ATHENS, Ga. – Georgia safety Shawn Williams is fed up, and he wants everyone to know about it, including his own teammates.
(Photo by UGA Sports Communications)
Williams passionately called out the Bulldogs’ defense after Monday’s practice, questioning players’ toughness and desire in a session with reporters, saying “We’ve got to quit playing soft and worrying about every other thing besides football.”
"It gets frustrating,” Williams said, “because I'm sitting here and I'm giving all I got, and I feel like we've got some guys that's not. I feel like some guys are in a whole different place. … What do I have to do? Do I have to like slap someone to get them started? What do they respond to? I’m still trying to figure that out.”
Georgia’s defense dropped to 72nd nationally against the run after allowing Kentucky to rush for 206 yards on Saturday. It was the second consecutive game in which an opposing team has run for more than 200 yards on the Bulldogs.
And it was another disappointing performance for a unit that returned nine starters and was expected to be better than it has been on the field this season.
“The whole season,” Williams said. “I don’t know what it is. It seems like we’re waiting to get started. We haven’t even started yet.”
“I don't want to see anybody else in the game at linebacker,” Williams said. “I feel like they're two guys that will give me all they got, no matter if they mess up or do right, they're going to get to the ball. That's what we need."
When asked if he thought some players felt like they no longer had to prove themselves, Williams replied, “I think so.”
Bacarri Rambo: "I see Shawn as a leader. What he says, I stand behind it, because I know he just wants the best for the team. Of course, some guys aren’t playing to their potential." (Photo by Wes Blankenship/UGA Sports Communications)
“The coach from the Saints, it seems like we need him,” Williams said. “It seems like we need a play-for-pay system. That’s what it seems like we need.”
Williams indicated that his comments were aimed just at the defense and not players on offense.
He also said he has voiced these same concerns to teammates in recent days, saying, “Yeah, I’m been telling everybody all week, whoever asks me. I’ve been telling them what’s on my mind. They need to hear it.”
He even called out during the interview for Malcolm Mitchell, who was meeting with reporters in the same room, to speak his mind too.
Asked if he wanted to say all this publicly, Williams said he did and that, “Hopefully, this will get back to them and piss them off.”
It wasn’t just Williams that voiced concerns Monday about the defense.
“We’re not getting what we gave last year,” cornerback Damian Swann said, “and it’s disappointing to us as players first and foremost, and we know it’s disappointing to everybody else.”
Safety Bacarri Rambo backed up Williams’ statements and indicated that he also thought something was missing on this year’s defense.
“I see Shawn as a leader,” Rambo said. “What he says, I stand behind it, because I know he just wants the best for the team. Of course, some guys aren’t playing to their potential, so we’ve just got to try our best to get those guys fired up, because we have too much potential and too great of players just to go out there and play the way we’re playing. … It ain’t that we’re playing soft. Well, we’re kind of playing soft, but guys aren’t playing to their best ability.
“We allow too many big plays. People run the ball on us. They aren’t supposed to run the ball. They aren’t supposed to throw the ball. They’re supposed to regret playing us and facing our defense. We’ve just got to get our mindset right and come out with a different mentality.”
In a more subdued sense, even UGA coach Mark Richt was critical of his linebackers during Monday night’s call-in radio show.
“All of our linebackers in general,” Richt said, “we’ve got to do a better job of facing the issue, taking on the blocks, keeping the correct arm free and be able to spill things outside if need be or make the hit and knock people back. I think we’ve all got to get a little bit at that, because we had some times we just didn’t come downhill.”
Nonetheless, Georgia has less than a week now before it draws unbeaten No. 3 Florida on Saturday in Jacksonville, Fla., with the SEC East title still up for grabs.
And Williams is among those eager to see what will happen.
“Right now, Florida's playing very physical and they're going to try to come out and just manhandle you,” Williams said. “So I'm really looking forward to seeing what we are going to do. Somebody's going to get punched in the mouth. It's either going to be us or them. And whoever gets punched in the mouth is going to have to step back in and say: What are we going to do now? Are we going to give in or are we going to fight back?"