Richt hoping `best is yet to come’ for improved defense

Hold off on crowning Georgia as a dominant defense just yet.
 
Coach Mark Richt on Tuesday wasn’t ready to embrace that label.
 
“I don’t want to get too excited yet, but I’m feeling like we’ve built a very good foundation on defense,” Richt said. “I’m hoping the best is yet to come. I think we are gaining confidence.
 
Georgia is sixth in the nation in total defense (260.5 yards per game), is eighth in pass efficiency defense (102.9) and 12th in rushing defense (85.8 yards per game).
 
“Back in the ’01 to the ’07 era, they were fierce teams,” outside linebacker Chase Vasser said of past Bulldogs defense. “They knew when they came to play Georgia that the Georgia defense was a hard-hitting, flying around defense and we want to get that.”
 
Georgia finished in the top 20 in scoring defense every year from 2001 to 07. The Bulldogs are tied for 20th this year even after a 45-42 loss to South Carolina in which the Gamecocks defense scored two touchdowns and its special teams one.
 
Georgia’s defense has allowed two touchdowns in the last four games.
 
“Definitely I feel like we are (dominant) and we still have much room to improve on,” inside linebacker Mike Gilliard said. “That’s one of the main things we talk about every day at practice just going out there and getting better.”
 
Walsh will take it
 
Blair Walsh is eighth in Southeastern Conference history with 348 points and 63 field goals, but the senior kicker had never been named SEC special teams player of the week before Monday.
 
He got it for making field goals of 35 and 23 yards and making both of his extra points against Tennessee
.
“I have no idea how I got it this week, but I’ll take it,” Walsh said.
 
Asked if he considered it one of his 10 best games, Walsh said: “Probably not.”
 
Walsh entered the game having made only 6 of 12 field goals this season.
 
“It’s good to get out there and get back in rhythm and I’m starting to come around right now,” Walsh said. “I’ve still got to be more consistent and keep going.”
 
Replacing Mitchell
 
Marlon Brown is in line to start for injured freshman Malcolm Mitchell this week, according to receiver Michael Bennett, who said he expects to be the starting slot receiver in a three-wide set.
Mitchell leads Georgia with 25 catches for 438 yards and three touchdowns.
 
“Him being out is a pretty big blow,” Bennett said. “He’s been making a lot of plays. I think as a whole we’re going to be all right.”
 
Richt said that Georgia is “confident” that Mitchell will be able to play against Florida on Oct. 29.
 
A Fox in Knoxville
 
Mark Fox can be found on the sideline at Georgia home football games, but the trip he made to Knoxville Saturday was unique.
 
“The game at Tennessee was my first road football game of my life,” said the third-year Bulldogs men’s basketball coach, whose team opens preseason practice on Friday. “This is my 20-something year on a college campus. I really enjoyed that.”
 
Fox said recruiting and practices gets in the way of making such trips.
 
“Billy Donovan and I have talked and I don’t think he’s ever been to the Georgia-Florida game and he’s been at Florida for 15 years,” Fox said. “Strangely enough at home games I don’t feel like I get to watch the game, and I actually got to watch every play and I really enjoyed it. If I could find a way to do it again, I would.”
 
This and that
Inside linebacker Alec Ogletree, who has been out since suffering a broken foot in the opener, ran on the side in practice in a non-contact jersey Tuesday under the watchful eye of head trainer Ron Courson. Richt said beforehand that Ogletree “is looking really good. I don’t think there’s any question at all that he’ll be ready for the Florida game.” …Receiver Rantavious Wooten is unlikely to play this week again because of his concussion sustained in an auto accident. “We keep waiting for all the symptoms of the concussion to go away where we can start to exert him physically and see how he responds to that before he even gets to practice,” Richt said. “We’re still in stage one trying to get where he’s asymptomatic, and he’s not there right now.” … Georgia practiced in some heavy rain Tuesday. “It wasn’t the best conditions for throwing and catching, but we got the work in,” Richt said.

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