Two players took issue Tuesday with a rant by senior safety Shawn Williams, who accused the defense of playing “soft” and added that inside linebackers Alec Ogletree and Amarlo Herrera should never come out of the game.
Their backups, Michael Gilliard and Christian Robinson, were not pleased.
“He said my name without saying my name,” Gilliard complained. “I took that personal. I feel like when another man calls me soft, it’s disrespecting my manhood. The only thing I’m going to do is go out there and deliver. He gave me motivation.”
Williams told reporters after Monday’s practice that he’s fed up with the play of the defense, which was expected to be one of the nation’s best but has given up at least 20 points in every game but one.
He said everybody deserves a share of the blame, adding that “we’re just not playing with the same attitude we were last year.” While several players said Williams’ criticism was justified, his apparent praise for Ogletree and Herrera was clearly a sore point to the next two guys on the depth chart.
“No football player wants to hear they’re soft,” Robinson said. “That’s not the way I would go about it.”
It will be interesting to see how Williams’ comments affect the biggest game of the season, the showdown Saturday against No. 3 Florida.
The Gators (7-0, 6-0) can clinch a spot in the Southeastern Conference championship game, but Georgia (6-1, 4-1) would gain the inside track to Atlanta with an upset.
Coach Mark Richt spoke with Williams on Tuesday and conceded that he would have preferred for the criticism to be kept behind closed doors. Defensive coordinator Todd Grantham said Williams spoke with the entire team before practice, addressed the situation and it’s now a “non-issue.”
Gilliard said he got a chance to speak with Williams one-on-one as the players were getting taped for practice.
The safety apologized and said he meant nothing personal, but that did little to soothe the hard feelings.
“When you said it, I feel like you mean it, especially when you tell the media,” Gilliard said. “Obviously it was on your mind and in your heart, so you meant it. If he feels that way, I’m just going to prove him wrong. That’s what I did today (in practice). I tried to prove to this team that there’s nothing sweet over here.”
Clearly feeling the team needs to get more physical, Richt held practice in full pads, a rarity at this point in the season.
That gave Gilliard a chance to work out some of his frustration.
“You best believe on Saturday, I’m going to be ready,” he said. “The defense as a whole, we’re going to be ready. We had a great day of practice. We flew around the ball and tried to hit hard. Anything that moved, I tried to hit it.”