ATHENS, Ga. — Kenarious Gates’ experience in trying to block Jadeveon Clowney — emphasis on trying — was cited by several Georgia coaches Tuesday, in hoping that the senior will be best equipped to stop South Carolina’s all-world defensive end.
But Will Friend, Georgia’s offensive line coach, didn’t appear so sure.
“Ah, I don’t know,” Friend said. “I mean, he didn’t block him last year.”
It was a bit of deadpan humor from Friend, who did add “seriously” and said Gates will proceed “like any other week,” and that last year’s game against South Carolina was a whole year ago.
Still, there was no playing down the challenge that awaits.
“I haven’t seen anybody that neutralizes him. He totally takes over games,” Friend said. “You put the tape on of the other night, and the speed he’s playing with, he’s running down bubble (screens) from the other side, he’s got the quarterback flustered. I mean the guy’s an outstanding player, period. Pretty much what coach (Mark) Richt said this summer is what I see. The guy’s a great player.”
Richt said in July that Clowney is “the best player at any level,” including the pros. Richt later tamped it down a bit, but Friend evidently aligns himself with the original statement.
Georgia offensive coordinator Mike Bobo joked earlier this summer about what the plan would be on Clowney: Doing what Burt Reynolds’ character did in “The Longest Yard.” But he also had a serious plan, and now that the game is upon him, Bobo isn’t changing it.
“Don’t turn a bad play into a catastrophe,” Bobo said after Tuesday’s practice. “If the guy’s sacking you, hold onto the ball. I said it over the summer: The guy’s gonna make plays. We’re gonna do some different things against him. But he beats double teams, he beats chips, if you’ve got somebody chipping him, if you’ve got somebody cutting him, he jumps over it. The guy’s a great player. We’re gonna have to know where he is.”
The problem for Georgia is that it can’t gear it’s entire gameplan around one defensive player. But as Bobo pointed out, they can’t pretend he doesn’t exist.
“Because if we do that, then y’all are gonna rip us and say we didn’t have a plan for Clowney,” Bobo said, grinning. “We’ve gotta have a plan for him.”
Georgia’s coaches also aren’t buying the idea that Clowney is in poor condition, having been winded as last week’s game against North Carolina went on. The stock answer was that Clowney was playing so hard early in the game that he got tired.
“I thought he was trying to win the Heisman the first 25 snaps how hard he was playing,” Bobo said. “He just got a little bit tired, and it was really hot that night. Turn on the tape, and I know they highlighted a few plays on TV. But the guy affects plays when he doesn’t make plays. Other guys get sacks because you’re worried about him.”
Friend didn’t watch last week’s South Carolina game — he had a birthday party to attend on Thursday night — but he’s seen enough film to laugh off the worries about Clowney’s conditioning.
“That guy was all over the field last week. He was creating havoc just like he does every week,” Friend said.
WINNINGEST SEC COACHES
USC’s Steve Spurrier and Georgia’s Mark Richt are the winningest active SEC coaches. The coaches with the most wins at SEC schools:
|1. Bear Bryant, UK/Alabama||292|
|2. Vince Dooley, Georgia||201|
|3. Dan McGugin, Vanderbilt||197|
|4. John Vaught, Ole Miss||190|
|5. Steve Spurrier, Florida/USC||189|
|6. Ralph Jordan, Auburn||176|
|7. Robert Neyland, Tennessee||173|
|8. Philip Fulmer, Tennessee||152|
|9. Wallace Butts, Georgia||140|
|10. Charlie McLendon, LSU||137|
|11. Mike Donahue, Auburn/LSU||122|
|12. Mark Richt, Georgia||118|
|13. Nick Saban, LSU/Alabama||117|