Could the season start any sooner for the 23rd-ranked Georgia Bulldogs?
Linebacker Darryl Gamble certainly wouldn't mind.
"I'm ready, I think everybody's ready," the senior said. "It's really hard to explain. I'm shaking right now I'm so ready to get this season underway."
That must be really the case now.
Gamble made those comments earlier this week, before Friday's news that freshman safety Alec Ogletree would be suspended for Saturday's game following his arrest face a misdemeanor theft-by-taking charge, Georgia's ninth arrest thus far this season.
It's certainly been a frustrating year from the off-the-field standpoint as such distractions have taken away from two of the bigger storylines - the arrival of new defensive coordinator Todd Grantham, plus the start of the Aaron Murray-era as quarterback of the Bulldog team.
At least Saturday's opener against visiting Louisiana-Lafayette (12:21) will get the talk focused back on the field, which is obviously where head coach Mark Richt prefers it would be.
"I know Louisiana-Lafayette is coming in to beat a top-25 team and make their reputation at the expense of us. Our guys understand that. It's been rare that we weren't pretty jacked up and excited to play an opening game, so I think that helps a lot," Richt said. "I think our players have a very healthy respect for who we are playing, mainly because when you watch the film you see guys who can make plays. They are sending guys to the NFL too. They don't have a talent base problem. When you are in the Deep South you are going to find players and athletes. They are very well coached, so I don't think our guys are falling into that trap at all."
According to Richt, there's simply too much his Bulldogs need to prove.
Here's the questions most fans wants answers to: 1. Can Murray step in his first year at quarterback and effectively lead an offense that features 10 returning starters. 2. Will Grantham's 3-4 scheme create the kind of havoc for opposing quarterbacks that's being projected? 3. When will Georgia hear back from the NCAA in regards to their inquiry, believed to be about star receiver A.J. Green?
In regards to Murray, Richt just wants fans to remember that he is still young.
"He's a freshman and he's going to have nerves just like everybody else. I'm a 50-year old man and I'll be nervous too, which is a good thing," Richt said. "Hopefully our fans will be friendly to him and hopefully our fans will realize he's a freshman, he's a rookie. He's going to make mistakes. He probably won't just be lights out as far as his accuracy and his decisions and all those things. He's going to be finding his way and hopefully his teammates will help him out offensively and defensively and even in the kicking game."
Murray has no doubt that the butterflies will be there, but added that's not necessarily a bad thing.
"I wouldn't say that I get nervous. I would say that I get more juiced up. I get really excited, and I need to take that down a notch. I get extremely pumped up," he said. "It'd be a great thing if I was on defense and I was trying to take someone's head off, but offensive wise, you want to be a little mellow. I think that I'll be fine once I get calmed down a bit. I'm just excited about the opportunity to come out and play."
Grantham's defense is creating a buzz of its own.
With promises of a more aggressive style, Gamble guarantees the Bulldogs will be getting after opposing quarterbacks more than ever before.
"There's no telling how many guys we'll be sending at a single time," Gamble said. "But we'll be getting after the quarter, I can promise you that."
Meanwhile, as of early Friday afternoon Georgia officials still had not heard from the NCAA regarding the inquiry surrounding Green.
The junior from Summerville, S.C. has steadfastly denied attending the party in question hosted by a sports agent in Miami, but Georgia has still not received final word about the inquiry.
Richt has refused to comment during the entire situation, but both he and offensive coordinator Mike Bobo have stated they believe Green will play against Louisiana-Lafayette.
With or without Green, Louisiana coach Rickey Bustle knows his team faces a daunting challenge. But it's one he welcomes.
"Our players love playing these teams. It's a great challenge for us. People keep saying we are playing Georgia. They are playing us, too. It's just not us playing Georgia," Bustle said. "We are looking forward to the game. These games are 'map games' as I call it sometimes...you win one of these and you're 'on the map.'"
Richt said the Bulldogs' won't be taking the Rajun Cajuns lightly.
"Louisiana-Lafayette, you look at them last year. They played Kansas State and beat them. Kansas State plays Texas A&M and beats the heck out of A&M," Richt said. "They are a very capable team and a very veteran defense, as I mentioned, with a fourth-year coordinator, juniors and seniors and guys who know what they are doing, guys who will be very confident from a defensive standpoint."
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