TAMPA, Fla. — Georgia players had a range of reactions on Thursday when asked about the 2012 Southeastern Conference schedule for the first time.
A few said they were surprised, quarterback Aaron Murray said he had yet to even see it, and some said they felt confident Georgia could do well next season.
“I think it’s a great schedule for us,” linebacker Christian Robinson said. “We have an opportunity next year to do something special.”
Linebacker Jarvis Jones said the Bulldogs were not taking the schedule, which features none of the SEC’s three highest-ranked teams from 2010, lightly but feel they can win out if they continue to prepare the way they did this season.
“If you look at it, for us as a team and Bulldog Nation, it’s a schedule that we should run the table with,” Jones said. “We’ve got some pretty good teams in there, but I think we can definitely come out on top if we just prepare like we’re supposed to and just dominate.”
Georgia’s schedule featured several changes from its original lineup. For instance, a game at Alabama was replaced on the schedule with a game at first-year SEC member Missouri, the traditional SEC opener against South Carolina was pushed back to Oct. 6 and the bye week before facing Florida on Oct. 26 in Jacksonville was replaced with a game at Kentucky.
JENKINS TO RETURN: While several Georgia players mull whether they should return or enter the NFL draft, the Bulldogs can expect 6-foot-3, 351-pound junior defensive lineman John Jenkins to come back for 2012, Jones said.
Jenkins has asked the NFL draft advisory board for an evaluation and said Wednesday he was considering entering the draft. But Jones, who is Jenkins’ roommate, told reporters Thursday after a bowl-sponsored luncheon at the Tampa Convention Center that Jenkins plans to return.
“He’s definitely coming back,” Jones said. “He’s still got a lot of room to improve. He sees that, so I don’t know if he’s told anybody — I shouldn’t be telling anybody — but he’s coming back.”
Jenkins has three sacks, 14 tackles and six tackles for a loss this season. He was not available Thursday.
SEC SPEED OFFERS PREVIEW OF MSU DEFENSE: Georgia players have spent hours studying Michigan State film and the gameplan for the Outback Bowl was drawn up before the team left Athens, but nothing prepared the Bulldogs for the game like their SEC schedule.
“There’s no conference like it when it comes to speed,” Murray said of the SEC. “(Michigan State) is one of the best defenses in the country, so I’m excited to see what they have to offer. But I think definitely playing in the SEC helps you when it comes to adjusting to the speed of the game.”
It doesn’t hurt, either, that the Bulldogs’ defense also ranks among the country’s best, Murray said.
“I think the hardest defense we face is every day in practice,” Murray said. “Our guys are unbelievable. (Defensive coordinator Todd Grantham) brings some blitzes I don’t even think are possible with 11 guys on the field. I don’t know how he does it. But our guys are able to think of anything just by facing our guys every day in practice.”