Inside Slant - Dawgs during finals

Mark Richt

This week's inside slant about the Georgia Bulldogs as they get ready for the Outback Bowl.

While the Georgia coaches recruited and the players lifted, ran and prepared for exams, David Pollack ran a victory lap of sorts last week, accepting a plethora of awards.

Pollack, a senior defensive end, made every first-team All-SEC list and also earned several national honors, from first-team All-American by Sports Illustrated and Walter Camp to two of the individual biggies.

On Dec. 8, he was in Houston accept the Lombardi Award as the top college lineman. A day later, he traveled to Orlando receive the Chuck Bednarik Trophy, awarded to the nation's top defensive player.

"I was very surprised," Pollack said on the ESPN broadcast. "I thought Derrick Johnson (Of Texas) was a shoo-in. He got a lot of tackles, and Erasmus James (of Wisconsin) -- both of them -- they were both probably more deserving."

Pollack and James will meet again in Tampa for the Outback Bowl when Georgia plays Wisconsin on New Year's Day, although it's unlikely they'll see each other on the field.

"We're just having fun," Pollack said. "We haven't bothered (talking) about the bowl game. We try not to talk about football. It's going to be a matchup of two good defensive ends. That will probably be the hype."

Now that the awards are out of the way, Pollack can turn his attention toward finishing his career with one last victory. Either way, Pollack will leave as an important member of the winningest senior class in Georgia history.

"It was a disappointing season and we went 9-2," Pollack said. "We've come a long way. The program's back to where it needs to be, and we take pride in that as seniors."

NOTES, QUOTES

BEST ATTRIBUTE: The Bulldogs are capable of moving the ball and scoring points with a balanced offense, talented skill players and an experienced quarterback.

NEEDS IMPROVEMENT: The offensive line tends to be inconsistent and must do a better job in both the run and the pass to take advantage of Georgia's potential balance.

GAME OF THE YEAR: Georgia 45, LSU 16 -- After LSU beat Georgia twice last year on its way to the national championship, the Bulldogs ripped the Tigers this time around. David Greene passed for five UGa touchdowns and the defense gave LSU QBs constant problems.

MATCHUP TO WATCH: Georgia's running defense vs. Wisconsin RB Anthony Davis -- Davis, the sixth-leading rusher in Big Ten history, missed four games because of injuries this season. Wisconsin averaged 25.4 points in six games with Davis and 12.5 points without him.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "It's the best decision I ever made. I'd never lived off campus before. I grew up a lot. I had to cook and clean. You see how everything looks on God's time, not on my time." -- Georgia defensive end David Pollack, who earned several individual national and conference awards after passing up the NFL Draft to return for his senior season.

STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL

BOWL AT A GLANCE: Georgia vs. Wisconsin, Outback Bowl, Tampa, Jan. 1 -- Georgia needs to take advantage of its superior speed on both sides of the ball.

PLAYERS TO WATCH: RBs Thomas Brown and Danny Ware -- They've already faced some tough challenges as true freshmen and will face another against Wisconsin.

MLB Odell Thurman -- He got off to a slow start this season because of a suspension and some uncertain performances, and never really played up to expectations. Georgia needs him to be at his best against a hard-nosed Wisconsin running game.

PRO POTENTIAL: DE David Pollack -- His motor is always running and he's spent the past three years making play after play. He moves well and knows how to find the ball, but at 6-2, 265 pounds he can be pushed around.

LB Odell Thurman -- He entered his junior season as one of the top linebackers in the draft, but hurt himself with a three-game suspension and inconsistent play throughout the season. If he makes the jump, he'll be taking a chance.

WRs Fred Gibson and Reggie Brown -- Both have decent speed but neither has the big-time NFL burst. Gibson has an edge with his size (6-4) and ability to go up and get the ball, while Brown has better hands. They are generally considered among the top 10-12 receivers available in the draft.

S Thomas Davis -- Georgia always wanted to use him at linebacker and often played him like one, but injuries to other players prevented a full-time move, so he might be better off with another season at Georgia. Either way, NFL teams love his willingness to hit and he might have a difficult time ignoring all those first-round projections and returning for another year of college ball.

QB David Greene -- He's smart, experienced and knows how to win, with 41 victories in his career, but his arm strength, mobility and athleticism are limited, so he likely will last into the later rounds.

OT Max Jean-Gilles -- He's played both guard and tackle and has the size (6-4, 341) and athletic ability to pass up his senior season and enter the draft. Still, he has much to gain from another college season, especially when it comes to technique and consistency.

ROSTER REPORT: In addition to QB David Greene suffering a broken bone in his left (throwing) hand, WR Fred Gibson (hip-pointer), RB Danny Ware (broken bone in right hand) and FB Jeremy Thomas (eye) all suffered first-half injuries against Georgia Tech. Greene, Gibson and Thomas are all expected to be back for the bowl, while Ware will try to play with a cast. ... At least three players -- FS Thomas Davis, OT Max Jean-Gilles and LB Odell Thurman -- will be taking a look at their NFL draft prospects.

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