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UGA understands: If you can stop star RB Lattimore, you can stop S.C.

South Carolina sophomore running back Marus Lattimore, seen here splitting the East Carolina defense during last week's season opener, torched Georgia last year as a freshman.

South Carolina sophomore running back Marus Lattimore, seen here splitting the East Carolina defense during last week's season opener, torched Georgia last year as a freshman.

ATHENS -- Georgia couldn't stop Marcus Lattimore a year ago when the Bulldogs' defense included starting linebacker Akeem Dent, who's now with the NFL's Atlanta Falcons.

It could be even more difficult for Georgia to contain No. 12 South Carolina's powerful back with a freshman or a walk-on possibly starting at linebacker.

The Bulldogs lost starter Alec Ogletree for four to six weeks with a broken foot during last week's loss to then-No.5 Boise State, leaving Georgia scrambling to find a replacement for Saturday's game against the Gamecocks.

The candidates to replace Ogletree include Jeremy Sulek, a senior walk-on, and Amarlo Herrera, a freshman from North Clayton High School. Another possibility is junior Mike Gillard, who has nine tackles in 11 career games.

"We're deciding on the linebacker position through competition," Georgia coach Mark Richt said, adding he may know select a starter by today.

Lattimore had 37 carries for 182 yards and two touchdowns in South Carolina's 17-6 win against Georgia last year in Columbia. It was his first SEC game.

"Marcus is a great player, not a good player," Rich added.

Lattimore already ranks 25th on South Carolina's records with 1,309 yards rushing.

"That whole week we prepared to run the ball and I knew coming into the game that we were going to run the ball a lot," Lattimore said. "Once I got in my groove, I felt like I could be successful. Obviously, I had a good game. This year, it's a whole different year. They're watching film and they'll be ready."

The sophomore is a big reason the Gamecocks were the preseason favorite to win the SEC's Eastern Division. He opened this season with 112 yards rushing and three touchdowns in the Gamecocks' 56-37 win against East Carolina last week.

Looking Ahead

WHO: South Carolina (0-1) at Georgia (1-0).

WHAT: SEC opener for both.

WHEN: 4:30 p.m. Saturday.

WHERE: Athens.

TV: ESPN.

LINE: Gamecocks by 3 points.

"Their running back is probably the best running back in the country when you look at him and the things he did for them last year," Georgia defensive coordinator Todd Grantham said. "Their offensive line works well together. They're big. They're physical. They push you. They maul guys. They stay on blocks to let the running back find the seam, and then he can take it from there."

Junior Christian Robinson, who led Georgia with 13 tackles in last week's 35-21 loss to then-No. 5 Boise State, is the other starting inside linebacker in the 3-4 defense.

The challenge of defending the 6-foot, 232-pound Lattimore and finding a new starting linebacker is one reason Georgia, which had a typically tough Tuesday practice, was back in full pads on Wednesday. Extra contact drills are needed for an extra-difficult assignment.

Richt said Wednesday Lattimore's yards after contact are huge for South Carolina and a big concern for his defense.

"If you block for two yards twice, it's third and six," Richt said. "If your back can get you two yards after contact, then it's third and two and that's what he can do as well as any back I can remember in a long time."

Richt said he resisted the thought of moving tailback Richard Samuel back to linebacker. Samuel (6-2, 243) moved from inside linebacker to tailback this summer and would add important size to the middle of the defense.

"There wasn't any discussion," Richt said. "I thought about it just kind of laying on the pillow at night, but by the time Richard got back and trained up and really ready to play, Ogletree would probably be back healthy and ready to go."

Sulek had seven tackles after taking over for Ogletree. He had four career tackles before the game.

Also critical to Georgia's run defense will be the play of massive nosetackles Kwame Geathers (6-6, 350) and John Jenkins (6-3, 351). Geathers has missed practice this week with what Richt called a "stinger," but is expected to play against South Carolina.

Lattimore said he expects the Georgia defense will be motivated.

"Definitely. They just lost to Boise State," Lattimore said. "They're going to be a mad defense and they'll definitely be ready to stop the run."


ATHENS --- Saturday's match up between Georgia and South Carolina will include various activities recognizing the Tenth Anniversary of September 11.

There will be a moment of silence before the game for those affected by 9/11 and the individuals who serve our country every day. Right before kickoff, an Air Force flyover will immediately follow the National Anthem. Also, Melissa Christian, widow of Athens Clarke County Police Officer Elmer "Buddy" Christian and Officer Tony Howard will be recognized as honorary captains.

During each timeout of the game, a photo slideshow will be run on the video board of Bulldog fans and alumni serving oversees.

Also, the first quarter timeout will recognize Ashley Henderson-Huff and Noah Harris, two UGA alums of the Army ROTC program that served and were killed in action since 9/11. Henderson-Huff's family will be on the field for the recognition.

In addition to the appearance of ACC Police Officer Howard and the family of Officer Christian, First Responders that also serve as mentors to UGA football will also be recognized between the first and second quarter.

At halftime, the UGA and South Carolina bands will partner for the halftime show that will feature a military salute. Also, the show will recognize all UGA ROTC alumni in attendance.