JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — Georgia defensive coordinator Todd Grantham had a succinct answer for why he chose to have Bulldog defenders engage in full tackling drills for two practices this week.
“Because we ain't tackled since Georgia Tech,” Grantham said in a ballroom of the Omni Jacksonville Hotel.
Grantham elaborated, saying Georgia's practices in Athens were more of a warmup to the workouts in Jacksonville. So for Georgia's first two workouts at Jacksonville University, defenders tackled to the ground for 10 to 15 plays.
“When you have that amount of layoff, it's important you get your timing down,” Grantham said. “And the only way you know you can tackle guys is to do it full speed. So that's what we did.”
Bug hits Bulldogs
Georgia chose a walk-through instead of an on-field practice Sunday, but coach Mark Richt said an illness making the rounds might have been problematic for the Bulldogs, anyway.
Center David Andrews and tailback Todd Gurley were among players feeling the effects of what Richt said was “hopefully just a 24-hour bug type of thing.” Quarterback Hutson Mason also practiced through it in recent days.
Richt said he didn't think any of the afflicted were bad off enough that they might have been out if the game were played Sunday.
“I think they would have played with it,” he said. “It would have been tough. A lot of times guys get dehydrated and all that. They might have had to take some fluids before the game.”
Drew steps up for defense
Georgia needed help defensively after losing seven players to the NFL draft. It found some with a junior defensive end who had never started a game until this season.
Ray Drew came through with 39 tackles, six sacks and 12 quarterback hurries.
“I think it's a good example of how you've just got to keep working and developing, and a guy like Ray it kind of clicked for him and he came on,” Grantham said. “And then he gets pretty comfortable and he starts playing fast, and doing the things you'd like for him to do.”
Grantham said Georgia skipped a redshirt season for Drew in 2011 because of a “lack of linemen with his ability.” Though he was limited to seven games that season as a true freshman, Grantham said the playing time helped the 6-foot-5, 276-pounder be ready this season.
Eyeing replacements at safety
Grantham was noncommittal about Georgia's plans to replace safety Josh Harvey-Clemons — suspended for the Gator Bowl for a violation of team rules. Grantham mentioned utility defender Connor Norman, corner Damian Swann, corner Brendan Langley and corner Devin Bowman as possible replacements.
Swann, who had two interceptions in the Capital One Bowl last season, starts at corner, so if he were to slide inside, Langley or Bowman might take his place at corner. Georgia also has two other safeties — Quincy Mauger and Tray Matthews — who could fill the “star” role in Harvey-Clemons' absence. The “star” position is similar to the dime linebacker position in Nebraska's defense, a hybrid safety-linebacker.
Line focused on NU's Gregory
Offensive line coach Will Friend said Sunday that the Bulldogs must find the right balance in dealing with Nebraska defensive end Randy Gregory, who led the Big Ten with 9Ĺ sacks.
“You're aware of him,” Friend said. “You know you're going to have to play good against him, and you're going to have to do things to help at different times that are within what you already do. I think sometimes if you go too far out of the way that you end up creating more issues, but he is really a good football player and he can create issues for people.”
Friend said the Georgia front five will have its hands full in general, even though NU is without defensive end Avery Moss.
“I think they've got good pass rushers off the edge, and I think they got strong guys in the middle,” he said. “I think they're tough. I think they're well-coached. I think they're a big challenge for us to beat, and we're going to have to play well.”
* * *
>> Video: See highlights from Nebraska's practice:
>> Video: See coach Bo Pelini address the media: