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May 17, 2012

Intelligent Fanaticism

As Dicky Clark (bottom, No. 87) suggested, few took the
Junkyard Dogs seriously, but there would be a quick
change in perception.
Florida thought we were some kind of joke when they lined up against us on that opening series.  But I’ll bet they are not laughing too hard right now.
-- Quarterback-turned-Junkyard Dog DICKY CLARK following Georgia's 10-7 upset over Florida in 1975

Recently reviewing the proof pages for my book on the Georgia-Florida rivalry, I was reminded of one of the most unbelievable, inspirational, and favorite features of UGA's storied football history.  As I detail in the upcoming book, I've discussed here in several posts the 1975 "Junkyard Dogs" defensive unit.  And, with each mention, I'm just as much amazed as before of how the undersized and inexperienced group of defenders somehow found a way to succeed.

To the complacent football program, lacking urgency and intensity while believing there is an "I" in "team," like our very own Bulldogs, as some have indicated, at times over the last several years, the legend of the Junkyard Dogs teaches a valuable lesson:  

It's not always how quick the feet and size of the body that count the most, but rather how quick the mind and size of the heart.

Entering the 1975 football season, Georgia's loss of personnel on the defensive side of the ball -- and there was plenty of it -- didn't seem to faze Erk Russell.  The Bulldogs' starting defensive unit of 1974 graduated seven seniors.  In addition, defensive guard Mike "Moonpie" Wilson was moved to offense in the offseason while All-SEC linebacker Sylvester Boler, "The "Black Blur," was suspended for an entire year following an orange-throwing incident in McWhorter Hall, which culminated with Boler pulling a gun on teammate Andy Reid.

That left Georgia with just two defensive starters returning from the previous season.  And, one of those returnees, Rusty Russell -- eldest son of Erk -- was moving to linebacker, a brand new position for the senior after starting at defensive end.

However, the '74 defense had ranked dead last in the SEC by yielding approximately 24 points and 357 total yards per game.  Worse, according to Russell, the Bulldogs allowed the opposition to convert on third and fourth down a staggering 60 percent of the time -- a conversion rate that would even make ex-UGA defensive coordinator Willie Martinez cringe.  Perhaps Russell sensed an addition by subtraction was in store following the dismal defensive campaign of 1974.  

Desperately desired was a new defensive unit with "players who are fundamentally sound," said Russell in April 1975, "who play with intelligent fanaticism."  During spring practice, the defensive coordinator added, "We will be shifting people around to get the best 11 in there."  And he wasn't kidding.  From spring to mid-August, Georgia repeatedly shifted and shuffled, but still with less than a month remaining until the season opener, the Bulldogs had determined just four of their 11 starting positions.

Finally, the Bulldogs opened their year with a starting defense consisting of "three walk-ons, four [former] quarterbacks, and three running backs," according to Russell.  The original front four of Lawrence Craft, Jim Baker, Jeff Sanders, and Dicky Clark averaged less than 210 pounds per man, which was considered minuscule even back then.  The linebacking corps was recognized as "a bunch of runts" by Russell, while eventual starting safety Bobby Thompson wasn't even listed on the three-deep depth chart in early August.

By my determination, Georgia opened its 1975 season with a defensive lineup similar to if the upcoming 2012 Bulldogs' starting defense resembled something on this order: Hutson Mason, Derrick Lott, Garrison Smith, and Dexter Morant on the line; Abry Jones, Kosta Vavlas, and Corey Campbell as the linebackers; Shawn Williams, Damian Swann, Corey Moore, and Marc Deas in the secondary.

What the '75 defense lacked in experience and raw ability, it more than made up for it with intensity and an aggressive style of play.  Simply put, the unit, which consisted of six starting sophomores in the end, played like a bunch of mean junkyard dogs.

Granted, these Junkyard Dogs would often bend, so to speak.  In a time when the average major-college team averaged less than 325 yards of total offense per game, the Georgia defense yielded more than 400 in a loss at Ole Miss, 382 to Florida in Jacksonville, and even 360 to lowly Richmond on Homecoming.  For the year, the Bulldogs ranked 7th in the SEC in total defense (in a time when there were only 10 teams in the conference).

Nonetheless, the acclaimed defensive unit would rarely break.  After Georgia allowed five foes to score 31 points or more in 1974, the young and small, but feisty and determined Junkyard Dogs (listed with weight and class) allowed no regular-season opponent to tally more than 28 points, as the Bulldogs achieved a surprising 9-2 record:
ERK RUSSELL -- a true
miracle worker of men

LINE
Starters: Lawrence Craft (210, Jr.), Brad Thompson (230, Jr.), Ronnie Swoopes (235, So.), and Dicky Clark (195, Jr.)
Top Reserves: Jim Baker (215, Sr.), Jeff Sanders (215, Jr.), Tom Saunders (207, Jr.)

LINEBACKERS
Starters: Jim Griffith (205, So.), Ben Zambiasi (200, So.) and Rusty Russell (195, Sr.)
Top Reserves: Jeff Lewis (208, So.), Ricky McBride (205, Fr.), Brad Cescutti (204, Jr.)

SECONDARY
Starters: David Schwak (175, Sr.), Bill Krug (205, So.), Bobby Thompson (185, So.), and Johnny Henderson (185, So.)
Top Reserves: Chip Miller (185, Sr.), Rodney Johnson (185, Jr.), Chuck Harris (170, Jr.), Mark Mitchell (168, Jr.)

More than 35 years later, the origination and achievement of the Junkyard Dogs could be regarded nearly as miraculous in UGA football lore as Belue-to-Scott, Kevin Butler's 60-yard field goal, or Greene-to-Michael Johnson at Auburn.

Moreover, the band of scrawny but scrappy Bulldogs, who were given little chance to succeed, demonstrates that almost anything can be accomplished when an extraordinary leader of men is paired with a hungry group, exhibiting what was proclaimed as intelligent fanaticism

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Religious fanatics will exert greater influence in many national governments. Not only Muslims but belligerent Baptists, Buddhists, Catholics, Evangelicals, Jews, Hindus, Shintos, Sikhs, and others will make reconciliation all but impossible in the near term. Over the last century, many have turned to violence against those who believe differently or are seen as a threat. As Islamic terrorism escalates, fanatics among the other religions will seek to combat Islam and defend their own beliefs with greater violence. Instead of a century of peace and tolerance, religious warfare will increase. Sadly, only emigrating from certain countries will permit the luxury of personal safety and peace of mind.

In 1843, Alexis de Tocqueville wrote: “Mohammed brought down from heaven and put into the Koran not religious doctrines only, but political maxims, criminal and civil laws, and scientific theories. There have been few religions in the world as deadly to men as that of Mohammed.” We managed to live together for over a century until we enriched Muslim countries by becoming dependent on Muslim oil. Yet, so many people are still in poverty in the oil-exporting countries.

The West does not yet comprehend that multitudes of radical Islamists are dedicated to achieving the worldwide genocide of all infidels. They hate us not just for our actions but simply because we do not believe in Allah. They are commanded by Sharia Law to kill all infidels who do not convert to Islam. (Reminds us of the Inquisition.) They also kill family members who attempt to marry non-Muslims, cut off the hand of a thief, and stone to death adulterous wives. At some point, people may rebel against such extremes.

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