March 3, 2009

Curran stepping up

There's a reason that linebacker Rennie Curran is considered a popular interview request by the Georgia media corps.

He tells it like it is.

Whether the subject is Georgia's returning linebackers or his thoughts on the Bulldogs' returning defense, which he said needs to look within itself to avoid some of the pitfalls that hurt the unit last fall.

"It starts with us, and just filling in those spots that we're not too sure about," Curran said. "It's about coming together and starting out right with a solid foundation that lasts us the whole entire season, whether its tackling right, being disciplined and not getting offsides, things like that which killed us last year. We've got to start right off correcting those things and make sure they don't become an issue again."

Curran said he intends to make sure that he and the rest of Georgia's linebackers are on the same page as well.

Despite the loss of Dannell Ellerbe, Curran believes that the return of Marcus Washington, who missed all of last year with a shoulder injury, along with returnees Darryl Gamble, Akeem Dent, Marcus Dowtin, Charles White, Christian Robinson and Nick Williams give Georgia a leg up on most teams.

"We've got some passionate guys who want to do the right thing and I feel will play that way," Curran said. "I feel every one of them can play."

Curran doesn't do a bad job himself.

The next time you see an opposing running back slide alongside a right tackle with a wave of Georgia tacklers converging toward him, pay close attention. There's a good chance sophomore Curran will be leading the charge.

Although not the biggest linebacker by most standards, Curran's "nose for the football" and growing reputation as a tackling machine is becoming quite apparent to those who follow the sport.

"It is amazing to watch him play because when a play goes laterally and there's a flow of bodies going there, all of a sudden you see a little dart," head coach Mark Richt said. "He just gets there faster than anybody else and he tends to take the right angle to get there. Some people say he's got a nose for the ball and I guess he does. That's the best way to describe it."

Curran finished with 115 tackles last fall, one behind league leader Dominic Douglas of Ole Miss.

"I don't really see it being undersized or anything, but that's just how people look at it. This is just something that they're not used to but I've gotten over the fact they think that way," Curran said. "I've always understood that people are afraid of what's different, it takes them a while to get used to that so I've just accepted that and use what God's given me and stretch my strength instead of what's supposed to be my weaknesses."

Strength-wise, they don't come much stronger.

Curran bench pressed 435 pounds during the summer, coming very close to the school record for linebackers (455 pounds) set by Tony Taylor two years ago.

But it's his quickness and excellent instincts that set the former Brookwood star apart from the rest. Take Georgia's 14-7 win over South Carolina when Curran's hit on running back Mike Davis forced a fumble that Asher Allen recovered in the end zone allowing Georgia to hold onto its 14-7 lead.

Richt said he has become quite used to seeing Curran in the right place at the right time. It's like that in practice, and always, it seems, in games.

"I've talked about him before where say the rule of thumb is you have a certain gap and you're going to take on a blocker, with a certain shoulder to keep the outside arm free or whatever it might be," Richt said. "That lineman is coming to try and fit up on you and try to seal you inside so that guy (running back) can get outside. Usually if you go underneath that block the back's gone. But there's sometimes when a guard might pull a little too wide and give too much space where you can dart through and get there.

"Now, if you go through there and miss him, you're in trouble. But certain players will go get it if they see it because they have a feel for when they can and can't. If he doesn't feel he can make that kind of a read then he'll play as fundamental as anybody we've got. However, because Rennie's so quick and he has good instincts on when to take that little chance, he's able to be successful."

Curran just shrugs it off to his natural, God-given ability.

"Sometimes I amaze myself that I'm able to get there so fast," Curran said. "It's just something that God gave me but it's also a tribute to the guys I have around me, taking on blocks and forcing the ball back inside. With all the guys we have coming back, hopefully we all have the same kind of success."

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