Posted: 10:50 am Friday, September 15th, 2017
By Jay Black
On the list of great coaching gimmicks of all-time, the Junkyard Dawgs defense, has to be right on top of the list.
Every Bulldog fan, maybe over the age of 25, knows the story. Georgia defensive coordinator Erk Russell came up with the moniker in the mid-1970s to define his undersized and some would say under skilled groups.
“By our own definition, a Junkyard Dog is a dog completely dedicated to his task, that of defending his goal line. Further, he is very often a reject (from the offense) or the runt of the litter. Nobody wants him, and he is hungry. We had three walk-ons, four QBs, and three running backs in our original Junkyard Dog starting cast, which averaged 208 pounds across the front. In short, a Junkyard Dog is one who must stretch and strain all of his potential just to survive. Then he can think about being good.”
And 40 years later, it still sticks. Every time Georgia has a strong unit, those comparisons come up. The band still gives Jim Croce a royalty check when they play “Bad, Bad, Leroy Brown.”
But last Saturday at Notre Dame Stadium, we learned there’s a new push for a new branding opportunity. It was hard to miss LB Davin Bellamy running around with a set of golden spiked shoulder pads after UGA’s 20-19 win over the Irish.
It was a first, but it wasn’t just for the Notre Dame trip. It was a well earned prize for the man who sealed the deal.
“It’s a little thing we have for turnovers. When you get the ball off somebody, you get the spikes,” said Lorenzo Carter, who recovered that fumble. “We have the UGA spike squad that’s at the games. [Defensive coordinator Mel] Tucker came up with it, try to get us little incentives for getting the ball off people.”
The marketing folks are listening. We have a gimmick. And it might be a good gimmick. Many teams in college football are coming up with some sort of incentive badge, now Kirby Smart’s group has one.
“I haven’t gotten involved in that one,” said Smart when asked this week if he had anything to do with the spikes. “I was more involved with the belt that we started at Alabama. It’s kinda caught fire from there. Everybody is getting their toy.”
But, I’ll admit, it’s a good toy. If you don’t know, the UGA spike squad is a group of die-hard fans that wear black painted spikes on shoulder pads in the front row of the student section. They get on TV every week, as they should.
“It’s cool,” said Smart. “It’s cool because of our fan base and the spike squad we have. I think it honors them. Our players take a lot of pride in it. I’m just glad we finally got to bring it out. We had it for the first game and never got to show it.”
Yes UGA did not force a turnover against App. State in the opener, but had two huge takeaways against Notre Dame. Spikes for all.
But if you have a gimmick and you want a nickname, you better bring. It’s only two games in, but wow does this group look to have all the makings of something very special.
Yes I’m well Georgia won’t line up against the SEC until next week, but the Spike Squad has certainly passed the eye test, hasn’t it?
The fear against Notre Dame was QB Brandon Wimbush was going to have more success running the read option than App. State’s Taylor Lamb did the week before.
If you didn’t see it, Wimbush did nothing. Now he’s a believer.
“I’ve never played against a team with speed like that,” said Wimbush. ” All 11 guys were really physical and had speed. So that was a little different.”
You don’t say?
I’m still not sold on other parts of the 2017 Bulldogs. Their offensive line isn’t really bowling me over, none of these receivers will keep a defensive coordinator up at night and UGA is playing with a freshman quarterback for a second straight year.
But if you can play D you always have a shot. This group appears loaded.
I’ll take Roquan Smith, Lorezno Carter, Davin Bellamy and Trenton Thompson into any game and take my chances.
And if the “Spike Squad Defense” becomes a thing, I’m ok with that too.