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Defensive ends walking wounded at UGA.


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Defensive ends walking wounded at UGA

By JENNA MARINA

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Athens – Jeremy Longo is the perfect example of a Georgia defensive end.

Green non-contact jersey. Casted hand. A lone figure on the sidelines nearly 100 yards away from his coach, working on his three-point stance and release.

The injury bug that has been irritating the Bulldogs all preseason has taken the biggest bite out of the defensive ends.

At one point last week, two walk-ons and senior Jarius Wynn were all that remained from the heavily stacked group. You could make a leg out of the injuries that a few of them have sustained.

Rod Battle… hamstring. Demarcus Dobbs… ankle. Jeremy Lomax… turf toe. Justin Houston… hamstring.

Defensive ends coach Jon Fabris said the recent string of injuries is the worst he’s ever seen in more than 25 years of coaching.

“It’s a Catch-22. There are players hurt all around the team. And the poor devils that are left take too many plays and now they’re more apt to get hurt. It’s a vicious cycle,” he said. “They’re just worn, frazzled — the ones who are out there. I’m just trying to get them through this week.”

Fabris said he’s trying to keep at least two different rotations healthy enough to play a game, but the players haven’t made it easy on him. Fabris said he doesn’t have one player who’s even 90 percent healthy, let alone full speed. That could be a problem against Georgia Southern’s “wear-you-down” passing offense in the season-opener on Aug. 30. The Bulldogs’ defense is going to need all the bodies it can muster to generate a consistent pass rush.

A couple of the players have returned. Cornelius Washington (neck) practiced Tuesday, and Houston is working through the hamstring. But the missed practice time will be hard to makeup before the first game.

“There’s no doubt we’re rusty. And we will be rusty,” Fabris said. “I’m not trying to be a doomster but it is what it is.”

If anyone can pull off a turnaround, it’s Fabris.

The past three years he’s managed uncertainty and turned average players into stars. First was Quentin Moses. Then came Charles Johnson. Both were drafted in the third rounds. Last year, it was Marcus Howard, a fifth-round draft pick.

“The beginning of last year we’re all like, ‘Where’s the pressure going to come from? Where are we going to get some edge pressure without blitzing and stunting and doing all those things?’” coach Mark Richt said.

By the end of the season, the Dogs led the Southeastern Conference in sacks (42), thanks in large part to Howard, who had a team-high 10.5 sacks.

Howard was the 10th NFL player Fabris has produced during his 10 seasons as a defensive ends coach. Nine of them are still playing. Georgia All-American and all-time sack leader, David Pollack, was forced to cut his career short in 2006 after a serious spine injury.

Now that Howard is in Indianapolis, the fun of this season will be figuring out who will replace him as the go-to guy.

“I think that our group is very competitive and every guy hopes that that person is him,” Battle said. “We’ve all been working like we want that to be us. I think it could be a number of guys really. If we really want to step up to the plate and be what everyone is expecting us to be, I think we’ll need more than one person.”

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Dang, here's to a speedy recovery and a healthy season for all. Doesn't seem to be all that bad though, then again it really didn't go into much detail about the injuries.

the injuries are minor and if they had to play a game they would be in there, but so far the injuries don't bode well for this season.. we got to find a way to keep guys healthy.. last week for a few practices we had 1 DE and 2 walkons at DE for practice, that's not goog enough at all.

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I just love this comment by fabris:

Don't get the idea that Fabris tries to confuse his defensive ends with all sorts of fancy terminology and jargon. On the contrary: Fabris only has gives his players two rules to play by – play with your head before the football is snapped and after the ball is snapped play with your heart.

"It's just like a good hitter in baseball. They're not up there looking for five different pitches or they wouldn't be very good. They're sitting on a pitch because they're trained; they're students of the game. It's the same thing with defense end: If I try to stuff that whole playbook you'll have what's called paralysis by analysis," he said. "If I can whisper in your ear, tell you two plays and tell you it's going to be this or this, you're going to be much more aggressive. And even if you're wrong, you're aggressive. Sometimes, as George Patton once said, a good plan violently executed is better than a perfect plan executed too late. It's really pretty simple, but it's not easy if that makes any sense."

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