some of the blame for that because he focused so much attention on the Eagles' cut blocking schemes and how the defensive tackles needed to play against them.

"I was just disappointed in how we handled the situation," he said.

"They weren't playing football, they were playing to protect their legs and their knees and their ankles."

In the three games since, Garner has concentrated more on attitude than technique. The result has been 177 total rushing yards allowed and Garner's improved attitude. Golston and Anderson have combined for 12 tackles and half a sack in those three games.

"They've played extremely well," said Coach Mark Richt, who praised both their run defense and pass rushing. "We know we're going to create some problems on the edge, but if the quarterback has somewhere to step up into, then he's still in pretty good shape. Those guys are playing big for us. Hopefully, they will stay healthy and keep playing hard."

The defensive tackles and the Bulldogs' rush defense will face its biggest test since the Georgia Southern game Saturday against No.17 Tennessee (3-1, 1-1). The Volunteers are second in the conference and 16th in the country with 224.2 rushing yards per game.

"They're going to play well up front, and they're going to run the football on us," Garner said. "It's all about toughness. It's going to be one of those tough, hard-nosed games."

"They're the best offensive line in the SEC," Golston added.

The development of defensive tackle reserves Ray Gant and Darrius Swain should help keep Anderson and Golston fresh. Gant, who is the top backup and starts for the Bulldogs in pass rush situations, played more snaps than Golston or Anderson against LSU because the Bulldogs used their trey package so often in third-and-long situations.

Swain has played in all four games and has five tackles. Even that minimal contribution seemed unlikely in the preseason when Swain showed up weighing more than 365 pounds. He's still more than 350, which has earned him the nickname "House" among his teammates because he's as big as a house.

"At some point, he may be a mansion," Garner said.

Still, Garner was pleased with Swain's contribution against LSU in which he played 18 plays. Saturday's game will play to Swain's strength.

"That's what you look forward to," said Swain. "As a run-stopper, you definitely look forward to a team that is going to try to run it down your throat."

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