Print and Go Back ESPN.com: SEC [Print without images]

Friday, March 20, 2009
Injuries hit Georgia's defensive line hard

By ESPN.com staff
ESPN.com

Posted by ESPN.com's Chris Low

ATHENS, Ga. -- The rash of injuries Georgia suffered last season has been well-documented.

The Bulldogs had 11 different starters to miss games, not to mention six other players who were in the two-deep to start the season.

It's a problem that has spilled over into the spring as several guys are still recovering from surgery.

Georgia coach Mark Richt said 26 players were unable to practice in the Bulldogs' first workout of the spring on Tuesday and that 14 of those guys have no chance to do anything this spring.

"The good news is that we get all those guys back in June and get a whole new class in, so that's about 40 new guys," Richt said. "It's not stopping us from practicing and getting our good practice habits going. I'm very excited about what's going on with these guys right now."

Similar to a year ago, one of the hardest hit areas has been the defensive line, particularly at end.

Georgia defensive coordinator Willie Martinez said ends Roderick Battle, Neland Ball and Cornelius Washington are all out this spring with injuries. Martinez was especially anxious to see what Washington, who redshirted last season, could do.

The Bulldogs desperately need to find somebody to rush the quarterback. They finished with an SEC-low 18 sacks in 12 regular-season games last season, but bounced back with six sacks in the Capital One Bowl win over Michigan State.

The only healthy scholarship ends practicing this spring are Demarcus Dobbs, Justin Houston, Jeremy Longo and Kiante Tripp, and Tripp is moving over from offense. The Bulldogs also have freshman Montez Robinson coming in this summer.

Tackles Jeff Owens and Brandon Wood are also out this spring. The good news is that Wood is the only one of the defensive linemen that the Bulldogs might not get back in time for the start of the season.

"It's hard with so many guys out," Martinez said. "You've got to be creative in how you do it and accomplish your goals of trying to get guys ready that need to get ready, the young guys. But you've got to be careful with the volume you have, because you have a lot of defensive linemen out. It's challenging, but you don't have to play a game this spring.

"As a whole defensively, what we have to do is get back on track and playing solid, consistent football the way we have in the past. That's what we're concentrating on this spring, doing the little things right from an attitude standpoint and from a work ethic standpoint. Those are the things we're talking about the most, not letting the little things slip by."