ATHENS, Ga. - Even before Pat Dye made the subject the hot topic of the week, Georgia's young defensive linemen knew they would be in the spotlight against Alabama Saturday.
Entering the season, Johnathan Sullivan was the only member of the defensive line with more than five career starts. Even Sullivan had to adjust to a move back to defensive tackle after finishing last season at defensive end.
When compared to Alabama's veteran offensive line, which returned all its starters from 2001, Georgia's youth and inexperience may have been reasons enough to substantiate Dye's bold statement this week that Georgia is not "man enough to beat Alabama.''
In some cases, however, Georgia's young starters are playing like veterans. Most notable is defensive end David Pollack, who as a sophomore boasts team-high totals of four quarterback sacks, seven tackles for lost yards and six passes broken up.
Pollack (6-3, 264) consistently makes up for deficits in size and experience with his relentless, attacking style of play. Pollack leads the Southeastern Conference in sacks, and he shares the lead with Alabama's Kenny King in tackles for lost yards.
Pollack's aggressive, physical brand of football should help disprove the theory that size and experience alone can determine if Georgia's defensive front is "man enough'' to help the No. 7 Bulldogs beat No. 22 Alabama Saturday.
Georgia also has enjoyed solid production from ends Will Thompson, who is fourth on the team with 26 tackles and is second with three sacks, and Shedrick Wynn, who made a big impact with two sacks against New Mexico State Saturday in his first appearance of the season.
Sullivan (6-3, 299) leads the SEC with 11 quarterback pressures and provides needed bulk in the middle of the line. Sullivan must help carry the inside load for one of two true freshmen - Darrius Swain or Kedric Golston - who have shared the starting job at nose tackle.
Swain (6-2, 316) and junior Ken Veal (6-1, 311) help provide size and muscle at tackle. Veal has one start this year but was suspended last week.
Georgia defensive coordinator Brian VanGorder has not announced this week's starting line.
"There are a couple of situations where we just have to see how guys practice and how hard they practice,'' VanGorder said.
"I think (Swain and Golston) are competitive. At this point in time, they've come to the realization the number of snaps will not be that different.''
One developing strength is depth. Though there is not a senior in the two-deep depth chart any of the four defensive line positions, there are now seven players with at least one start on the unit.
Of the top eight, only Wynn, listed as Pollack's backup, has never started. Wynn, a junior, has the edge of having played as a backup last year at defensive tackle before returning to his natural end position this year.
Compared to the end of last season when Pollack and Wynn were forced into action as undersized defensive tackles, Veal won a starting job by default and Georgia had almost no scholarship backups, there is an appearance of great depth.
Including redshirt freshmen Darrell Holmes and Gerald Anderson, who showed great potential with his six tackles against New Mexico State, Georgia has six players competing for time at the two defensive tackle spots.
"Last year, when I first started, we didn't have but three (defensive tackles),'' Veal said. "It's a new situation for us. I'm kind of liking it. Still, the talent level hasn't dropped off.''
The depth may help when the unit takes a pounding from Alabama's physical ground game Saturday. Alabama leads the Southeastern Conference in rushing and is expected to give the Bulldogs their biggest physical challenge of the season.
"They've got a big, big, strong, experienced offensive line,'' VanGorder said. "They've dedicated themselves to the running game.''
Said Pollack: "It will be a challenge because they're big and strong up front. We're playing a lot of younger kids, but they know what to do. The nerves are gone. Now it's time to play ball.''