Safety Shawn Williams’ no-holds-barred comments to the media Monday quickly reverberated around the Georgia football program.
Defensive linemen Garrison Smith and Mike Thornton read Williams’ calling the Bulldogs underachieving defense “soft.”
“I was like, ‘Oh, OK. That’s definitely like shots fired,’” Smith said. “Now you’ve got to defend are you a soft player or not?”
Inside linebackers Mike Gilliard and Christian Robinson faced questions Tuesday about Williams saying he prefers Amarlo Herrera and Alec Ogletree staying in the game because “those are two guys who will go out and give everything they’ve got, even if they mess up.”
An impassioned Gilliard said: “I was just upset today at practice.”
He tried to take it out on ballcarriers he went up against.
“I felt like I was disrespected,” Gilliard said. “It just gave me motivation.”
Likewise, Robinson wasn’t pleased.
“It’s definitely not the best thing to hear after you got a win,” Robinson said. “I think we’re going to just have to stick together. It wasn’t what I wanted to hear, but we all make mistakes.”
Gilliard, who has 99 tackles and 16 starts since the start of 2011, said that he talked to Williams Tuesday.
“He told me that it was nothing personal,” Gilliard said, “but then again when he said names, he said my name without saying names. I took that personal.”
Coach Mark Richt met with Williams on Tuesday morning.
“I think Shawn’s just a real passionate guy,” Richt said. “I think he loves Georgia and loves his team and wants us to play the best we could possibly play. I think it was more public than you would like.”
Defensive coordinator Todd Grantham let Williams speak to the players in a meeting before practice.
Players had different takes on the “soft” comment.
“It needed to be said sometime soon,” Herrera said. “Somebody needed to say something. He took it upon himself and said it. …Y’all look at the film. We’ve been playing soft around here. We haven’t been showing the old D that we were playing last year.”
Richt was asked about the “soft” comment.
“That’s how he felt about it,” Richt said. “He has a right to say that. Do we want to get better at stopping the run? Yeah, you better believe it.”
Cornerback Sanders Commings said Georgia isn’t a soft defense.
“I think last week we played lazy,” Commings said of a 29-24 Georgia win in which it gave up 206 rushing yards.
Gillard said the defense will be ready Saturday after a great day of practice Tuesday.
“I felt like that woke a lot of guys up,” outside linebacker Jarvis Jones said of Williams’ comments. “Guys were turned up on both sides of the ball.”
Could it be a spark for the team?
“It might,” Richt said smiling. “We’ll see.”