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September 5, 2013
Once was enough for Lorenzo Ward, and twice was too many.
That's how many times starting cornerback Victor Hampton lay on the field after punt and kickoff returns against North Carolina, something that won't be happening again to Hampton because Ward has taken him off kick return duties.
"I think we're going to relieve him of those duties for a while," Ward said, smiling. "He took a lot of hits, and he understands that. We decided that even if he was healthy we'd probably change roles."
In fact, though Hampton was back to a full practice today after easing into things Wednesday as he healed up from last week, Ward said that Hampton won't even get the start at corner. Ahmad Christian will take his place, Ward said.
"Victor only really practiced today," Ward said. "So Ahmad will start."
In the return game, Ward said Bruce Ellington will take Hampton's place returning punts, but he did not know who would be the primary kickoff returner. That role could fall to a number of players, including Shon Carson, Pharoh Cooper or, perhaps, Ellington, who excelled in that role a year ago.
A season ago, Ward's defense held Georgia's Todd Gurley to 42 yards on 13 carries. Against Clemson last week, Gurley rushed for 155 yards on 12 carries. He said the difference in Gurley from last year to this one is obvious.
"He's bigger, stronger and faster," Ward said. "Coming out of high school as a freshman, in school for a month of preparation and the games before, he's definitely different.
"He's a big, powerful guy with track speed. If he gets into the open field he can go the distance. We have to try to stop him from getting the ball downhill and do that by playing on our side of the ball, doing whatever it takes.
"Herschel (Walker) was a big, powerful back. Bo Jackson was a big, powerful back who could run over you. He breaks a lot of arm tackles. He's really strong in the lower body, and we have to make sure we wrap him up. You can't hit him high. If you hit him high he's gone. We have to play on his ankles."
Ward said he's optimistic his unit will do its part to limit the Bulldogs' offensive success.
"We have a lot of work to do but the kids have been focused," Ward said. "We've had good practices, and so I totally expect us to play well. We've gotta stop the run and not give up the big play."
MOTIVATED CLOWNEY?: When asked if Jadeveon Clowney would be more motivated to perform after taking a beating nationally from those who questioned his effort, Ward had a simple response.
"I think he was motivated last Thursday," Ward said. "You turn the tape on, and he played really hard the first 25, 30 plays. There' a lot of high expectations going into that game, and we told JD the team he was playing wasn't going to let him get to the quarterback a lot because they throw the football real quick. He did have a stomach bug, and he only ate a banana and some grapes in pregame, and just like a car, if you don't put gas in it, it doesn't run."
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