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Dogs haven’t missed a step with injuries.


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Dogs haven’t missed a step with injuries


The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Monday, October 27, 2008

Athens — Much has been made of the injury epidemic that hit the Georgia football team this season.

But with the Bulldogs tied for first place in the SEC East entering Saturday’s showdown against co-leader Florida, perhaps more should be made of the players who have replaced the injured.

“It goes back to recruiting: You’ve always got to get another guy who can do as good as the guy in front of him,” Georgia linebacker Darryl Gamble said. “When somebody gets hurt, the next guy should be able to do the same job.”

That, in many cases, is what has happened this fall:

• Gamble, a red-shirt sophomore who started at middle linebacker in place of senior Dannell Ellerbe (knee) the past three games, was named the SEC’s Defensive Player of the Week Monday after returning two interceptions for touchdowns and making 13 tackles in Saturday’s win at LSU.

• Shaun Chapas, a red-shirt sophomore who took over at fullback when senior Brannan Southerland (foot) missed the first five games, played well enough to earn continued playing time upon Southerland’s return. Against LSU, Southerland and Chapas alternated series at fullback, with Southerland also seeing limited action at tight end — another position ravaged by injury.

• Clint Boling, a sophomore who moved from right guard to left tackle because of season-ending knee injuries to Trinton Sturdivant and Vince Vance, was named the SEC’s Offensive Lineman of the Week after his first game at the new position Oct. 11.

• Corvey Irvin, a senior who became a starter after defensive tackle Jeff Owens’ season-ending knee injury in the first game, has become a leader on the defensive line.

“We’ve talked a lot about how a true team will function like the [human] body,” Georgia coach Mark Richt said. “If something is missing or something is broken, the body can adapt.

“We talked about when your body or your team gets banged up, somebody on your team has to adapt. That’s what those guys did.”

The Bulldogs admit the injuries — a dozen full- or part-time starters lost at various points — have complicated the season. “I didn’t think we were going to get hit so bad — like a hurricane came through here,” Irvin said. But the Dogs see their 7-1 record amid the injuries as a signature of the team.

“We’ve had a lot of young and inexperienced guys step in and do an incredible job,” said Southerland, a fifth-year senior. “For the amount of injuries we’ve had, to be where we are, to play the way we have, I think it is pretty impressive.”

Said Chapas: “I think it’s part of [the makeup of] our team: We just are expecting each other to step up. We know people can fill the roles.”

A prime example: Irvin, a junior-college transfer who did not start a game last season, enthusiastically embraced the need to fill the void left by the loss of Owens.

“When we lost our vocal leader — our leader on and off the field — somebody had to fill his shoes,” said Irvin, a starter since the season’s second game. “Geno [Atkins, the other starting defensive tackle] makes plays but really doesn’t talk, so I just took the responsibility.

“I was like, ‘I’m going to play the captain and get my crew members — my soldiers — to rally around me. And let’s fight.’”

On they fight, with a spot in the SEC championship game likely on the line Saturday in Jacksonville.

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