Do you remember the feeling?
Georgia's defense does. The newest addition to the Bulldogs' defensive team meeting room reminds them every day.
Amid dog bones and gas cans signed by Bulldog defensive greats and an enormous photo of Erk Russell, the founder of Georgia's "junkyard dawgs" philosophy, sits the sign that reads just that: "Do you remember the feeling?"
Just as Georgia defenders enter the room, one they go to every day, they're greeted by the poster, the phrase, Tim Tebow grinning and Georgia Tech players flossing their teeth with hedge clippings.
The Bulldog defense remembers the feeling. And it's not ready to forget it.
"We don't want to forget," defensive tackle Geno Atkins told me. "You've got that bad taste in your mouth. Until you get that win, that's probably when you'll forget."
More than just a reminder of two losses, the poster signifies what the Bulldogs hope will be a departure from last season's defensive struggles.
It means more than just 49-10. It means more than 45-42.
It's a reminder of the missed expectations that affected the whole team, but especially the defense.
It brings other numbers to life, too—just 24 sacks, only 11 interceptions, and a Richt-era worst 24.5 points allowed per game.
"We use it as motivation," said sophomore Brandon Boykin, who will be looking to fill Asher Allen's big shoes at short corner. "Those two games that we lost last year, they were very important games, and we lost by a lot. Just remember the feeling that we had a lot last year, we're using that as motivation this year. When we make mistakes, we look at that. And we don't want to have that same feeling."
Georgia lost three games last year, but the Alabama loss (a 41-30 defeat that saw the Crimson Tide up 31-0 at the half) is not on the poster, presumably because of the way the Bulldogs fought back in the second half.
Fighting back will be a familiar theme for the Bulldogs this season, starting with their Sep. 5 opener against No. 9 Oklahoma State, a squad boasting three potential Heisman Trophy candidates on offense.
"It can be as different as we want to be," said linebacker Rennie Curran. "We can be as good as we want to be. The leadership is there, we have all the intangibles as a team to be successful. It can be as good as we want it to be if we control the things that we are able to control and just make the best [effort] and correct those mistakes from the past."
One thing that the Georgia defense lacked in 2008 was that leadership, but there's plenty of that this time around.
Vocal senior tackle Jeff Owens is back from an ACL tear, and he and Atkins are anchoring a strong interior line. Curran is the leader of a linebacking corps packed with experienced juniors. Prince Miller and Bryan Evans have found their voices in the secondary, and safety Reshad Jones stuck around for his senior season.
"I think our leadership is pretty solid when you've got guys like Rennie Curran and Jeff Owens right in the middle of your defense," said defensive coordinator Willie Martinez. "They have a tremendous amount of experience."
With a little inspiration from the past added in, it all spells hope for a better year for the Bulldog defense.
"You always use your bad experiences and use it as motivation and see how you can improve on it and make sure it never happens again," Curran said.
"So that's just something we use that shows what can happen when we're not disciplined and we don't execute, just to make sure that we build on it and don't let those mistakes happen.
"But last year's over, this is a whole new year, and we've got a new mentality."
For now, Georgia's defense remembers. But it's also ready to start making people forget.
"Last year was last year," Atkins said. "After we have a good year this year, everybody's going to forget about what happened last year."
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