November 9, 2010

A Fairley big concern

Yes, it's almost impossible to read a story advancing Saturday's game against Auburn and not have quarterback Cameron Newton be the central character.

After all, the former Westlake standout is a huge reason the Tigers are undefeated and in contention for a possible national title. He deserves all the accolades he's received.

However, if you talk to head coach Mark Richt, his coaches and players, defensive tackle Nick Fairley will get plenty of attention as well.

Fairley might be a quarterback's worse nightmare.

At 6-foot-5 and 298 pounds, Fairley has already body-slammed LSU quarterback Jordan Jefferson and is responsible for giving Arkansas quarterback Ryan Mallett a concussion, two incidents which haven't been lost on Bulldog QB Aaron Murray.

"Hopefully, if I treat the offensive line a little nicer in practice, maybe they'll have my back," kidded Murray, who laughed he won't be doing any talking to Fairley should he get within earshot.

"I might say hi, how you're doing, please don't kill me," Murray smiled. "But our guys will do a great job; I've got confidence in them."

Georgia's offensive line definitely has its work cut out.

Of Auburn's 21 sacks, Fairley is responsible for 7.5, 15 hurries and 18 tackles for loss. The Bulldogs' offensive line has surrendered 17 sacks, tied for sixth-most in the SEC.

"The biggest problem in my opinion is Nick Fairley. He makes it difficult. We talk about getting the ball downfield, but to do that you've got to hold the ball a little while, but it's difficult to hold the ball that long with him coming because he is relentless," Richt said. "I think Ben Jones is a pretty good center and Cordy (Glenn) is a good guard but this guy is a lot to handle."

In fact when asked which player reminds him the most of Fairley, Richt had to hearken back to his days at Florida State to come up with an answer - Warren Sapp.

"Miami in those days played a 4-3 stack, Cover 2 almost every single down. They had those four defensive linemen and Warren that would just blow up your running and passing game," Richt said. "They were that good and Nick is the closest I've seen to Warren Sapp in all the days I've been coaching."

Green feels for Newton

Bulldog wide receiver A.J. Green says he feels for what Newton is going through with the Tigers.

Like Newton, Green was the subject of an NCAA inquiry. Although it remains to be seen what, if anything, will result from the Newton investigation, Green said the simple fact that Newton is facing such questions is enough to cause him to feel compassion for his situation.

"Oh yeah, man. Just being through that myself, that's one of the worse feelings to have, because every time you go somewhere somebody's going to ask you about what happened, and stuff like that," Green said after practice Tuesday. "I feel for him, but all I've got to say is he's got to keep his head up, keep working. The only thing he's got to do is keep winning because if he has a bad game then people are going to blame that (investigation) out there. But I feel for him and I'll pray for him because that's not a great feeling."

Green said he's kept up with the saga surrounding Newton.

Actually, he said he can't help but to.

They played it so much on ESPN, like constantly," Green said. "But I don't think he did anything. I just think that because he's doing so well, people are trying to hold him back. I hope it's not true because he is a great player."

McClendon likes steps Malcome has made

Don't get running back coach Bryan McClendon wrong.

Redshirting was probably the best thing for freshman Ken Malcome. But all things considered, if Georgia's running back depth had been what it was in 2009, the former Southwest DeKalb standout would likely have seen playing time.

"I'd say definitely. If he would have come in last year like Washaun (Ealey) did, we probably would have wound up playing him just about the same time," McClendon said. "But like I said, he still has some learning to do. But he's gotten a lot better."

For example:

Like many freshmen, it took Malcome a while to learn there's a lot more to playing running back in college than just toting the football.

"That's been the biggest step that he's taken. There's a lot more than just rolling out the ball and seeing what a guy can do," McClendon said. "He has to be in the right spot at the right time and everything has to be done a certain way. That's the thing that he's gotten the best at. I think he's definitely got a bright future."

Welch happy to portray Newton

So, what thanks does walk-on quarterback Parker Welch get for running the Bulldogs' scout team as Georgia prepares for Auburn?

Well, there's some good and some bad.

"I got hit by Justin Houston today and that did not feel too good," Welch joked with reporters Tuesday. "But no, I'm just going to do what I can to the best of my ability. I know I'm not near the quarterback Cam is, but I still feel I can give our defense an idea of what it will be like when they're on the field Saturday."

Welch laughed that's not being asked to simulate Newton's physical size.

"I'm just trying to help give our guys an idea of what he likes to do offensively," said Welch. "I know I'm not near as fast as I'm more of a passing guy, but we've got some other guys with some speed on defense like Bacarri (Rambo), where if he gets to that third level, we've got the speed to catch up with him."

Grantham responds to Phillips' firing

Defensive coordinator Todd Grantham said he feels for former Dallas coach Wade Phillips, who was fired from his job Monday afternoon.

"It's a tough situation, but that's a good example of how tough it is to win in this league. We were what, 11-5 last year and now it's a tough situation because a ball here and a ball there, you can win some games and get confidence," Grantham said. "But a play here, a play, an injury here, an injury there can also mean a difference in your team. That was a tough situation."

Grantham spent the two previous seasons as the Cowboys' defensive line coach before taking the Georgia position last January.

He said he'll chat with his former colleagues soon.

"I've been so busy here and they're still getting ready," Grantham said. "But I'll definitely talk with them down the road."

This and that

The Bulldogs pushed through a two-and-a-half-hour practice in full pads Tuesday as they continue to prepare for this Saturday's road matchup with No. 2 Auburn (10-0, 6-0 SEC). "They got after it pretty good," Richt said. "I thought the defense had a really, really good day in the competition phase. The defense won the 3-on-3 tackling drill for the first time in 2010 but it was very close." … Nose Kwame Geathers (ankle) and redshirt freshman lineman Chris Burnette (knee) worked out with trainer Ron Courson during Tuesday's practice. Geathers is expected to play against Auburn.

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