One of the most feared hitters in Georgia football history looked at last year's Bulldogs team and reached a predictable conclusion.
(Photo courtesy of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution)
"We've got to be more physical and more aggressive in our approach," said Thomas Davis, a former All-American safety from the early days of Mark Richt's tenure as head coach. "I think that would be all the difference, because we have great talent at Georgia. We've just got to go out there and show everybody what we're capable of doing, and I don't think the guys have been doing that week-in and week-out."
Now a member of the NFL's Carolina Panthers, Davis will return to Athens on Saturday to receive his undergraduate degree. He needed three classes to graduate after leaving school for pro football and took them online this summer, fulfilling a promise to his late grandmother.
He said Tuesday that he is the first one in his immediate family to earn a degree.
"It's a huge honor for me," Davis said, "not only for myself."
Davis, however, has been back with his old program a time or two recently. Most prominently, Davis spoke to the Bulldogs prior to last season's Vanderbilt game (a 43-0 home victory).
At the time, Georgia was 2-4, and Davis had a point to make.
"We've never been considered a team that was soft and didn't go out and make people feel like they'd just left a fight when they left the game," Davis said. "I didn't feel like our defense in particular made people feel threatened to come in and play us. When we played defense, we had a guy like Greg Blue, Odell (Thurman), David Pollack, guys that would really come and really lay the lumber on you, and you would feel it after the game.
"Even going into your next week, you still had that hit on your mind that those guys did to you. I didn't think we have anybody on that defense that was doing that, presenting that intimidation factor. And I told the guys how I felt about it. ... We have a bunch of South Carolina guys on our team, and for a guy to come up to me and say, 'What happened to Georgia? You guys are soft.' That did something to me."
Davis remains optimistic for this season, saying "Coach Richt is a great coach. He's going to light a fire under those guys, and I'm definitely expecting big things out of Georgia this year."
"I definitely think we have potential around the board," Davis said. "I know the guys did have to make a transition, and it's tough to make a transition from a 4-3 to a 3-4 defense, and I understand that. ... I'm just looking for this team to go out and show everybody what we're capable of doing at Georgia."