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September 14, 2007

Rotation keeps Dawgs fresh

ATHENS - Depth is making defensive tackle a surprise strength for Georgia. Last Saturday, South Carolina ran 65 plays on offense. No Georgia defensive tackle was on the field for as many as 40 plays, as a five-man rotation for the two spots helped keep each of the linemen fresh. Jeff Owens, a junior, and Kade Weston, a sophomore, are the two starters. Georgia also is playing sophomore Geno Atkins and juniors Corvey Irvin and Jarius Wynn in the rotation. A strength? ``I would have to say yes,'' said coach Mark Richt. ``Between Geno and Jeff and Kade and Wynn and Corey, that's a lot of guys to roll and keep fresh who have ability.'' The 23rd-ranked Bulldogs (1-1) play Western Carolina on Saturday. Irvin and Wynn are transfers from Georgia Military College. Owens made 11 starts last year. Weston made six starts last year as a freshman. Owens led the group with 38 snaps against South Carolina, according to Weston. ``I was right there with 37,'' Weston said. No other defensive tackle played as many as 30 snaps. ``I definitely love the rotation,'' Weston said. ``We've got a five-man rotation going. We can still come up with 30-something snaps. That just keeps us fresh. We've just got to keep performing.'' Weston (6-5, 315) led the unit with a career-high five tackles, including 2.5 for losses, and a sack in the loss to South Carolina. ``I think I can safely say that was his best performance,'' Richt said of Weston, adding that the sophomore was voted the team's most productive defensive player in the game. ``He was pushing that guard right in the backfield a bunch, run and pass,'' Richt said. Atkins had two tackles, including one for a loss, and ranks second in the Southeastern Conference with four stops behind the line. Richt said he also is happy with the play of defensive ends Roderick Battle and Marcus Howard. Jeremy Lomax is the top backup. RISING SAFETY: Safety Kelin Johnson, the only one of Georgia's top five 2006 tacklers to return this season, is questionable this week with injured ribs. Johnson's injury could lead to redshirt freshman Reshad Jones joining C.J. Byrd as the starting safeties. Jones (6-2, 203) is regarded as a future star, but he had one embarrassing moment against South Carolina when he stopped in the middle of a play the only touchdown of the game because he thought he heard a whistle. ``That was a bad image, as (defensive coordinator) Willie Martinez likes to say, that was a bad image watching it on film,'' Richt said. ``But overall he did pretty good. He's got a long way to go. He's a pretty instinctive football player. He's not afraid to hit. He's got good hands.'' Jones is listed as the backup to Byrd at free safety but may move up next season as the successor to Johnson at strong safety. ``Everyone knows that strong safety is more run support, and I think I have the body type for it,'' Jones said. ``I know how to play both safety positions. In our system, Coach Martinez calls it left and right safety, and it's good to know both.'' THE MICHIGAN LESSON: Because Western Carolina is a Championship Subdivision team, formerly known as I-AA, there have been predictable reminders this week about Appalachian State's huge opening-week upset of Michigan. ``I see (Appalachian State) all over the place news clippings, ESPN and the coaches steadily mention it trying to keep us mentally focused,'' said cornerback Thomas Flowers.


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