SEC: Justin Houston

ATHENS, Ga. -- Jarvis Jones isn't what you think.

Regardless of what you think you thought you knew about his stellar SEC debut with Georgia last season, Jones says his performance was a bit of a mirage.

Sure, he was galloping around making play after play and clobbering quarterbacks, but the speed and strength you thought you saw was more of an optical illusion.

“I’m not fast at all, man,” said Georgia’s rising junior linebacker, who led the SEC in tackles for loss (19.5) and sacks (13.5) in his SEC debut season last fall. “That’s what people don’t understand. I’m not big. I’m not strong.”

While probably bigger, stronger and faster than the average individual, Jones said his year of SEC success following his transfer from USC happened because of his brain power. His time in the film room and time analyzing every move and twitch of his opponents helped him be the monster and All-American he was in 2011.

[+] EnlargeJarvis Jones
Rob Foldy/Icon SMIGeorgia's Jarvis Jones said his work studying opponents led him to an impressive 2011 season.
It does help being 6-foot-3, and 241 pounds, but it doesn’t help you understand what’s going on. When playing out on the Left Coast, Jones mostly survived on physical ability. But when he moved down south and things around him picked up, Jones had to adjust.

For him, taking hours to dissect film of a left tackle’s movements, finding any sort of trends he might have, benefited him much more than hitting the weight room or sprinting until his legs gave out. Jones knows that football is just as mental as it is physical.

“I had to catch up,” Jones said.

And catch up he did. Even before he was eligible to play in 2011, defensive coordinator Todd Grantham noticed something special about Jones. He was versatile enough to move around all the different linebacker spots, so before settling on the outside, Grantham used him inside during bowl preps for the 2010 Liberty Bowl.

Jones, who was working with the scout team, impressed, but really shined outside. He hounded the quarterback, stuffed the run and dropped back in coverage when needed. Grantham felt he was a perfect fit to play outside and help ease the loss of star Justin Houston.

“He has the complete package as an outside backer,” Grantham said. “He’s a guy that we depend upon to make a lot of plays.”

Fellow linebacker Christian Robinson said he wasn’t surprised at how well Jones performed in 2011 after seeing him dominate some of Georgia’s best offensive linemen.

“When you go up against top college competition -- NFL players now -- you get used to playing at that level,” Robinson said of Jones. “Then, you put him up against guys who can’t keep up and don’t realize how fast he is and how strong he is.

“He’s quick and he’s going to get lower than you and he’s going to get underneath your pads. He really knocks some people around.”

But to make those plays, Jones said he had to sharpen his mental skills and get smarter in the film room.

So he started dissecting plays like a skilled surgeon and decided to break his game down into steps. They came during the 17 or so seconds that it took for an offense to line up and get set to the two-to-three seconds it took for a play to take place.

Here’s a quick look at what went through Jones on any given play:

Pre-snap:

Look at the formation and the personnel -- he should know what each player can and can’t do and what plays can be run.

Line up and find tendencies of linemen -- he should determine whether linemen (especially the left tackle) are in a pass set or a run set. He should know how long it takes them to get out of their stances and where most of their weight is planted.

Remember the snap count -- this is crucial to providing the most disruptive pressure possible.

Snap:

Get off the ball and remember technique -- quick moves are essential and making sure he has a move to give a tackle and one to combat his retaliation will make or break his progress.

Quarterback movements -- is it a five-step or seven-step drop? Is it play-action? Or is it a run?

“That’s a whole lot in a little bit of time,” Jones said.

This isn’t revolutionary stuff Jones is doing, but it was very important and made life easier last year.

Now, it’s carried over to spring and has helped slow things down in practice. There is no pausing, only reacting.

Building off of last season will be hard, Jones said, and he expects to receive much more attention from opposing offenses. He noticed in the last two games of the season when LSU and Michigan State game planned his side more than other teams had.

The result? Four total tackles, none for loss.

So improvements have to be made, Jones said. He’ll have to study harder and think faster when he’s on the field. Maybe even lift a few more weights.

The good thing is that Georgia’s defense won’t depend solely on him. He has plenty of help around him, making the thought of double-teaming pretty silly.

“I’m always a team player, so if they’re going to focus on me there are 10 more other people they have to block,” he said. “Stats for me, I really don’t care because at the end of the day if we win and I get zero tackles and no sacks I don’t care.”
Georgia senior tight end Aron White, junior tight end Orson Charles and redshirt sophomore quarterback Aaron Murray were named to the College Football Performance Awards (CFPA) watch lists on Tuesday.

According to the CFPA website, the purpose of the awards is "to provide the most scientifically rigorous conferments in college football." Recipients are selected "exclusively based upon objective scientific rankings of the extent to which individual players increase the overall effectiveness of their teams."

White and Charles are two of only four players from the SEC on the 39-man tight end watch list, and Murray is one of only four SEC players on the 40-man quarterback watch list.

Last season, Murray was selected as a Freshman All-American after setting a Georgia freshman record with 3,049 passing yards, which ranks second in SEC history for freshmen. Murray’s passing efficiency of 154.48 was also tops in the country among all freshmen quarterbacks and second best in school history among all quarterbacks.

Murray also threw 24 touchdowns to eight interceptions as the Bulldogs went 6-7 in 2010.

Charles, who played his high school ball with Murray at Tampa, (Fla.) Plant, was fourth on the team with 26 receptions last season and had 422 receiving yards with two touchdowns. Charles started 12-of-13 games in 2010 and enters the fall as the Bulldogs' second-leading returning receiver.

White appeared in all 13 games last season and finished with nine catches for 125 yards. He graduated in December 2010 with a degree in management and was the commencement speaker for the undergraduate ceremonies. White is now pursuing a graduate degree at Georgia.

Georgia also had a few other players named to CFPA Watch Lists.

Senior kicker Blair Walsh and senior punter Drew Butler made the cut for special teams, while senior cornerback Brandon Boykin was named to both the defensive back watch list and the kickoff returner watch list. Junior safety Bacarri Rambo was also named to the Defensive Back Watch List.

Former Bulldog Justin Houston was named the CFPA’s National Linebacker of the Year following the 2010 season.

SEC players poised to go in second round

April, 29, 2011
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ESPN's Mel Kiper has three SEC players projected to go in the second round of the NFL draft on Friday night.

Kiper's picks are:
ESPN's Todd McShay has five SEC players going in his second-round mock draft.

His picks are:

Alabama's Dareus to go No. 1 overall?

March, 21, 2011
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ESPN's Todd McShay has unveiled a new mock NFL draft, which includes the first two rounds, and he has Alabama defensive tackle Marcell Dareus going No. 1 overall to the Carolina Panthers.

In this latest mock draft, McShay has Auburn quarterback Cam Newton going higher than Auburn defensive tackle Nick Fairley. McShay has Newton going No. 5 to the Arizona Cardinals and Fairley No. 8 to the Tennessee Titans. According to McShay, Fairley is falling because some teams are worried about his football character, and there are also concerns about the way he's interviewed.

I go back to what I said several weeks ago. The tape doesn't lie, and if too many people pass on Fairley, they're going to be sorry.

McShay has six SEC players going in the top 10 picks and 10 SEC players going in the first round. Here's a rundown:

No. 1 (Panthers) -- Alabama DT Marcell Dareus
No. 4 (Bengals) -- Georgia WR A.J. Green
No. 5 (Cardinals) -- Auburn QB Cam Newton
No. 7 (49ers) -- LSU CB Patrick Peterson
No. 8 (Titans) -- Auburn DT Nick Fairley
No. 10 (Redskins) -- Alabama WR Julio Jones
No. 15 (Dolphins) -- Alabama RB Mark Ingram
No. 19 (Giants) -- Florida C/OG Mike Pouncey
No. 27 (Falcons) -- Georgia OLB Justin Houston
No. 29 (Bears) -- Mississippi State OT Derek Sherrod

In the second round, McShay has Arkansas quarterback Ryan Mallett going No. 39 overall to the Tennessee Titans, Kentucky receiver Randall Cobb going No. 47 to the St. Louis Rams and Georgia offensive guard Clint Boling going No. 57 to the Seattle Seahawks.

The SEC's 25 best players: No. 9

March, 9, 2011
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The No. 9 guy on our countdown emerged as the SEC’s pre-eminent pass-rusher last season:

No. 9: Justin Houston, OLB, Jr., Georgia

[+] EnlargeGeogia's Justin Houston
AP Photo/Mike StewartGeorgia linebacker Justin Houston was second in the SEC in sacks (10) and tackles for loss (18.5).
2010 numbers/honors: Second in the SEC in sacks (10) and tackles for loss (18.5). Led Georgia with 44 quarterback hurries and was third on the team with 67 total tackles. A first-team All-America selection by the Football Writers Association of America (FWAA) and a second-team All-America selection by the Associated Press and Walter Camp. A consensus first-team All-SEC selection:

Preseason ranking: Not ranked in the 2010 preseason countdown.

Making the case for Houston: He followed up his breakout sophomore season with an even better junior season and heads to the NFL a year early with 17.5 sacks over his past two seasons. The 6-3, 260-pound Houston was a natural as an outside linebacker coming off the edge in the Bulldogs’ 3-4 defense last season and made life miserable for opposing quarterbacks. But he also became much more than just a pass-rusher, as evidenced by the fact that he was a finalist for the Bronko Nagurski Trophy, which is presented annually to the top defensive player in college football. Teams did their best to slow down Houston, whether it was putting an extra man on his side or double-teaming him, but he was a fixture in the opposing backfield all season long. He did his best work in SEC games, leading all league players with eight sacks and 14.5 tackles for loss. And against arch-rival Georgia Tech in the regular-season finale, Houston had an interception and also returned a fumble 18 yards for a touchdown.

The rundown

No. 10: Arkansas RB Knile Davis

No. 11: Georgia WR A.J. Green

No. 12: LSU DT Drake Nevis

No. 13: Auburn OT Lee Ziemba

No. 14: LSU LB Kelvin Sheppard

No. 15: South Carolina DE Devin Taylor

No. 16: Florida S Ahmad Black

No. 17: Arkansas TE D.J. Williams

No. 18: Alabama S Mark Barron

No. 19: Florida CB Janoris Jenkins

No. 20: Mississippi State LB Chris White

No. 21: LSU RB Stevan Ridley

No. 22: Mississippi State OT Derek Sherrod

No. 23: Alabama DE Marcell Dareus

No. 24: Kentucky LB Danny Trevathan

No. 25: Alabama LB Courtney Upshaw

SEC combine recap

March, 1, 2011
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Some numbers and observations from the NFL combine workouts concerning former SEC defensive linemen and linebackers:
  • It sounds like Alabama's Marcell Dareus might have passed Auburn's Nick Fairley in the eyes of NFL scouts as the top interior defensive lineman in the draft. Dareus (6-foot-3 and 319 pounds) ran a 4.94 in the 40-yard dash with a 1.69 10-yard split. The Scouts Inc. guys (Todd McShay, Kevin Weidl and Steve Muench) said the combine couldn't have gone better for Dareus, who showcased a blend of quickness, power and strength during the drills.
  • Fairley (6-3 7/8 and 291 pounds) was lighter than most had expected, but still had a strong showing. He ran a 4.89 in the 40 with a 1.76 10-yard split and also had a 31-inch vertical jump. Like Dareus, Fairley also moved well in drills. Still, the feeling coming out of the combine was that Dareus would be picked higher than Fairley on draft day.
  • Georgia's Justin Houston (6-3 and 270 pounds) worked out with the linebackers, but projects as a right end in the NFL. The Scouts Inc. crew think Houston helped his chances of being a first-round pick with his performance at the combine. He ran a 4.68 in the 40 and posted a 10-5 broad jump and 36.5-inch vertical jump. He also has huge hands (10.^ inches), long arms (34) and a wide wingspan (81]).
  • The Scouts Inc. crew reported that LSU defensive tackle Drake Nevis didn't look as explosive or agile as expected and had to re-start two different drills.
  • Also, Baylor's Phil Taylor (6-3 and 344) continued to separate himself from Ole Miss' Jerrell Powe (6-1 and 335) at the nose guard position, according to the Scouts Inc. guys. Taylor had the better frame, was in better shape and didn't appear to wear down as quickly as Powe.
  • Mississippi State's Chris White posted a 4.68 in the 40, which was tied for seventh fastest among the linebackers.
  • Georgia's Akeem Dent had a 10-3 broad jump, which was fourth among the linebackers.

Cobb cracks McShay's latest mock draft

February, 10, 2011
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ESPN analyst Todd McShay has former Kentucky receiver Randall Cobb going in the first round of McShay's latest mock NFL draft.

McShay predicts that Cobb, who scored touchdowns last season passing, rushing, receiving and on a punt return, will go No. 26 overall to the Baltimore Ravens.

Cobb is one of 10 SEC players McShay has going in the first round, including three from Alabama. He has defensive tackle Marcell Dareus going No. 6 to the Cleveland Browns, receiver Julio Jones going No. 14 to the St. Louis Rams and running back Mark Ingram going No. 15 to the Miami Dolphins.

Auburn defensive tackle Nick Fairley will be the No. 2 overall selection, going to the Denver Broncos, according to McShay. He has five SEC players being taken in the top 10 picks. The others are Georgia receiver A.J. Green going No. 4 to the Cincinnati Bengals, LSU cornerback Patrick Peterson going No. 7 to the San Francisco 49ers and Auburn quarterback Cam Newton going No. 10 to the Washington Redskins.

Also, McShay has Georgia outside linebacker Justin Houston going No. 24 to the New Orleans Saints and Florida center/guard Mike Pouncey No. 27 to the Atlanta Falcons.

A couple of SEC players missing in this latest mock draft who were earlier thought to be first-round picks were Arkansas quarterback Ryan Mallett, LSU defensive tackle Drake Nevis and Mississippi State offensive tackle Derek Sherrod.

Of course, a lot can happen between now and draft time. The NFL combine is coming up later this month.

How All-SEC team ranked as recruits

January, 31, 2011
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Look, we all to some degree pay attention to where players are ranked during the recruiting process.

In some cases, it’s an indicator, and it’s also something to keep us busy until the next season rolls around.

But player rankings are hardly foolproof.

One of the exercises I like to partake in every year is to go back and see where the first-team, All-SEC players were ranked coming out of high school.

Of the 11 players on the first-team defense this season, only two were ESPNU 150 selections coming out of high school, meaning they weren’t ranked among the top 150 prospects nationally.

Offensively, six of the players were ESPNU 150 selections.

Using ESPN’s recruiting rankings and the 2010 Associated Press All-SEC team, here’s a look back:

OFFENSE
  • QB: Cam Newton, Auburn – ESPNU 150 selection. No. 9 quarterback and No. 58 player overall in the 2007 class.
  • RB: Marcus Lattimore, South Carolina – ESPNU 150 selection. No. 2 running back and No. 19 player overall in the 2010 class.
  • RB: Knile Davis, Arkansas – No. 20 running back and unranked nationally in the 2009 class.
  • AP: Randall Cobb, Kentucky – No. 86 athlete and unranked nationally in the 2008 class.
  • WR: Julio Jones, Alabama – ESPNU 150 selection. No. 1 receiver and No. 2 player overall in the 2008 class.
  • WR: Alshon Jeffery, South Carolina – ESPNU 150 selection. No. 12 receiver and No. 102 player overall in the 2009 class.
  • TE: D.J. Williams, Arkansas – No. 10 tight end and unranked nationally in 2007 class.
  • OL: DeMarcus Love, Arkansas – No. 78 offensive guard and unranked nationally in the 2006 class.
  • OL: Derek Sherrod, Mississippi State – No. 26 offensive tackle and unranked nationally in the 2007 class.
  • OL: Barrett Jones, Alabama – No. 28 offensive tackle and unranked nationally in the 2008 class.
  • OL: Lee Ziemba, Auburn – ESPNU 150 selection. No. 4 offensive tackle and No. 62 player overall in the 2007 class.
  • C: Ryan Pugh, Auburn – ESPNU 150 selection. No. 1 center and No. 87 player overall in the 2007 class.
DEFENSE
  • DE: Devin Taylor, South Carolina – No. 72 defensive end and unranked nationally in the 2008 class.
  • DT: Drake Nevis, LSU – No. 46 defensive tackle and unranked nationally in the 2007 class.
  • DT: Nick Fairley, Auburn – No. 32 offensive tackle and unranked nationally in the 2007 class.
  • OLB: Justin Houston, Georgia – No. 28 defensive end and unranked nationally in the 2007 class.
  • LB: Kelvin Sheppard, LSU – No. 21 inside linebacker and unranked nationally in the 2006 class.
  • LB: Chris White, Mississippi State – Unranked at his position and unranked nationally in the 2006 class.
  • LB: Danny Trevathan, Kentucky – Unranked at his position and unranked nationally in the 2008 class.
  • CB: Patrick Peterson, LSU – ESPNU 150 selection. No. 1 cornerback and No. 9 player overall in the 2008 class.
  • CB: Janoris Jenkins, Florida – ESPNU 150 selection. No. 4 cornerback and No. 31 player overall in the 2008 class.
  • S: Ahmad Black, Florida – No. 49 safety and unranked nationally in the 2007 class.
  • S: Mark Barron, Alabama – No. 19 athlete and unranked nationally in the 2008 class.
SPECIAL TEAMS
  • PK: Josh Jasper, LSU – No. 6 kicker in the 2007 class.
  • P: Chas Henry, Florida – No. 10 kicker in the 2007 class.

Georgia's Houston opts for NFL draft

January, 15, 2011
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Justin Houston became the second Georgia player to declare early for the NFL draft when he announced Saturday that he was turning pro.

Houston, an All-SEC outside linebacker, joins former Georgia star receiver A.J. Green, who announced last week that he was skipping his senior season to enter the draft.

Houston was second in the SEC this season with 10 sacks and collected 17.5 sacks over the past two seasons. With Houston's early exit, that means the Bulldogs are losing four linebackers off this season's team. Darryl Gamble and Akeem Dent were seniors, and Marcus Dowtin is transferring to another school.

Here's an updated list of the SEC underclassmen entering the NFL draft:

Glenn, Boykin returning for Georgia

January, 13, 2011
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Georgia received good news Wednesday night when junior cornerback Brandon Boykin and junior offensive lineman Cordy Glenn announced they would be back for their senior seasons.

The Bulldogs are still waiting to hear on junior outside linebacker Justin Houston, who led the team with 10 sacks this season. Getting Houston back would be a huge plus for Georgia's defense, especially going into the second season of the 3-4 defense under Todd Grantham. Houston was that disrupter off the edge you have to have in the 3-4 and should be even better his second season in the defense after making the move from defensive end to outside linebacker.

Houston is ranked by Scouts Inc. as the 26th-best prospect in the upcoming NFL draft.

SEC underclassmen looking at the NFL

December, 22, 2010
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There’s been a lot of chatter about what a potential lockout in the NFL will do to underclassmen considering coming out early.

Here’s a look at the underclassmen in the SEC who may have a decision to make:

ALABAMA
AUBURN
ARKANSAS
FLORIDA
  • Will Hill, S
  • Janoris Jenkins, CB
GEORGIA
  • Brandon Boykin, CB
  • Cordy Glenn, OG
  • A.J. Green, WR
  • Justin Houston, OLB
KENTUCKY
LSU
MISSISSIPPI STATE
  • Quentin Saulsberry, OG
OLE MISS
SOUTH CAROLINA

Georgia leads way with 'pro' All-Americans

December, 21, 2010
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Pro Football Weekly, after gathering input from NFL evaluators, has released its 2010 All-America team based on a combination of draft value, pure talent and performance.

Any guesses on which SEC team had the most first-team selections?

Georgia ... by a mile.

The Bulldogs, who suffered through the worst season of the Mark Richt era, had five players on the first team, including Cordy Glenn and Clint Boling as both of the offensive guards. A.J. Green was selected at receiver, Justin Houston at outside linebacker and Drew Butler at punter.

No other SEC team had more than one player selected as a first-team All-American, which only reinforces that Georgia was far more talented than its record reflected this season. The Bulldogs (6-6) need to beat UCF in the AutoZone Liberty Bowl to avoid their first losing season since 1996.

Auburn's Cam Newton was beaten out by Stanford's Andrew Luck as the first-team quarterback. The only Auburn player to earn first-team honors was junior defensive tackle Nick Fairley.

The other SEC first-team selections included Florida center Mike Pouncey, Alabama defensive tackle Marcell Dareus and LSU cornerback Patrick Peterson.

The SEC had 12 honorable mention selections, including Alabama running back Mark Ingram, Alabama receiver Julio Jones, Arkansas tight end D.J. Williams and South Carolina receiver Alshon Jeffery.

Here's the complete list (SEC players are bolded). Juniors are marked by one asterisk (*), draft-eligible sophomores have two (**) and true sophomores have three (***):

Quarterback
Andrew Luck, Stanford**

Honorable mention
Kellen Moore, Boise State*
Cam Newton, Auburn*
Ryan Mallett, Arkansas*

Jake Locker, Washington
Colin Kaepernick, Nevada

Running back
Kendall Hunter, Oklahoma State

Honorable mention
LaMichael James, Oregon**
Andre Ellington, Clemson**
Mark Ingram, Alabama*
Jordan Todman, Connecticut*
Mikel LeShoure, Illinois*

Fullback
Owen Marecic, Stanford

Honorable mention
Anthony Sherman, Connecticut

Wide receivers
Justin Blackmon, Oklahoma State**
A.J. Green, Georgia*

Honorable mention
Alshon Jeffery, South Carolina***
Julio Jones, Alabama*

Ryan Broyles, Oklahoma*
Titus Young, Boise State

Tight end
Lance Kendricks, Wisconsin

Honorable mention
D.J. Williams, Arkansas
Michael Egnew, Missouri*

Offensive tackles
Nate Solder, Colorado
Anthony Castonzo, Boston College

Honorable mention
Marcus Cannon, TCU
Danny Watkins, Baylor
Gabe Carimi, Wisconsin
Lee Ziemba, Auburn
Ben Ijalana, Villanova

Offensive guards
Cordy Glenn, Georgia*
Clint Boling, Georgia


Honorable mention
John Moffitt, Wisconsin
Rodney Hudson, Florida State
Stefen Wisniewski, Penn State

Center
Mike Pouncey, Florida

Honorable mention
Chase Beeler, Stanford
Mike Brewster, Ohio State*

Defensive ends
Da’Quan Bowers, Clemson*
J.J. Watt, Wisconsin*

Honorable mention
Ryan Kerrigan, Purdue
Adrian Clayborn, Iowa
Allen Bailey, Miami (Fla.)
Cameron Jordan, California

Defensive tackles
Marcell Dareus, Alabama*
Nick Fairley, Auburn*


Honorable mention
Stephen Paea, Oregon State
Corey Liuget, Illinois*

Inside linebacker
Luke Kuechly, Boston College***

Honorable mention
Greg Jones, Michigan State
Manti Te’o, Notre Dame***
Nate Irving, North Carolina State

Outside linebackers
Von Miller, Texas A&M
Justin Houston, Georgia*

Honorable mention
Bruce Carter, North Carolina
Akeem Ayers, UCLA* Sean Spence, Miami (Fla.)*

Cornerbacks
Patrick Peterson, LSU*
Prince Amukamara, Nebraska

Honorable mention
Brandon Harris, Miami (Fla.)*
Janoris Jenkins, Florida*
Cliff Harris, Oregon***
Omar Bolden, Arizona State*

Safeties
Eric Hagg, Nebraska
Jaiquawn Jarrett, Temple

Honorable mention
Mark Barron, Alabama*
Rahim Moore, UCLA*
Ahmad Black, Florida

Placekicker
Alex Henery, Nebraska

Honorable mention
Dan Bailey, Oklahoma State

Punter
Drew Butler, Georgia*


Honorable mention
Chas Henry, Florida


Return specialist
Cliff Harris, Oregon***

Honorable mention
Patrick Peterson, LSU*

Stepping up in the bowls: Georgia

December, 20, 2010
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Georgia takes on Conference USA champion UCF in the AutoZone Liberty Bowl on Dec. 31. The Bulldogs (6-6) will be trying to avoid their first losing season since 1996.

Who's going to step up for Mark Richt's club?

Junior outside linebacker Justin Houston: He's been the big-play guy all season long for the Bulldogs with 18.5 tackles for loss and 10 sacks. He's second only to Auburn's Nick Fairley in the SEC in sacks and has also become a more complete defensive end. If Georgia is going to win this game, getting to UCF true freshman quarterback Jeffrey Godfrey and forcing him into mistakes will be key. He's had an outstanding debut season and is a threat to both run and pass. Godfrey had 10 or more rushing attempts in eight of his 13 games this season and passed for 2,042 yards with 13 touchdowns and six interceptions. Houston's good enough off the edge to rush Godfrey into some quick throws and to get him out of his comfort zone. If Houston can get to Godfrey early, either with a sack or some quarterback hurries, that's likely to change the way the Knights play offense. The Bulldogs, even though they finished fourth in the SEC in total defense, were still prone to giving up too many big plays this season. Making a few big plays on defense could really set the tone in this game, and that's where Houston comes in.

Newton left off FWAA All-America team

December, 11, 2010
12/11/10
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Seven SEC players were selected to the Football Writers Association of America (FWAA) All-America team, but the big news was who wasn't selected.

Auburn's Cam Newton was left off the team. Boise State's Kellen Moore was selected as the quarterback.

The SEC players making the team were South Carolina receiver Alshon Jeffery, Auburn offensive tackle Lee Ziemba, Auburn defensive tackle Nick Fairley, Georgia outside linebacker Justin Houston, LSU cornerback Patrick Peterson, Alabama safety Mark Barron and LSU place-kicker Josh Jasper.

Georgia season recap

December, 7, 2010
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The two big concerns coming into this season for Georgia were redshirt freshman quarterback Aaron Murray and how he would adjust in his first season and how the Bulldogs’ defense would take to the new 3-4 scheme in Todd Grantham’s first season as coordinator.

It turns out Murray wasn’t a concern at all. He was a strength. The Bulldogs’ defense, on the other hand, took its lumps against some of the better offenses, but also finished with respectable numbers. The goal now is to recruit to that defense, in particular bringing in some more defensive linemen and some bigger defensive linemen.

The start to this season is what killed the Bulldogs all the way around. Star receiver A.J. Green was suspended by the NCAA for the first four games for selling one of his game jerseys, and the Bulldogs didn’t have that one guy in the passing game to spread everybody out and make explosive plays down the field.

Even then, the Bulldogs (6-6) could have won their first two SEC games against South Carolina and Arkansas had they been able to tackle Marcus Lattimore and keep Ryan Mallett & Co. from streaking down the field in the final seconds.

Georgia wound up losing four consecutive games, its longest losing streak in 20 years, but fought its way back to keep alive its bowl streak. This is the 14th straight season that the Bulldogs have gone to a bowl game.

Offensive MVP: Quarterback Aaron Murray. With 2,851 passing yards, he’ll have a chance to crack the 3,000-yard plateau in the bowl game. It’s the second most passing yards ever for a freshman quarterback in the SEC, and he’s thrown 24 touchdown passes and only six interceptions.

Defensive MVP: Outside linebacker Justin Houston. It was a given that Houston could rush the passer, and he once again did that well this season with 10 sacks. But Houston also expanded other parts of his game and became a more complete player. He was second to Auburn’s Nick Fairley in the SEC with 18.5 tackles for loss.

Turning point: The Bulldogs had rebounded from their four-game losing streak with three straight wins. They had even climbed back into the Eastern Division race, although they needed some help from other teams. What they couldn’t do was get past a familiar nemesis, losing 34-31 in overtime to Florida. The Gators have won 18 of the last 21 games in the series.

What’s next: The Bulldogs will head to the AutoZone Liberty Bowl to take on UCF. A loss would mean their first losing season since 1996. Coach Mark Richt survived the loud rumblings this season. He might not be so fortunate next year if Georgia suffers through another comparable season.

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