Ray Drew has finally become the pass-rushing menace that Georgia fans had hoped to see.
Now, the Bulldogs would love it if Drew, or anybody on defense for that matter, could force some turnovers right about now.
Georgia‚Äôs defense has come up dry this season in getting takeaways.
‚ÄúWhenever you get that chance, they say take a shot at the ball,‚Äù said Drew, who ranks third in the SEC with five sacks. ‚ÄúYou never know what the quarterback‚Äôs mindset is, whether he‚Äôs going to try to throw it or whether he‚Äôs got it out wide. You want to take advantage of every opportunity that you‚Äôre given.‚Äù
Georgia ranks tied for 117th nationally in turnovers gained with five.
That‚Äôs a drastic change for a Georgia defense that ranked in the top 30 nationally in that category in each of Todd Grantham‚Äôs first three seasons as defensive coordinator.
The Bulldogs were tied for 17th last season during a season when it tied for second in the nation in fumbles recovered with 17. Georgia tied for seventh with 32 turnovers gained in 2011, including 20 interceptions, which ranked fifth in the nation.
Even in Grantham‚Äôs first season in 2010, Georgia produced 26 turnovers.
‚ÄúWe‚Äôve just got to keep working it, keep addressing it, just like we have the last couple of years,‚Äù Grantham said. ‚ÄúI think as guys become more veteran out on the field, I think that number will increase because they‚Äôll have a little bit more savvy on how to get the ball out, whether it‚Äôs the second guy in stripping the ball, whether it‚Äôs pattern distribution read, breaking on a route, whether it‚Äôs going to get the sack and it‚Äôs, `Hey, I‚Äôm going to get the sack but I‚Äôm going to get the ball out.‚Äô I think all of those things can happen the more you play.‚Äù
Georgia certainly is missing a player like inside linebacker Alec Ogletree, who is tied for second in the NFL with three forced fumbles as a rookie with the Rams. Ogletree returned an interception 98 yards for a touchdown on Sunday.
Outside linebacker Jarvis Jones, a first-round NFL draft pick, was a game-changer in wins over Missouri and Florida last season and led the nation with seven forced fumbles.
‚ÄúSome of those younger guys are still learning and getting their feet wet and gaining their confidence,‚Äù junior receiver Chris Conley said. ‚ÄúI have all the confidence in them in the world and once they start making those plays, they‚Äôre not going to stop.‚Äù
It‚Äôs not just the young and inexperienced players not getting turnovers.
Junior cornerback Damian Swann, who led Georgia with four interceptions last season, doesn‚Äôt have any this year.
The lone interception for Georgia through six games belongs to freshman safety Tray Matthews, who has missed the last two games with a pulled hamstring. Georgia is tied with Illinois, Kentucky and South Dakota State for fewest interceptions nationally.
‚ÄúI feel like it comes with time, being at the right place at the right time as well as film study,‚Äù safety Corey Moore said last week. ‚ÄúWe can make this young secondary a thing, but it‚Äôs no excuse. We‚Äôve still got to get the job done.‚Äù
Fumbles usually come from sacking the quarterback, Grantham said, but that hasn‚Äôt translated into fumbles forced by Georgia.
The Bulldogs are tied for third in the SEC with 16 sacks.
‚ÄúUsually when you get sacks, you get the ball out every once in a while with that quarterback,‚Äù coach Mark Richt said. ‚ÄúI think our guys are just trying to get the sack and not really think, `Hey, while I‚Äôm back there let me see if I can strip the ball out of there.‚Äô Or even sometimes when runners are running down the field and you‚Äôve got them hemmed up pretty good. ‚Ä¶ I don‚Äôt know if our guys are really thinking that far ahead of the game as they‚Äôre still trying to line up right and play the right fundamentals and get a guy on the ground. Or just bat down a ball rather than let‚Äôs go for the pick.‚Äù
Richt said as players get more comfortable, they‚Äôll make more plays.
‚ÄúWe practice our hearts out every week,‚Äù Drew said. ‚ÄúYou got guys going up batting balls, you‚Äôve got guys going up intercepting balls in practices. It‚Äôs a matter of things falling your way when you need them to in a game.‚Äù
Said Richt: ‚ÄúWe work drills until we‚Äôre blue in the face, but you‚Äôve got to kind of do it in the heat of the battle. You‚Äôve got to keep coaching it and teaching it.‚Äù