NOTES: Batting them down; Bos role
The defensive line has taken making quarterbacks frustrated and uncomfortable to a new level this season.
Besides the fact that it just recently tallied six sacks in the game against Louisiana-Monroe, the big guys up front are getting into opposing quarterbacks' heads and stat line by continuing to bat down passes at a consistent rate.
The UA defense ranks first nationally in passes broken up with 26, including a stellar 13 by the defensive linemen. Dalvin Tomlinson, a 6-foot-3, 294-pound speedy defensive lineman leads the group with an impressive five.
If knocking passes down is an art form, the defense is on its way to perfecting it.
""Pretty much the key is just you gotta get your hands up when they get ready to throw the ball," Tomlinson said. "If you don't get your hands up, you're not gonna get it."
This isn't a new concept for defensive linemen to get their hands up when a pass goes up, but there is a different emphasis in how they're doing it this season.
"I guess before we used to just put our hands up on top of the offensive linemen instead of the passing lanes between the offensive linemen, because most quarterbacks don't throw the ball over the offensive linemen," Tomlinson said.
Junior A'Shawn Robinson is second among the defensive linemen with three passes broken up, Jarran Reed and Jonathan Allen each have two and nose guard Darren Lake has one.
And that's not counting outside linebackers who line up with their hand down when the team is in nickel or dime.
"I just think it's the kind of players that we have," UA coach Nick Saban said. "They have good awareness, good timing with the quarterback. We really emphasize attacking a quarterback's hand this year probably more than we ever have in the past, but we've had some guys who played basketball and were pretty good athletes.
"They kind of do a really good job of that. I think the kind of passes a lot of teams throw now, you really have short, quick passes, a lot of run-pass options. A lot of balls aren't thrown but five yards downfield so you really have an opportunity to do that a lot more than you used to. I think our guys have done a good job of it."
Georgia's secondary isn't just good, it's aggressive.
The Bulldogs have five interceptions on the season, two by sophomore safety Dominick Sanders, who has 121 return yards.
It's an overall aggressive defense, one that puts pressure on the quarterback to get rid of the ball quickly, which can lead to errant throws and bad decisions.
"They have a good pass rush, two guys that are really good pass rushers on the edge," Saban said. "They really push the pocket. They do a good job of disguising in the secondary. They play multiple coverages and I think the quarterback has to be able to identify so he's throwing the ball in the right place at the right time.
"You have to play fast against them. The receivers have to play fast and be precise in what we're doing and the quarterback has to make a good decision about where he goes with the ball. They have been a very, very aggressive secondary."
Don't just assume that because his four-game suspension is up that freshman running back Bo Scarbrough will hit the field running.
Not only does the jumbo back need to shake off some rust, he's also behind three quite talented backs. That's why the coaching staff is working on defining a role for him.
Because of the suspension, it hasn't been easy.
"I think the difficulty is, once you get to the season, we can't invest a lot of reps in Bo Scarbrough when he can't play in a game," Saban said, referring to the first four weeks of the season. "We have to get the guys ready to play in the game. You're talking about a guy that really knows how to play running back, but now you're going to try and teach him how to do all these other things during the course of the week.
"It's really, really difficult. But we would like to try to get a role for the guy on our team, because I do think he could contribute to our team and I think be a very good football player. We're going to try to work that out.
"But it's much more difficult to do that now than when you create roles for guys in the offseason and spring practice and fall camp. We really didn't have the luxury of doing that because the guy wasn't allowed to play in the first four games."
Reach Aaron Suttles at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 205-722-0229.