- David Ching, ESPN Staff Writer
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ATHENS, Ga. -- Shawn Williams said his piece after Monday’s practice. On Tuesday, the Georgia safety’s teammates had their opportunity to respond to Williams calling the Bulldogs’ defense soft and saying linebacker Amarlo Herrera should play ahead of senior teammates Michael Gilliard and Christian Robinson.
“Just when you call me soft, I just want to go and show them that ain’t nothing sweet around here,” Gilliard said after Tuesday’s practice. “So the only thing I’m going to do is deliver, and starting today, that’s what I tried to do.”
Robinson voiced a similar sentiment on Tuesday afternoon, saying he was disappointed that his teammate publicly voiced a critical opinion. But Robinson -- who typically plays as a third-down linebacker -- said the Bulldogs can easily turn the situation into a positive.
“I think whether people think that’s what was needed or we just come together and say we haven’t gotten it done, either one of those would be the reason why this is a positive,” Robinson told reporters at the team’s weekly press luncheon. “It’s not what we, no one wants to hear. No football player wants to hear they’re soft. That’s not the way I’d go about it.
“I think I come up here every week and I say the same thing, and I think you guys think I’m repeating the same thing every time I say we’ve got to fix the problems, big plays, but he was a little more blunt with it in that sense.”
Either way, Williams’ commentary likely will turn Georgia’s defensive trajectory in one of two directions. Either it lit a fire that will produce more effective results -- the Bulldogs rank eighth in the SEC in scoring defense (24.1 ppg) and ninth in total defense (367.4 ypg) -- or it will create an irreparable rift.
Senior cornerback Sanders Commings predicted that it will be a positive force, as he did not agree that the defense was playing soft in last Saturday’s 29-24 win against Kentucky as much as it was playing lazy -- and Commings believes Williams’ criticism might create a greater energy level.
“It’s definitely going to go up,” Commings said. “Anytime you have a senior leader that pretty much holds everyone accountable and calls out the defense, I think that’s going to motivate us to play harder.”
Perhaps that is why defensive coordinator Todd Grantham described Williams’ comments as “no big deal” after Tuesday’s practice. He did not seem to share Williams’ opinion that Georgia’s defensive lapses were related to effort, but Grantham obviously would be happy if the verbal attack produced more spirited play on Saturday against No. 2 Florida.
He gave Williams a chance to address his defensive teammates before Tuesday’s practice to clear the air and express exactly what he meant.
“I think anytime you’re not maybe as successful as you want to be, effort and physicalness are the first things you look at,” Grantham said. “I think there’s a lot of reasons that those things can happen. I think these guys will be ready to play.”
Jones practicing: All-America linebacker Jarvis Jones returned to practice on Monday and said Tuesday evening that he “did most everything” in Tuesday’s practice. He said he expects to be ready to play against Florida after missing last Saturday’s game against Kentucky.
He said he has been getting regular treatment on the ankle he sprained during an Oct. 6 loss to South Carolina and actually had been in the training room moments before meeting with reporters on Tuesday night.
“I’m just trying to push myself to be in the best position possible so that when Saturday comes, I can give my team everything I have,” Jones said.
Jones said linebacker Alec Ogletree fell on his ankle early in the fourth quarter against South Carolina, but he played through the pain for the rest of that game.
“I tried to tough it out,” Jones said. “It was a tough situation for us, and I definitely didn’t want the guys to feel like, ‘Well, he’s giving up on us.’ That’s something I would never do, and I toughed it out till the end of the game with them.”
Special teams coach? Bulldogs coach Mark Richt said Tuesday afternoon that he is not particularly interested in reassigning one of his assistants to focus solely on coaching special teams -- or in firing one of them to take over those duties.
But Richt said he might look into taking personal responsibility for Georgia’s kickers and punters. The Bulldogs have struggled on special teams this season, ranking last in the SEC in net punting (33.8 yards) and 13th in PAT kicking (30-for-34).
“One thing that I can do as head coach is at least spend time learning the kicking and punting fundamentals well enough to be their coach,” Richt said. “Which right this minute I wouldn’t say that I have enough expertise to do that, but I think this offseason it would be wise for me to do something like that, because I’m freed up enough to do that, and if that’s my contribution to special teams in the future, I think it’d be valuable.”
1dSam Khan Jr.