ATHENS - Amarlo Herrera is cut from the same mold as Shawn Williams. The two both have a fiery, no-nonsense side. So at some point this season can the rest of the Georgia football defense expect Herrera to call them out for playing soft?
Herrera is pretty sure that won't be necessary, not for a 2013 defense that's "hungry" and unproven.
"I don't think anybody will have to say that," Herrera said. "Because I think all these guys that are out there on the field, I think all of them have an edge. Because a lot of them haven't played before. A lot of them were on special teams. So they've got that little edge to them where they wanna be great, and they just wanna hit somebody in the mouth."
Last year, in case you needed reminding, the Georgia defense returned practically everybody and was expected to be among the nation's best. Instead it struggled through the first half of the season, leading a fed-up Williams to publicly call his teammates out, saying they were "playing soft."
(Herrera, an inside linebacker, was actually singled out by Williams as someone who should be playing more. So perhaps not surprisingly Herrera was front and center backing up Williams' assertions.)
In retrospect, Herrera agrees that the veteran-laden defense, 10 of whom ended up getting invited to last month's NFL combine, may have just assumed they would be good again.
"Pretty much. I think that's what it was," Herrera said. "Sometimes there was a lot of complacency, where people just got comfortable with what they were doing, and what they did (in 2011)."
Now Herrera is among just four defensive starters back, as defined by those who were first-teamers when the season ended. The rest of the starting spots are up for grabs, with veterans who have yet to play competing with redshirt freshmen and true freshmen who enrolled early.
"A lot of people are hungrier," said Herrera, who had 70 tackles as a sophomore last season. "A lot of people have never played. They're fighting for jobs out there. That's how it is every day: It's an interview every day to get a job."
Herrera said it was a bit weird the first day of practice, with all the veterans gone. Their absence was also notable at mat drills. But after a couple days of practice it's starting to feel normal, Herrera said, "like this is the team, and this is gonna be the team for next year."
And as one of the veterans, Herrera is trying to put his emotional stamp on this new group.
"I'm just trying to get everybody to play with a certain edge," he said.