Will Georgia’s youth on defense help Clemson? Watkins thinks so, Swinney says no … not necessarily

BY AARON BRENNER | abrenner@postandcourier.com

CLEMSON — Georgia preparation kicks into high gear today, and there are point-counterpoint ways to look at how Clemson’s offense might fare against Georgia’s defense.

Consider that the Bulldogs have just four returners on that unit that started at least six games in 2012 - CB Damian Swann, OLB Jordan Jenkins, ILB Amarlo Herrera and DE Garrison Smith. Granted, seven players from the Bulldogs’ 18th-rated scoring defense were drafted into the NFL, so there are big shoes to fill.

“I think what we’re hoping for is the young guys make mistakes back there,” Clemson junior wide receiver Sammy Watkins said. “It’s going to be their first start, which is going to be good on our end with the things we do. Throwing home runs, or short passes where they’ve got to come up and tackling us receivers. And, just going so fast that we don’t give them enough time to think.”

But head coach Dabo Swinney is less sure that this is a distinctive advantage for the Tigers. According to ESPN’s DawgNation, the 2007 Bulldogs finished No. 2 in the postseason AP Top 25 with an 11-2 record, when Georgia started with only three returning defensive starters.

“Well, they may have (many) new starters, but they’ve got a bunch of guys who have started at least a game,” Swinney said. “Most of those guys have played and had good experience. They’ve been in big-time environments. Those guys have been in Tennessee, Baton Rouge, Columbia, wherever. I don’t think you’re going to see many first-time players rolling out there. They’ve got plenty of good players and depth.”

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