5 Georgia After a troubling off-season, the Dawgs would be smart to follow the lead of their top defender, David Pollack

August 10, 2003

David Pollack seems almost too good to be true. He's adaptable: In
his first two years at Georgia he moved from fullback to
defensive tackle and finally to defensive end, where he was the
2002 SEC Player of the Year. He is principled: This spring he
respectfully declined to pose for Playboy's All-America team, out
of concern that he would offend parishioners of the Athens-area
churches at which he likes to speak. He smiles incessantly, skims
personal-growth books before going to bed and frequently skips
onto and off the field during games. So where's the dark side?

"Well, he does get to talking sometimes," says quarterback David
Greene, Pollack's best friend of 15 years. "He'll get on the
field and start yapping about how he's faster, stronger, better
than me."

If ever the Bulldogs needed a headliner known for his
competitiveness, confidence and strength of character, this is
the year. The football program, which in 2002 under second-year
coach Mark Richt went 13-1 and won its first SEC championship in
20 years, suffered a black eye this spring when five players were
suspended from the team after being arrested for marijuana
possession, four more were suspended for breaking unspecified
team rules and nine (one of whom was also in the pot bust) were
disciplined by the team for selling their SEC championship rings.
The suspended players will miss from one to three games this
fall. (As first-time offenders, those charged with marijuana
possession were given a pretrial diversion by an Athens-Clarke
County municipal court judge and ordered to perform 30 hours of
community service. Because its rule book was unclear on the
subject, the NCAA did not punish the players who sold their rings
to a jewelry broker.)

On June 8 coaches and players gathered for a two-hour
clear-the-air session. "Everyone got a turn in the hot seat and
said their piece," says Pollack. "It's been put to rest." Team
unity has been the Bulldogs' focus ever since. Five mornings a
week this summer Pollack led his fellow defensive linemen in a
two-mile run in an Athens park. And in between weightlifting and
summer classes, roommates Pollack and Greene turned their
two-story apartment--in which they installed an Xbox on each
floor--into a 24-hour gathering place for teammates. "Things get
a little sloppy with everyone rolling in and out," Pollack says
cheerfully. "We have to be kind of like parents."

With only 11 starters returning, including six seniors, juniors
Pollack and Greene will help serve as elders on the field as
well. "Along with having their priorities straight, they have a
commitment that's important for our young players to see," says
defensive coordinator Brian VanGorder. Greene has steadily
improved since he was the SEC Freshman of the Year in 2001, and
Pollack exploded onto the scene last September with an
interception in the South Carolina end zone that was the
Bulldogs' only touchdown in a 13-7 win. Combining indefatigable
effort with clutch play, Pollack finished the season with 102
tackles, 14 sacks, 35 quarterback pressures and seven passes
defended--as well as a reputation as the team's most vocal
leader. "David shows uncommon strength and purpose on the field,"
says VanGorder. "He demands the best of his teammates."

But Pollack puts the most pressure on himself. "He'll do
something right nine out of 10 times and be so mad about that
10th time," says Greene. "He'll be out on the field until
midnight getting it right." When asked which areas of his game he
felt he needed to improve upon, Pollack said he didn't know where
to start. "I need to work on my understanding of the system, my
hands, my hustle and my fundamentals," he says. "There are so
many things I think I'm capable of."

The same can be said for his team. The Bulldogs might seem too
young to improve on last season's accomplishments, but the
strength of key personnel will keep them a force in the SEC.
Along with Greene and Pollack, Georgia features tailback Tony
Milton and receiver Michael Johnson, who showed enough promise in
2002 backup duty to compensate for the departure of Musa Smith
and Terrence Edwards, respectively, to the NFL. While
acknowledging that the Bulldogs need to rebuild along the
offensive line and at linebacker, Pollack points out that it was
the D-line that was projected to be a liability before last
season. Says Pollack, "I'd love to show that, despite all this
team has gone through, we can be as successful as ever." --K.K.

COLOR PHOTO: DALE ZANINE/ICON SMI (GEORGIA) [COVER FLAP] DAVID POLLACK COLOR PHOTO: BOB ROSATO (GREENE) HANDS-ON LEADER Only a junior, the 6'3", 230-pound Greene has a 21-5 career record as Georgia's starting quarterback. COLOR PHOTO: JOHN BAZEMORE/AP Pollack

FAST FACTS

2002 RECORD 13-1 (7-1, 1st in SEC East)
FINAL AP RANK 3
RETURNING STARTERS 11

KEY RETURNEES (2002 stats)

QB David Greene (Jr.)
Led SEC in passing efficiency (137.3)

DE David Pollack (Jr.)
First SEC Player of Year from defense since '88

WR Fred Gibson (Jr.)
Hoops star had 63.2 receiving yards per game

FS Kentrell Curry (Sr.)
Two of four INTs came with cast on broken wrist

K Billy Bennett (Sr.)
Set school record with 130 points last season

TELLING NUMBER

21
Wins for coach Mark Richt since he arrived in Athens in 2001,
the most by any Bulldogs coach in his first two seasons.

SMART MOVE

To fill the gaping hole left by the departure of strongside
linebacker Boss Bailey to the NFL, defensive coordinator Brian
VanGorder looked for an athlete who could emulate Bailey's
big-play ability. Enter Thomas Davis, a 6'1", 220-pound
sophomore who as a free safety last year recovered a South
Carolina fumble inside the Georgia five in the closing seconds
to preserve one win and intercepted an Alabama pass on the
Tide's last possession to save another.

SCHEDULE

AUG. 30 AT CLEMSON
SEPT. 6 MIDDLE TENN. ST.
13 SOUTH CAROLINA
20 AT LSU
OCT. 4 ALABAMA
11 AT TENNESSEE
18 AT VANDERBILT
25 ALA.-BIRMINGHAM
NOV. 1 VS. FLORIDA*
15 AUBURN
22 KENTUCKY
29 AT GEORGIA TECH

*AT JACKSONVILLE

HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
OUT
HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
IN
Eagle (-2)
Birdie (-1)
Bogey (+1)
Double Bogey (+2)