August 27, 2013

Bobo banking on experience

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Mike Bobo on Clemson from on Vimeo.

Georgia's veteran offensive unit has played in its share of big-time games in electric atmospheres over the past couple years.

Granted, not all the outcomes have been favorable. Last season's 35-7 loss at South Carolina comes to mind.

But as the 5th-ranked Bulldogs get ready to travel to No. 8 Clemson for Saturday night's season opener (8 p.m., ABC), offensive coordinator Mike Bobo is hopeful some of those recent experiences will finally pay off in what's sure to be a raucous crowd at Memorial Stadium.

"Hopefully, we've got a lot of experience to draw from, experience guys can draw from to handle adversity and how to perform in a hostile environment," Bobo said after practice Tuesday. "At the same time, it's still the first game. There's going to be bugs that we have to work out and there's going to be plays that won't go our way. We'll probably have a couple of false starts, but we've got to be able to handle adversity. We can't let one bad play dictate our whole game, our whole series or our whole half."

Having a fifth-year senior in Aaron Murray helps Bobo's feelings a little, too.

There's not much Murray hasn't seen during his previous three years as Georgia's starting quarterback, who along with the rest of the team, went through their final full-pad workout Tuesday evening before Saturday's game.

"There's a couple of things that we've got to clean up game-plan wise. You'd think we've been working on them for a month, but in reality it's just been for the last couple of weeks," he said. "There's a couple of extra things we've got to clean up and hone down these last couple of days, get a little more mental work done. We finished the physical part today, and we expect these guys to lock in Wednesday and Thursday on the field."

Bobo said he's been impressed with what he's seen from the Tiger defense, that last year finished third in the ACC in scoring defense under second-year defensive coordinator Brent Venables and return leading tackler Spencer Shuey.

"I expect a hungry defense that's going to fly around and play fast," Bobo said. "I think it's going to come down to guys making plays in certain situations and we're going to have to come up with our fair share."

Bobo was particularly impressed with what he saw in the Tigers' 25-24 win over LSU in the recent Chick-fil-A Bowl.

To the Bulldog offensive coordinator, that victory tells him all about Clemson he needs to know.

"It was one of the few games I watched during bowl season because of the different things you've got going on in practice," he said. "But I was really impressed how they handled adversity in that game, how hard they fought and played for 60 minutes. They kept believing their guys made plays when they had too."

Besides Shuey, Clemson also returns defensive end Vic Beasley, who had eight sacks last fall, linebacker Stephone Anthony (77 tackles), along with three members of its defensive line.

"They've got six guys, probably seven or eight that played a lot last year. In that game I saw guys play hard and that's always the sign of a good defense," Bobo said. "That game's going to give them confidence going into this year, confidence in their system. It's their coordinator's second year, a lot of things they will be able to clean up from last year's package and a lot of things they will be able to add."

But like the defense of Georgia, Clemson's defense will have its work cut out against the Bulldogs.

Besides contending with Murray and what looks to be a deep receiving corps, running backs Todd Gurley and Keith Marshall seem to be in even better condition and appear primed to better their numbers from a season ago.

But for Bobo, the outcome of Saturday's game comes down to one thing - turnovers, or the lack thereof.

"Every year Coach (Mark Richt) is big on turnover ratio and protecting the ball every day," Bobo said. "Every day we have a ball security circuit where offensively we practice to protect the ball, talk about fundamentals, when to check it down, when to hold the ball, when to take a sack … how to hold the ball. We don't talk about things like not making this throw if the coverage isn't right. The guys have to play; we've just got to have a healthy respect for the football."

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