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ATHENS, Ga. --- The Georgia defense looks a whole lot faster to coach Mark Richt . Maybe that's because he's been watching Rennie Curran .

The freshman linebacker brought speed and enthusiasm to a defense that will certainly be under the gun Saturday when the No. 8 Bulldogs play host to high-scoring Kentucky in their final Southeastern Conference game of the season.

Curran spent the first part of the season learning the ropes in a backup role, but he was so impressive that Georgia put him in the lineup for a crucial game against Florida. He made his second start last week in a 45-20 victory over Auburn, coming up with five solo tackles, assisting on another and making one stop for a 3-yard loss.

"We're playing faster now than we did at the beginning of the season on defense," Richt said. "Rennie Curran helps us look faster.

"He has a knack of smelling out the play and going to get it quickly."

Curran, who played at Brookwood High School in suburban Atlanta, agreed with his coach's assessment of the improved speed on defense.

"Oh yeah, the defense as a whole is playing a whole lot faster compared to what we were doing at the beginning of the year," the freshman said. "The coaches have allowed us to play fast and not worry about mistakes so much."

HELPING HAND: When tight end Tripp Chandler was dropping passes and getting booed between the hedges, he had plenty of help getting through the tough times.

Like teammates Mohamed Massaquoi and Sean Bailey . And former teammate Martrez Milner .

All went through the same thing at Sanford Stadium.

"When I was going through some bad times with the fans and as a player, everybody was calling me up and talking to me about it," Chandler said. "I got calls from Martrez about it. Mo was talking about it. Sean Bailey was talking about it. They've booed all those players in that stadium."

Chandler struggled to hang on to the ball early in the season, drawing the wrath of the Georgia faithful, but he's emerged as one of the team's more reliable receivers. He had two catches for 44 yards in last week's 45-20 victory over Auburn, and ranks second on the team with 19 receptions for 266 yards and two touchdowns.


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