ATHENS, Ga. - It wasn't so long ago that the task of replacing 2001 senior defensive ends Charles Grant, Josh Mallard and Bruce Adrine ranked near the top of Georgia's list of 2002 concerns.
Now, only halfway through the season, a defense led by sophomore defensive ends David Pollack and Will Thompson already has almost matched the sack production of the 2001 defense.
With Pollack leading the Southeastern Conference with seven sacks and Thompson tied for second with four, Georgia has 22 sacks through six games. The 2001 team finished with 23 sacks, led by Grant's total of six.
Said Pollack Tuesday: "The thing that saves us, all our defensive ends have played like their hair is on fire.''
The production from the defense is a big reason Georgia (6-0 overall, 3-0 SEC) is No. 5 in the nation and in first place in the SEC East as it prepares to play host to Vanderbilt Saturday.
This year's group of defensive ends has emphasized hustle as a substitute for experience.
Said Pollack: "It's all about playing hard. Hustling is contagious. (Players) see good things happening to people who are hustling.''
Pollack also leads the SEC with 18 quarterback pressures and is tied with Georgia linebacker Tony Gilbert for the league lead with 10 tackles for lost yards.
Pollack is on track to challenge the Georgia single-season sack record of 13 set by Mitch Davis in 1993.
"I guess you can kind of look at that, but if we get wins, who cares about records?'' Pollack asked before admitting "It would be nice.''
Perhaps most impressive about Pollack's breakout season is that he has continued to post big numbers as he has started to receive more attention from blockers.
"I saw one play in particular where (Pollack) was engaged with someone and somebody came across and gave him a shot and knocked him down, and of course he just jumped back up,'' said Georgia coach Mark Richt.
Added Richt: "That's the thing about him. Great football players don't stay on the ground very long and always give great effort.''
Despite the double teams, Pollack had five tackles and two sacks in last Saturday's 18-13 win over Tennessee.
Said Pollack: "You get chip blocked in the back sometimes and double-teamed and all kind of stuff. You just take the bad with the good. You do that to me and you're going to leave one of my other 10 defenders open, and they're just as good as me, if not better.''
But Pollack is earning the most attention.
Vanderbilt coach Bobby Johnson said Pollack is the Georgia player who is the greatest cause for concern in Saturday's 12:30 p.m. game.
"He's great,'' Johnson said. "If we weren't trying to figure out a way to block him, we would love to just watch tape of him play. He gives 100 percent all the time.''
Junior Shedrick Wynn matched Pollack's two sacks against Tennessee.
Thompson and sophomore Robert Geathers (one sack) have shared the starting job at one defensive end spot. Thompson started the last four games. Pollack has started every game at the other end.
Wynn has not started a game but is earning more playing time.
Georgia's lone senior defensive end, Nic Clemons, has played in only one game due to a turf toe injury.
Wynn has 3.5 sacks for the year, and despite missing the first three games he says he will a run at Pollack and Thompson for the team sacks lead.
"We go out there and challenge each other,'' Wynn said. "I told (Pollack) I'm going to catch him.''
Said Pollack with a smile: "Everybody has their opinion.''