Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Bulldogs Defense Still Stingy; No-Name Unit Keeps Up Tradition despite Loss of Coach, Standout Players

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Bulldogs Defense Still Stingy; No-Name Unit Keeps Up Tradition despite Loss of Coach, Standout Players

Article excerpt

Byline: MARC WEISZER

ATHENS -- In a one-week stretch in January, the face of Georgia's defense underwent an extreme makeover.

All-American safety Thomas Davis and All-SEC linebacker Odell Thurman followed Lombardi Award winner David Pollack out the door to the NFL. Defensive coordinator Brian VanGorder also left: He's now the linebackers coach for the Jaguars.

But fifth-ranked Georgia hasn't missed a beat on its way to a 4-0 start heading into Saturday's game at No. 8 Tennessee.

Defensive coordinator Willie Martinez, the secondary coach the previous four seasons, is directing a unit that, like its predecessors, ranks among the best in the nation.

Georgia is doing it without any preseason All-Americans or even a single player named first-team preseason All-SEC by the league's media.

"There ain't nobody being praised over the nation," said junior defensive end Quentin Moses, who leads Georgia with four sacks. "There ain't nobody worried about who's coming out early or who's doing this or that. It's all a unity, a brotherhood. We're playing more for each other."

Georgia is on track for its fourth consecutive season of finishing as a top-10 scoring defense and a top-15 total defense. The Bulldogs are giving up an average of 11.3 points (seventh nationally) and 259 yards (11th) per game.

"There's pressure on us to perform as good as in the past," junior linebacker Danny Verdun Wheeler said.

Martinez's emphasis on increasing takeaways has paid off. Georgia has eight interceptions, three more than all of last season, and the Bulldogs are tied for the national lead in turnovers gained with 14.

"I think coach Martinez just picked up where coach VanGorder left off," Moses said. "That's the Georgia way. We know we're going to give our all and be prepared."

Said safety Greg Blue: "We're almost running the same defense as last year and the last couple of years, but Martinez has a different type of energy. …

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