ATHENS — Jeff Owens has a friend who insists on playing as Georgia every time the two face off in a game of NCAA Football on X-Box. What’s worse for Owens is, at some point during the rivalry, his friend invented a new defensive scheme that proved to be particularly effective.
Rather than employ the Bulldogs’ typical 4-3 defensive front, Owens’ friend goes uses a three-man line consisting of the computer versions of Kade Weston, Geno Atkins and Owens, himself. He calls it the J-K-G defense, and Owens — the real one — said it’s unstoppable.
As the team’s de facto salesman for all gadget plays, Owens said he hasn’t ruled out the possibility of trying to convince defensive coordinator Willie Martinez to give the J-K-G front a shot in a real game, but Owens is not exactly holding his breath for it to happen either.
Regardless, the video game supremacy is enough to prove a point Owens has hoped to make for four years now. When all three of Georgia’s senior defensive tackles are healthy at the same time, things will be awfully unpleasant for opposing offenses.
“That just goes to show what a dominant force we are in the game,” Owens said. “We’re just going to kill.”
Weston and Owens arrived together in 2005, but Weston settled for a redshirt his first season in Athens. A year later, Atkins made his debut with the Bulldogs but saw minimal playing time. By 2007, however, the three were all key cogs on a defensive line that helped the Bulldogs to a Sugar Bowl victory. It was the only season in which all three — the three amigos, as Owens calls them — earned significant playing time together.
For all the success the trio enjoyed two seasons ago, it was just the tip of the iceberg, Weston said. Since then, they have all gotten better, just not healthier.
“I think last year when (Owens) got hurt, people were able to more focus on Geno,” defensive line coach Rodney Garner said. “Even though he didn’t get the production, he caused a lot of things out there last year.”
It will be a welcome sight for Atkins, but he’s not taking his success for granted.
“I feel like having Jeff or Kade by my side will up my numbers,” Atkins said, “but basically I’ve got to get after it harder and faster.”
That will change when Owens returns to action.
While Atkins suffered through a season without a sack a year ago, Owens has little sympathy. In 2007, while Atkins was racking up that impressive sack total, Owens did the dirty work and his stat line paid the price.
Owens had a conversation with another friend last week in which he predicted a high sack total in 2009. When his friend asked for his reasoning, Owens’ answer was simple.
“Because Geno is going to take the load off me,” Owens said. “He’s going to dominate, and they aren’t going to be able to block both of us.”
No matter who collects the sacks, Atkins said it will be up to the three senior tackles to set the tone for the rest of the defense.
“We talked about how we want to set the tempo,” Atkins said. “It starts up front. We determine where the ball’s going to be.”
It has been a long time coming, but the chance to finish his career with his two close friends was well worth the wait, Owens said. And when it finally comes to an end, he expects it to have been a performance Bulldogs fans won’t soon forget.
“It’s going to be big,” Owens said. “We have three seniors that have played a lot of football here, and we have the opportunity to do something big — just dominate every game.”