UGA Notebook: Bulldogs defense looking for improvementBy Marc Weiszer
Morris News Service
ATHENS – Halfway through the season, Georgia safety Shawn Williams made his first appearance since August with the media on Monday night.
Back in the preseason, the senior said of the Bulldogs defense: "Hands down, we want to be the best in the country."
"It gets very discouraging," Williams said. "You have people saying other defenses are doing this and that. As I look at it, those guys are not better than ours, but we're just not getting the job done and they are. I guess we've just got to come out and execute the gameplan better. That's all it is."
Williams called the bye week "much-needed" to allow the defense a chance to improve its communication.
"I think we're back where we need to be and we're ready to get another shot at it and show everybody what we can do," said Williams, second on the team with 41 tackles.
He said the defense took a positive approach after clearing the air.
"We met a couple of days and people got what was on their chest out and said what they had to say," he said. "We've just got to be accountable for our actions and know we have to eliminate the big plays."
Williams said he had not talked to reporters since the season started because he had to take "a little break" from the media. That break, he said, was a decision made by both him and the coaches.
Georgia's defense now has been back at full strength on the field for two games after safety Bacarri Rambo and linebacker Alec Ogletree returned from suspension.
"I guess it took those guys a little while to get in game shape and game mode, but now I think there's no excuses," he said. "We've got to go out and get the job done."
• Wildcats relying on youth at QB
Kentucky will try to pull the upset of No. 11 Georgia on Saturday with a true freshman at quarterback.
Jalen Whitlow is likely to get his third straight start for the Wildcats.
Whitlow was rated by Scout.com as the No. 57 quarterback prospect in the 2012 class.
That's behind another Kentucky freshman, Patrick Towles, at No. 33.
Towles is showing improvement from a high ankle sprain but is considered doubtful for Saturday.
They have been pushed into action this season after sophomore Maxwell Smith, who completed 68.7 percent of his passes for 975 yards and eight touchdowns, sustained a torn left ankle ligament against South Carolina.
Whitlow has started the past two games – both losses – 27-14 to Mississippi State and 49-7 to Arkansas.
"Jalen, every snap he gets is only good for him being able to grow in this program," coach Joker Phillips said Monday.
The 6-foot-2, 202-pound Whitlow, from Prattville, Ala., has completed 25 of 60 passes for 282 yards with a touchdown and two interceptions, but can be a threat in the run game.
Towles, a 6-5, 232-pound native of Fort Thomas, Ky., connected on 5 of 6 passes for 71 yards and a touchdown against Mississippi State before being injured.
Phillips said Towles was able to "get up on his toes," on Monday. "That's usually a good sign when you have a high ankle sprain. He moved around a little bit, not great today, but we'll take a look at it tomorrow and Wednesday also."
The Wildcats also have senior Morgan Newton, who started in a 38-0 loss at Florida on Sept. 22 and against Georgia in 2009 in a 34-27 win in Athens.
• History says BCS title game still not out of reach
Georgia, now 5-1, began the season eyeing a trip to Miami for the BCS national title game.
It debuted at No. 11 in the season's initial BCS standings on Sunday.
Only one team has made it to the BCS title game having started that low.
LSU in 2003 was No. 12 in the first BCS standings of that season.
The only other team to debut at No. 10 or lower and make the championship game was Florida at No. 10 in 2008.
"We definitely feel like our goals are still intact and we can still keep pushing," guard Chris Burnette said. "As long as we take care of every game, we can be back in the race if we want."
• Quick hits
Georgia outside linebacker Jarvis Jones (sprained ankle) did not practice Monday when the Bulldogs held their only full-pads practice of the week. Coach Mark Richt said Sunday he expected Jones to play Saturday against Kentucky. ... Two reserve defensive players are out an indefinite period after undergoing surgeries. Defensive end Sterling Bailey had surgery Monday for a sprained right thumb, according to the school. Linebacker Brandon Burrows underwent surgery for a broken left hand. ... Kentucky safeties Martavius Neloms (hamstring) and Ashley Lowery (head) are "day-to-day," Phillips said. Lowery is supposed to be examined by a a doctor today. Neloms is slated to run in practice on Wednesday. "We coach who's available," Phillips said. "If those guys aren't available, we'll continue to go with the young kids."