Few Weaknesses

Put away the media guides, the Web addresses and the stat sheets. It does not take numbers to prove the Georgia football team is very good.

To win a conference like the SEC, a team has to be not only good but great. This year's champion, Georgia, is no exception. The Bulldogs are ranked in the top 10 for a reason, and they are as good as any BCS team in the mix.

For those of you who need numbers, start with senior quarterback D.J. Shockley. A College Park, Ga., native — the same hometown as former Mountaineer Pacman Jones, although Jones attended Westlake High School and Shockley North Clayton High School — the 6-1, 206-pound quarterback is without a doubt the team MVP. In fact, one of Georgia's two losses came to Florida when Shockley was out with a knee injury, and the other came to Auburn in his first week back. This Bulldog team revolves around its quarterback, and unfortunately for the Mountaineers, he should be at full strength after almost a month without a game.

There is no need to go into a deep explanation about what Shockley brings to the team, though. The numbers speak for themselves. In 11 starts, the Georgia signal-caller completed 153-of-277 passes for 2,311 yards and 21 touchdowns. These numbers are even more astonishing when the fact that Shockley tossed just five interceptions is considered.

Throwing the football may be what will earn No. 3 a big paycheck in the NFL someday, but it is not his only weapon. The 22-year-old quarterback is also the Bulldogs' fourth leading rusher with 251 yards and four touchdowns on 70 carries.

Stopping Shockley, though, is not the only worry for an opposing defense. In the Georgia backfield are a trio of tailbacks who can get the job done, and the rotation of the three by running backs coach Kirby Smart has helped the Dawgs keep fresh legs in the game at all times.

The starter is sophomore Thomas Brown, who leads the team with 658 yards and three touchdowns on 138 attempts. Danny Ware, another sophomore who stands 6-1 and weights in at 223 pounds, provides a nice change of pace from Brown's 5-8, 185-pound frame. Ware is second on the team with 486 yards on 100 carries, and he has found the end zone once this season.

A third sophomore, Kregg Lumpkin, is listed as the third-string tailback, but that does not mean he won't see plenty of action. Lumpkin has played in all 12 games, and he has 268 yards and two touchdowns on 57 carries this season.

The Georgia passing game does not use these tailbacks as much as some programs do, but they do love to use a number of different targets, including two talented tight ends.

Split end Mohammed Massaquoi is Shockley's favorite target. The Charlotte, N.C., native has caught 34 balls for 462 yards and two touchdowns.

Tight end Leonard Pope leads the team in receiving yards per game. The 6-7, 250-pound junior has both the frame and the hands to give opponents nightmares, and he has hauled in 33 balls for 491 yards and three scores this season.

Another split end Bryan McClendon is not far behind. The senior has 32 grabs on the year for 457 yards, and he is the team leader with five touchdowns. Junior Sean Bailey, who averaged more than 22 yards per reception, will miss the game with a knee injury, but his absence is not expected to seriously impact the Bulldogs' passing attack.

Georgia's success in both the running game and the passing game can be partially attributed to a veteran offensive line that includes three seniors and a pair of juniors.

Senior Russ Tanner is the starter in the middle, and he is flanked by senior Max Jean-Gilles – a firstteam All-America selection — and junior Nick Jones. Jean-Gilles is the largest member of Georgia's offensive front at 6-4, 350 pounds. Senior tackle Dennis Roland, who stands 6-9 and weighs a healthy 309 is not exactly undersized either, and 6-7, 328- pound split-side tackle Daniel Inman completes the unit, which has allowed the Bulldogs to rush for 157 yards per game while giving up just 20 sacks all year.

There is little question that Georgia likes to travel through the skies, but that does not mean it is unwilling to pound it out if it has to. Brown has topped 90 yards in three different games this season, and offensive coordinator Neil Callaway is more than willing to put it in his hands if that is what is needed.

Although Shockley and Pope may be two of the Bulldogs' most recognizable names, defense is what earned the team the SEC crown. In a league filled with great talent, Georgia held all but one of its opponents under 20 points (Auburn 31) throughout a 12-game schedule. Teams managed just 297.8 yards per game against the UGA defense this season, and only 124 of those yards came on the ground, where WVU is obviously best. The Dawgs came up with 16 interceptions and 32 sacks this season, and they managed to put fear in the eyes of virtually every offensive coordinator in the SEC.

The stingy Bulldog unit is led by senior free safety Greg Blue. Also a native of College Park, Ga. — Blue attended Banneker High School — the Walter Camp All- American led the team with 88 total tackles and 63 solo stops. Six quarterback hurries, five pass breakups and two interceptions also helped earn him the reputation of one of the best safeties in the country.

The other Bulldog safety is junior Tra Battle, who is starting for the first time this season. The undersized Battle (5-11, 167 lbs.) has also made a large impact in the UGA secondary with 66 tackles, four pass breakups and a pair of interceptions.

Filling out the rest of the Georgia secondary are a pair of senior corners in DeMario Minter and Tim Jennings. Minter is the team leader in pass breakups with nine, and he has two interceptions on the year. His 46 tackles and 3.5 tackles for loss also helped the Stone Mountain, Ga., product earn All-SEC honors.

Standing at only 5-8, Jennings does not break up nearly as many passes as Minter, but he does have the speed to hang with any receiver. Also an All-SEC selection, the recreation and leisure studies major has 51 tackles and four interceptions on the year.

Just as it is on offense, Georgia's front line in its 4-3 defensive attack is filled with both size and experience.

A pair of senior tackles anchor the unit with 6-foot-2-inch, 315- pound Gerald Anderson leading the way at nose. In nine starts this season, the Ware County (Ga.) High School product has just 15 total tackles, but his nine quarterback hurries have helped keep him in the lineup.

Kedric Golston (6-4, 292 lbs., Sr.), who has been invited to play in the East-West Shrine all-star game after the season, is the other tackle. Like Anderson, Golston has shown an incredible ability to put heat on the quarterback, and he has 27 hurries to his credit in just nine games.

Senior Will Thompson and junior Quentin Moses are the bookends on the defensive line. Thompson (6-3, 254 lbs., Sr.) seems to always be in opponents' backfields, and he has 24 quarterback hurries, nine tackles for loss and five sacks to prove it. Moses (6-5, 248 lbs., Jr.), a hometown product from Athens' Cedar Shoals High School, is another All-SEC selection on the Georgia defense, and he has recorded 42 tackles this year. He is also tops on the team with 10.5 sacks, and he has forced a pair of fumbles on the year.

Perhaps the most impressive unit on the entire Georgia team, however, is its trio of linebackers, who possess the perfect combination of speed and intelligence.

Will linebacker Jarvis Jackson stands out as the best of the best. The junior from Atlanta is second on the team with 73 total tackles, and he also has a sack and 11 quarterback hurries to his credit.

Another junior, Danny Verdun Wheeler, has also put up big numbers at the linebacker position. In eight starts, the Thomson, Ga., native has 59 tackles and three tackles for loss to his credit.

The final member of the starting trio is sophomore Brandon Miller, who has started 10 games in his second season with the Dawgs. Miller has been hampered on and off by a hamstring injury, but he has still managed to record 40 tackles, force a fumble and break up a pass in his time on the field.

Depth is certainly no problem at the linebacker position either, as eight different players have seen significant time and made big plays at that position.

If you are looking for a weakness from Georgia, you won't find it with the Bulldog special teams either.

Kicker Brandon Coutu has connected on 25-of-32 field goals this season, including a long of 58 yards, and he is a perfect 43-for-43 on extra points. Punter Gordon Ely-Kelso is not bad either, as he averages 42.7 yards per boot and has pinned an amazing 41 percent of his punts inside the 20-yard line.

The Sugar Bowl match-up between the Bulldogs and the Mountaineers will be the first ever meeting between the two schools in football, but that does not mean West Virginia will be seeing entirely new faces. Georgia director of strength and conditioning Dave Van Halanger was a three-year starter on the WVU offensive line, playing with the Mountaineers from 1972-75, and he was the strength coach at West Virginia from 1978-82.

Tight ends coach David Johnson also has WVU ties, having played for the Mountaineers from 1979-83. He was the starting center on the 1981 Peach Bowl and 1982 Gator Bowl teams.


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