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 ATHENS, Ga. (AP) -Rennie Curran always trusts his instincts on the field.
Without that intuitive approach to playing linebacker, No. 3 Georgia might not have escaped from South Carolina with a victory last week.
It was Curran who jarred the ball loose when running back Mike Davis attempted to dive over the goal line midway through the fourth quarter. Bulldogs cornerback Asher Allen fell on the ball in the end zone to help preserve the 14-7 win.
``I had no idea the ball came out,'' Curran said Tuesday. ``I was just running and trying to make a play. With the situation we were in, I didn't want to give up on the play.''
When the Bulldogs (3-0) visit Arizona State (2-1) on Saturday, the 19-year-old sophomore might have more freedom than any other Georgia defender to make plays as he sees fit.
For coach Mark Richt, Curran plays the game so intuitively that they caution from ``over-coaching'' such talent.
bodies going there, all of a sudden you just see a little dart,'' Richt said. ``He just gets there faster than everybody else.''
When teaching defenders how to take on blocks, for example, coaches tell linebackers it's critical to take a proper angle with one shoulder so they can free the hand on their other arm, the one ``outside'' the play, to make the tackle.
``Usually, if you go underneath that block, the back's gone, but there's sometimes when a guard might pull a little too wide and give too much space to where you can dart in there,'' Richt said. ``Now if you go through there and miss him, you're in trouble.''
Curran has shown the Bulldogs that he's an exception to that rule.
``Certain players you will allow to just go get (the ball) if they see it because they just have a feel for when they can and when they can't,'' Richt said. ``If Rennie doesn't feel like he can make that kind of read, then he'll play it as fundamental as anyone we've got.''
Curran debuted as a starter in last year's 42-30 victory over Florida, and he recorded 36 solo stops and three sacks over his next six games.
Before promoting Curran, defensive coordinator Willie Martinez and linebackers coach John Jancek knew he could handle any assignment against the run, but they still needed proof that the 5-foot-11, 205-pounder could handle coverage responsibilities.
rsistent film study and by making the right reads in practice. Most of this extra work was new to Curran, who like most high school standouts was accustomed to using his athleticism to overpower and outrun the competition.
``He wants to win for Georgia, in a bad way, and he doesn't really talk about it that much,'' Martinez said. ``He leads by results, and that's the fun part, because when guys are sitting there watching him (in the film room), it's pretty exciting.''
Curran's performance against South Carolina, which included six tackles, one sack and two quarterback pressures, earned him the Southeastern Conference's defensive player of the week award, but the kid who grew up in the Atlanta suburb of Snellville wants much more.
``The sky's the limit, but it's a matter of how much work we put in, so for me it's how hard I'm going to work when nobody's looking,'' Curran said. ``How much time I put in in the film room when we're not together as a defense. How much time I put in in the weight room. That's going to determine a lot about how I perform this season.''
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