The preparation to face Florida began on Thursday of Georgia’s bye week, and since then the Georgia defense has put extra attention on its ability to stop the run.
“We just focusing on the basics, just trying to figure out what is best for us to do during those situations,” inside linebacker Juwan Taylor said.
Georgia’s run defense had one of its toughest games against LSU, giving up 275 rushing yards. This was the first game of the season Georgia’s offense was outscored in rushing yards, and the Tigers more than doubled the Bulldogs’ total.
Georgia’s run defense will once again be tested by Florida’s offense when the two meet in Jacksonville, Fla., on Saturday.
Head coach Kirby Smart said stopping the run up front was a key component of focus during the bye week. He hopes the extra attention will pay off in the matchup, because Florida head coach Dan Mullen has had a commitment to the run game, Smart said. Florida's run game has been a key component to the Gator’s offense this season.
Florida ran for a total of 1,381 yards on 271 carries in its first seven games. But the Gators also have the capability to have explosive runs. They have 41 runs that were over 10 yards a piece, totaling for 783 yards and averaging 19.1 yards a carry. Against Vanderbilt, they had six runs that were each over 10 yards.
Two key running backs for the Gators are Lamical Perine and Jordan Scarlett, each who are physical downhill runners, Smart said. These two lead the team in carries. Perine has 69 carries for 376 yards this season, while Scarlett has 70 for 381 yards.
“[Mullen]'s got a really good stable of backs, very similar to ours,” Smart said. “Kind of a three-headed monster, and they use those guys. They're all thick lowers, powerful guys, run through arm tackles, good running backs.”
Smart said the key for Georgia’s run defense against Florida is in the ability to build a wall with the defensive line and control the line of scrimmage.
“This game has been decided by the team, for many years, that ran the ball better, the team that controlled the line of scrimmage,” Smart said. “And we have to do a good job of building a wall up front. We can’t have second-level players having to make a bunch of tackles.”
Defensive end Jonathan Ledbetter said the most important thing is to stop the run. And while he said the defense prides itself on its ability to stop the run, he said it needs to show it can against Florida.
“They’ve got a good football team, their quarterback is good, but they do like to run the ball…and we’ve got to handle that really, really well this week,” Ledbetter said.