ATHENS - Shawn Williams did not hold back. Seeking to light a fire under his struggling defense, the Georgia senior safety was candid and harshly critical on Monday night.
"We've gotta stop playing soft. We're playing too soft defensively," Williams said. "That goes for D-line, linebackers, corners, safeties. I don't know, we're not playing with the same attitude we played with last year. I don't know what it is."
Those were the first words out of Williams mouth when he met with the media after Monday's practice. The often outspoken Damascus native said he wanted to speak up.
"It gets frustrating, because I'm sitting here and I'm giving all I got, and I feel like I've got some guys that's not. I feel like that I've got some guys that's in a whole different place," he said.
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Who are those guys not giving their all?
"Everybody," he said. "We've got a side of the ball that's seniors and juniors, so it's everybody."
Georgia's defense was supposed to be the strength of the team, returning nine starters from a unit that ranked fifth nationally in yards allowed in 2011. Many players, including Williams, passed on going pro.
Instead the defense has struggled, allowing weaker offenses from Florida Atlantic, Buffalo and Kentucky to move the ball. Entering Saturday's game against Florida, the Bulldogs rank 49th nationally, and ninth in the SEC, in total defense.
"I don't know what it is, we've just gotta quit playing soft and worrying about every other thing besides football, and just go out and play football and everything else will take care of itself," Williams said.
Again, he elaborated:
"No matter what you see, you've gotta react and play football. Right now I feel like we're seeing stuff, we're not reacting, we're not just playing football. And right now, Florida's playing very physical and they're gonna try to come out and just manhandle you. So I'm really looking forward to seeing what are we gonna do. Somebody's gonna get punched in the mouth, it's either gonna be us or them. And whoever gets punched in the mouth is gonna have to step bacck in and say: What are we gonna do now? Are we gonna give in or are we gonna fight back?"
A media member surmised that the problem for Georgia has been that it gets punched in the mouth, and -
"We don't do anything about it," Williams interrupted.
"I don't know. I'm trying to see if I just have to take someone's helmet off and just slap them, or what's going on? We're not playing with any emotion right now, period."
Williams said he was only speaking for the defense. He said he didn't have any knowledge of what was going on offensively. He wanted to keep his criticism to his own unit.
"I remember the Kentucky game, the first series, I told them we played soft," Williams said. "They (Kentucky) got the ball at like the 20 and ran the ball 80 yards up the middle. And I told them: Y'all are playing soft."
And he still wasn't done. Williams then suggested that starting inside linebackers Alec Ogletree and Amarlo Herrera get more playing time. (They already do, but sub out on occasion, especially in nickel coverage.)
"Me personally, if I was the coaches, I can't tell them what to do, but I'd have Amarlo Herrera in the game more. I wouldn't take him out. I'd leave him and Ogletree in the game," Williams said. "That's what I want. Me as a player, I want to see Amarlo in the game, Amarlo and Ogletree in the game at linebacker. I don't want to see anybody else in the game at linebacker. I feel like they're two guys that will give me all they got, no matter if they mess up or do right, they're gonna get to the ball. That's what we need: Get to the ball and tackle."
Asked if he meant Christian Robinson and Mike Gilliard shouldn't be playing, Williams said he just meant that Herrera should be playing.
Later, Williams was asked if part of the problem on defense is players stopped thinking they had to prove themselves.
"I think so. I think so," he said.
Williams said he came up to meet the media knowing he would say all this, but that he had been saying the same thing "all week" behind the scenes. And several teammates backed that up; freshman linebacker Jordan Jenkins said Williams was saying it on the bus leaving the stadium on Saturday.
"If you ask me, I tell you what's on my mind," Williams said. "People, they need to hear it."
Williams kept digging in, when asked what the team needed in order to get in the right mindset. He seemed only half-joking when he invoked the New Orleans Saints bounty scandal.
"It seems like we need the coach from the Saints, it seems like we need him. It seems like we need a pay-for-play system," Williams said. "That's what it seems like we need though. We need Sean Payton."
So with a big game this week, what does he expect?
"I don't know. Hopefully this will get back to them and piss them off," Williams said.