Jeff Owens was down and out, but, he thought, at least he had another season with Mark Richt in Athens. The duo gets along quite well, but the head coach more assuredly would have rather had Owens on the field during the 2008 season. That was something he found hard to live without.
Owens brings a certain amount of passion to the team. He is the player on the team to have won a SEC Championship. Missing him hurt the Dawgs in more ways than one. His leadership on the defensive line, a group that dropped off in production last season, was obvious. Missing his play on the line was even more painful for Richt and coach Rodney Garner to witness. Without Owens, fellow defensive tackle Geno Atkins really, really struggled.
The addition of Owens to the Dawgs will make a big difference in run defense for the Dawgs. Also, he has the ability to tie up defenders – that allows Atkins to get after the passer from up the middle. Make no mistake – Owens can pressure the signal caller, too. It is going to be interesting to see if Owens can make a clean transition from injury to the starting lineup – I expect that he will.
In the end, Owens will combine with quarterback Joe Cox to guide the 2009 team. Senior leadership significantly slumped in 2008 – that will not be a problem thanks to Owens in 2009.