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Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Wednesday Practice Notes (11/5)

Mark Richt said Monday's practice was a rough one for Georgia. Fresh off a demoralizing loss to Florida, it wasn't easy for the team to shake the memories of the 49-10 rout in Jacksonville, Fla.

The past two days of practice have been much improved, however, and Richt said he feels good about the team's attitude heading into Saturday's matchup with Kentucky.

"I thought they worked hard," Richt said of Wednesday's practice session. "I thought they had a good edge to them. At this point, I think we're right on track."

Putting the loss behind them hasn't been an easy task for the players, linebacker Darryl Gamble said, and to some degree, he doesn't think they should. It's a delicate balance to learn from the loss but not let it overshadow the rest of the season.

"I think about it but I try not to remember it as much," Gamble said. "It's a game in the past and I try not to live in past games. Try to remember them, but try not to think about them all the time. It happened, and it's going to stick with us."

Richt said his team has done a good job of setting the loss aside and moving on this week, a task he said is necessary if the Bulldogs hope to beat the Wildcats on Saturday.

"The clock's ticking, and you have to get ready," Richt said. "If you don't, you're in trouble. There's really no choice. I'm just glad we don't have an open date."

-- With the eminent departure of Tennessee head coach Phil Fulmer at season's end and the carousel of coaching changes around the conference recently, Richt has suddenly become the elder statesman of SEC coaches.

Only Auburn's Tommy Tuberville has been with his school longer than Richt, who arrived at Georgia before the 2001 season. While Auburn's struggles this season have Tuberville on the hot seat with Tigers fans, Richt said he doesn't plan on going anywhere for a long time.

"My goal from the very beginning has been to have this be the last coaching job that I have," Richt said. "That's going to be up to whoever is making that decision, but for me, my goal was that if I moved from Tallahassee, move one time. I'm not interested in telling a bunch of young men that I've got a better place to be than to be with them."

Richt's next win will be his 80th at Georgia in eight seasons, a feat only five other coaches have accomplished.

"It's been pretty successful over the last seven years, and hopefully we will knock out 80 victories in eight years," he said. "That's not bad."

-- Richt said Georgia's list of injuries this week isn't particularly long, and he said the past few practices haven't sent anyone new to the trainer's room.

Defensive end Jeremy Lomax injured his shoulder on the second play of the game against Florida last week, and Richt said the senior would be questionable for Saturday's matchup with Kentucky.

"I just landed on it bad," said Lomax, who has battled a turf-toe injury all season. "When it rains, it pours."

Linebacker Darius Dewberry suffered a hip flexor injury against Florida and is doubtful for this week's game.

"I'm feeling pretty good," Dewberry said. "I'm anxious to get out there, but injuries happen, so I've just got to keep after it."

Quarterback Matthew Stafford took a few lumps against a fierce Florida pass rush last week, too, but Richt said he would be fine to play against Kentucky. Stafford hurt his elbow during the game, an injury he said was minor, and suffered a bone bruise on his ankle.

"He's throwing the ball just fine," Richt said of Stafford. "It was bothering him more (Tuesday) than it was (Wednesday), so he'll be fine. He'll have no limitations."

-- Kiante Tripp's season has been a roller coaster. He began the year as the projected starter at right tackle then landed the starting left tackle job after Trinton Sturdivant was lost for the season with a knee injury in fall camp. When injuries piled up among the tight ends, Tripp was moved again then was moved back to right tackle after lineman Vince Vance succumbed to a knee injury that ended his season.

Now the player who started the first three games of the season is buried on the bench, and Richt said he's not close to playing.

"Right now, he's still getting reps in practice and still trying to earn the playing time," Richt said. "Right now, we've just got other guys ahead of him."

-- Dannell Ellerbe played his first snaps in more than a month against Florida, but he wasn't in his traditional middle linebacker role.

With the success sophomore Darryl Gamble achieved as Ellerbe's replacement, the senior actually returned to the lineup by playing a new position.

Richt said Ellerbe lined up at the line of scrimmage on nickel packages as a third linebacker to go with three down linemen. Richt said the move was designed to create mismatches where Ellerbe would be blocked by a guard or running back rather than the tackle who would normally block the defensive end. Meanwhile, Ellerbe would also be more apt to drop into coverage than an end would be.

The move paid off when Ellerbe earned Georgia's only sack of the game, but it's a strategy Richt said isn't likely to continue this week.

"That's where we were hoping to get a little more of a mismatch, but he'll be back in a more traditional spot this week," Richt said.

That's because Ellerbe came out of the game feeling good, and his practices this week have been his best since injuring his knee against Alabama, Richt said.

"The good news is he feels real good," Richt said. "(Against Florida) he was not 100 percent, but he was well enough to play, and he came out of it good. Seeing him run now, I think we'll see Dannell really start to make plays again. In the meantime, Darryl played great. We've got more experience there, guys that are capable of making plays and keeping each other fresh."

-- It wasn't the way he had dreamed it would happen, but freshman tight end Aron White isn't complaining about grabbing the first touchdown reception of his career in Georgia's 49-10 loss last week.

"I caught the touchdown in the back of the end zone, and I could see some Georgia fans right nearby applauding for me," White said.

That was the good part. The bad part was that the throw came from backup quarterback Joe Cox in the waning minutes of a blowout loss, making the career milestone a hallow one.

"It always feels good scoring a touchdown, but it's a little bittersweet," White said. "You can't be mad scoring a touchdown, it's something I'll remember for the rest of my life, but there's always going to be some hard feelings that it came in a game like that."

White played mostly in the fourth quarter after the game was all but lost for Georgia, while Bruce Figgins got the start and played about 60 percent of the snaps, White said, and Tripp Chandler played the rest.

All three of Georgia's tight ends caught a pass in the Florida game, but White said he hopes his touchdown grab made enough of an impression on the coaching staff that he'll have a few more opportunities in the Bulldogs' final four games.

"Hopefully the offensive coordinator and the head coach and my position coach recognize that I'm making plays. Tripp and Bruce both had pretty good catches in the game as well. Of course, I'd like to get some more catches, some more touches, be utilized a little more, but anything to help the team."

-- It has been a lost season for safety Quintin Banks, who missed the first six games of the season with knee injury he suffered in fall camp, then got hurt again in his first game back in action.

Richt said Banks isn't close to returning, but said the sophomore has done a great job of staying involved with the team while he recovers.

"He's doing a fantastic job out there," Richt said. "He's coaching his teammates every single play. He's helping (John) Knox. He's helping those young safeties. He's knows the plan, he's in the meetings, he's into it. He's trying to help the team win, and I'm really proud of him."

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