Senior Mike linebacker Marcus Washington takes very little solace that he was redshirting last year when the Bulldogs were going through some of their defensive issues last fall.
Although he wasn't on the field, what he saw disturbed him. Now that he's 100 percent and expected to play an integral role in 2009, he's determined to help do something about it.
"Last year was definitely a letdown. That wasn't the way a Georgia defense is supposed to perform. We gave up way too many yard, way too many big plays and way too many points," Washington shrugged. "We lost three big ones. If we had made a play here or made a play there, maybe those games would have turned out different. We've just got to refocus and make some stops and quick giving up big plays. Those are the kind of things that switch momentum and once the momentum is switched it can be hard to get it back."
Washington, who sat out last year following shoulder surgery, figures to play a key part in whatever improves the defense eventually makes.
Although he's currently penciled in at Mike, following Georgia's G-Day contest speculation was fueled that Washington might be called upon to help get pressure on the quarterback after he lined up at rush end when the Bulldogs switched to their dime package.
So far, however, he hasn't heard whether that's still part of the plan.
"No, there's been nothing else said," Washington said. "Maybe as we get closer they (coaches) may want to see about it, but so far, no."
Justin Houston's two-game suspension could figure into those plans.
"I do believe that Justin will be our top defensive end," Washington said. "He has a lot to offer as far as run support and pass rush, but we're going to have to find a way to get around that for these first two games, especially against Oklahoma State. We're going to have to get pressure on their quarterback and force him to make bad throws to have a chance."
Washington believes that having Jeff Owens back from his torn ACL will help in that regard.
Not that he expects Owens to provide the pressure him, but his presence - combined with that of Geno Atkins - will make the single-biggest difference for the defense this fall.
"Oh man, that's going to be great. There's going to be no more double-teams on Geno because Jeff is there," Washington said. "Having both those guys in the lineup at the same time is going to make our defense that much better."
For example: With Atkins and Owens on the field at the same time, it's going to present a ticklish problem for opposing offenses to try to solve.
"Geno's a force. He's a game-changer," Washington said. 'When other coaches look at our film, the first thing they say is 'Ok, we've got to block No. 56. Regardless if we've got to cut him, chip him, double-team him, we have to block 56.' Well, they can't do that this year because they've got to block No. 95 (Owens), and once we get Justin back they'll have to worry about him coming off the edge. That will be a lot to worry about because they won't be able to key on one guy."
As for Washington, he said he's 100 percent, no longer suffers any problems with his shoulder and is ready to play whatever role coaches ask of him this fall.
"Right now I'm just working hard, doing what we need to do this summer," Washington said. "The only thing I really need to do is get my mental aspect where it needs to be, but that won't take long. I'm just ready to win some ball games."
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