“It’s not like we’re 0-6 or 1-5, you know, we’re 4-2,” Norman said. “Those guys are getting better every week and they have confidence. They’re going to continue to work every day.”
They may have confidence, but Norman said Georgia’s defensive backs need even more.
Georgia is leaning on freshman safety Qunicy Mauger and has started freshmen Shaq Wiggins and Brendan Langley at cornerback on a defense giving up 259.3 yards per game through the air, 12th in the SEC.
“We have a great line who brings pressure to the quarterback,” Mauger said, “and we’re just DBs just out trying to learn from our mistakes and get better at it.”
Junior cornerback Damian Swann, expected to be a playmaker, has had trouble in coverage, including Saturday against Missouri.
“It’s still the same Swann,” Wiggins said. “He still has that swagger about him. In practice, he’s still talking, still being that leader. He has a strong mindset. This is football. With all the criticism and the things we’re going through, it isn’t anything new. When you’re winning, everybody is going to cheer for you and when you’re losing, everybody’s going to boo you. …The DBs are still looking up to him.”
Coaches haven’t made Swann available for interviews in recent weeks.
“I think there’s a lot of pressure on him just because he is the older guy out there on the defense,” Norman said.
Coach Mark Richt said last week that Swann was struggling and that continued against Missouri in the first half.
“I thought he played a really good second half,” Richt said. “He started out maybe a little rugged in the first.”
The freshmen don’t have too many experienced players to lean on.
“The thing of it is, it’s not like you’re young with a senior around you,” defensive coordinator Todd Grantham said. “You’re young and there’s a young guy beside you.”
Georgia held up on the back end on first and second downs, helping the defense get sacks and incompletions, Grantham said.
“A lot of that credit goes to the players on the back end and the way they performed,” he said. “We’ve just got to work on getting it done on third down.”
Cornerback Sheldon Dawson, who’s played primarily special teams, could see defensive snaps.
“If it’s something he can do,” Grantham said, “red zone or a dime package or something like that, then we’ll do it.”
Gurley, Matthews probably won’t play Saturday
It looks like Georgia will be without tailback Todd Gurley for a third straight game with an ankle injury, much to the chagrin of freshman J.J. Green.
“I hope he comes back,” Green said earlier this week. “It’s Todd Gurley. Who’s going to try to tackle him?”
Well, Vanderbilt probably won’t get that chance since Gurley hasn’t been able to do much in practice this week, Richt said.
“We’re preparing to play without him,” Richt said Wednesday.
Safety Tray Matthews also looks like he miss his third straight game with a pulled hamstring.
“Tray isn’t even attempting to do any football specific-drills,” Richt said. “Todd’s at least doing some things that were football-related.”
At practice Wednesday, Richt said Gurley was “moving around and changing direction a little bit and catching a couple of balls here and there. Not at a tempo that will make you feel like he’ll have a chance. If we played tomorrow, he wouldn’t be playing tomorrow, I know that.”
Green rushed for 87 yards and Brendan Douglas 70 against Missouri.
Theus in position to start again
John Theus is poised to regain the starting offensive right tackle job against Vanderbilt.
Theus, who started every game there as a freshman in 2012, has backed up Kolton Houston in every game except South Carolina when Theus started at right tackle and Houston at left guard.
Richt said Theus “practiced well last week and played well last week. He deserves a chance to start.”
Houston and Theus have split time at the position this season.
Georgia gave up two sacks last week to Missouri when Aaron Murray felt pressure on the speed rush.
“There’s always concern when we didn’t handle the edges like we should have,” offensive coordinator Mike Bobo said.
This and that
Georgia’s exciting finishes helped CBS to its highest ratings in the 12 years it has carried its SEC package through the first five games of the season. CBS says ratings are up nearly 50 percent so far this season. Georgia’s games against LSU and Tennessee were 3:30 p.m. CBS games. The Vanderbilt game is at 12 p.m. this week as part of a CBS doubleheader.
Inside linebacker Ramik Wilson, the SEC’s second-leading tackler, returned to practice Wednesday from a bruised knee. “He looked good,” Richt said. “I think he’ll be fine.”
Defensive lineman Toby Johnson, who has three tackles in six games, missed Wednesday’s practice with a left knee injury. Georgia didn’t disclose the severity of the injury.
Richt on the debut of receiver Jonathon Rumph, who has battled a hamstring injury: “He’s still getting comfortable with the system. To think that he’ll make a huge impact, it would be hard to predict that, but hopefully he’ll get in the game and when he gets opportunities, he’ll make plays.”
Richt said this week that safety Shaquille Fluker is heading for a redshirt season, but Georgia had listed Fluker as playing against North Texas. Now it says it’s revising that participation information because he, in fact, did not play in that game. Richt said that defensive back Kennar Johnson “more than likely” will also be redshirted.