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Atkins, Owens anchor solid Georgia defense.


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Atkins, Owens anchor solid Georgia defense

Defensive linemen ‘blowing up’ offense in practice

By CHIP TOWERS

The Atlanta Journal-Consitution

Friday, August 15, 2008

Athens — Earlier this week Georgia coach Mark Richt was asked how the No. 2 offense looked during a scrimmage.

Richt replied that he couldn’t be sure because that unit was going against first-team defensive tackles Geno Atkins and Jeff Owens and “they kept blowing everything up.”

That’s the excitement about Georgia’s defense this season. If it all starts up front and in the middle, as most defensive coordinators say, then the Bulldogs have a pretty good head start with Atkins and Owens.

That they roll in two more potential all-stars behind them in Corvey Irvin and Kade Weston gives Georgia a formidable interior defensive front.

“It’s the deepest we’ve been on the inside since I’ve been here,” said Owens, a senior from Sunrise, Fla. “We just keep coming.”

“We’re interchangeable, all four of us,” said Atkins, a junior from Pembroke Pines, Fla.. “Coach [Rodney] Garner basically is trying to keep us fresh in the game, keep fresh legs out there.”

It’s hard to find a better inside tandem than Atkins and Owens. Both have garnered all-conference mention and are on the watch lists for the Bronko Nagurski and Outland awards that go to the nation’s best linemen. And both have been productive.Especially Atkins. He was named first-team All-SEC after making 41 tackles, 7.5 sacks and 14.5 tackles for loss last season.

Generally playing more of a plug-up-the-middle role, the 6-3, 300-pound Owens had 27 tackles, 22 pressures and four tackles for loss, but no sacks, last season.

It’s that last stat that presented a little problem for Owens. He and Atkins had a friendly wager — just bragging rights, Owens insists — on who would have the most sacks.

Atkins turned it into a rout.

“This year we’re going to raise the stakes up a little, challenge each other,” Atkins said. “We’re going to put a pot together for who’s going to get the most sacks. All of us. Whoever wins will take us all to dinner with it.”

As competitive as they are, Atkins and Owens are each other’s biggest fans. Each one was asked separately which was the better overall football player. They both pointed back to the other.

“We both have or pros and cons, but I’d say Jeff is the better pass rusher,” Atkins said. “I think he has better technique than I do, uses his hands better, able to shake-and-bake. While me, I’d say I’m good against the run.”

Owens disagrees.

“Geno’s better than me; I can admit that,” Owens said. “He’s powerful. He’s faster than me. He’s quicker. He’s just got it. It’s natural for him. It’s in his blood. The guy runs a 4.6 (4.6-second 40-yard dash). I run a 4.9. He runs a 4.6!

“We’re all out here working hard just to get as good as him. No, we’re all trying to make plays like Geno.”

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