Winter is here for the Georgia defense as it battles Tennessee tempo: ‘They go really fast’

Georgia football-Tennessee-tempo
Georgia Bulldogs defensive lineman Tyrion Ingram-Dawkins (93) celebrates a tackle of Florida Gators running back Trevor Etienne (7) during the first half in a NCAA football game at TIAA Bank Field, Saturday, October 29, 2022, in Jacksonville, Florida. Georgia won 42-20. (Jason Getz / Jason.Getz@ajc.com)

ATHENS — Zion Logue wasn’t doing a Ned Stark impression nor was he comparing Tennessee to the White Walkers from Game of Thrones.

But the Georgia team has long been prepping for Saturday when No. 2 Tennessee invades Sanford Stadium.

“We said the thing throughout the summer, ‘Winter is going to come. Ask what you did all summer?’ It’s like saying what work did you put in during the summer for when December and January come when you’re best football is needed,” Logue said. “They remember what you do in November.”

Georgia did work on preparing for the Tennessee offense and the pace at which it plays in August and during the off week, but it does that for a number of foes as Kirby Smart pointed out.

What makes Tennessee unique, and part of the reason why it is breaking college football defenses this season, is because of how fast the Volunteers play. They aren’t like one of those slow, methodical plodding offenses.

“They go really fast,” Smart said. “They get a lot of at-bats in terms of possessions, and they do start fast. I think our team has done a really good job of growing and getting better throughout this year. And each week, including the off-week, it’s, like, I see marked improvement. I really want to continue to do that. We’re trending in the right direction in terms of getting better both offensively and defensively.”

Related: Kirby Smart challenges Georgia fans to set new standard against Tennessee: ‘We’ll need them again’

Smart laughed off a question in Saturday’s press conference about simulating Tennessee’s pace. It can’t really be replicated in an accurate way.

Tennessee doesn’t hold the ball for long, as the Volunteers rank 125th in time of possession. But Tennessee ranks first in total offense in the country and second in yards per play.

The tempo with which Tennessee plays puts extra stress on defenses that try and rotate a lot. That is how Georgia tends to operate. It is going to force the Bulldogs to have their front seven players strain for longer, especially on the defensive line. Georgia doesn’t rotate much in the secondary and Jamon Dumas-Johnson doesn’t come off the field as one of the inside linebackers.

The key will be the defensive line and edge rushers for Georgia. The Bulldogs aren’t likely to have Nolan Smith for this game as he deals with a pectoral injury, meaning more snaps for Robert Beal, Chaz Chambliss and Marvin Jones Jr.

Related: Georgia football injury report: Nolan Smith ‘doubtful’ for Tennessee game with pec injury

Georgia did get Jalen Carter back on the defensive line and Smart was impressed with how impactful he was on Saturday.

The Bulldogs though can’t shape up an entire team in one week. You don’t start training for a marathon the week before it starts. In this case, Tennessee is going to try to turn its possessions into 100-meter dashes.

“If they’re not in shape, then you did something wrong long before,” Smart said. “So we’ve been building towards this week in terms of -- since week one, the conditioning level of our players has been a concern every week for me. It’s one of the major concerns, Are you in good enough shape? Because if you’re not, you can’t make it up in one week. So it’s one of those things we work really hard on. I don’t know how much other teams condition in the country, but we do a lot because I think it’s really important.”

Georgia, which ranks second in the country in total offense, could help out its defense by going on long-sustained drives, beating a great offense with its own strong offensive attack. Georgia does rank fourth in the country in terms of time of possession, playing complementary football in that aspect.

The Georgia defense isn’t the same one that shut down Tennessee last season, holding the Volunteers to just 17 points in Knoxville. The unit will hear all week about how Hendon Hooker and the Volunteers can’t be stopped, much like Stark stressed to his family that winter is coming.

Winter is here for the Georgia defense. They’ve gathered up their forces and are ready for awaits them on Saturday afternoon.

“It is a great challenge for us. The tempo, we are not going to let that affect us,” Logue said. “We are going to play our game and stick to the things we have been taught all season and just play football.”

Zion Logue talks Tennessee tempo, offense

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