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Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Football Notes (2/25)

The leadership is better, the focus is sharp and the workouts are as intense as they have ever been. It's a popular offseason refrain every year, but Georgia's players have made a point of repeating the mantra with regularity during the past six weeks.

What sets this offseason apart, however, is that the new and improved mind-set extends beyond the players, linebacker Rennie Curran said. Following a year in which practices were admittedly softer and off-field issues cropped up frequently, Georgia's coaching staff has taken a new approach toward the offseason this year, too.

"All the coaches are definitely behind us wanting to change the mentality of the team," Curran said. "Some of the punishments have become more intense if you don't do it right, and just with that, all the guys have a completely changed mentality and it's trickled down to the young guys all staying focused on and off the field."

Wide receivers coach Tony Ball said the changes started at the top, with an emphasis from head coach Mark Richt on making this offseason as intense as any the Bulldogs have had.

Coaches have taken a more hands-on approach, spending more time overseeing workouts and ensuring players are keeping up with their offseason training. Ball said reminders of the team's big-picture goals are everywhere in the locker room and weight room, offering subtle reminders of last season's disappointments and this year's expectations.

"I think the emphasis on the offseason is certainly more evident," Ball said. "There is a sense of urgency. You can see that. It has been created subtly with some of the things you see around the facility, and Coach Richt has certainly demonstrated an emphasis."

Curran said Richt addressed the team after its bowl game, telling the players he wanted to return to his roots and handle this offseason like he did when he first took over as head coach. Curran said there has been a renewed emphasis on detail and accountability from the coaching staff, and the results are already beginning to show.

"It doesn't matter if it's warm-ups or whatever," Curran said. "We're just making sure we look like a team and function as one."

-- He's a few months behind fellow left tackle Trinton Sturdivant on the rehab program, but Vince Vance said he's taking steps toward returning to action every day.

Vance tore his ACL in October after taking over the left tackle position that opened after Sturdivant went down with a similar injury in the preseason. He has been rehabbing the knee for four months, and he said he's starting to see the fruits of his labor.

"It's going strong," Vance said of the rehab process. "I'm jogging in the pool, light squatting. I'm coming back, slowly but surely."

Of course, thanks to the high number of injuries on the line a year ago, there will be a deep group of lineman with playing experience this season, meaning Vance won't be guaranteed a starting job once he's ready to get back on the field.

While the senior lineman won't be ready to participate in spring practice, Vance said he's confident he'll be able to make up for lost time once his knee is fully healed.

"I know the playbook just as well as anyone else on the offensive line," Vance said, "so that's really going to be on me to see how I come back physically."

-- Tavarres King got just a brief taste of action last season, hauling in two receptions before an ankle injury landed him on the sidelines for the remainder of the season. When he hits the field in 2009, however, he's expecting to have a much bigger impact.

"My goal for myself is to somewhat fill Mohamed (Massaquoi's) shoes," King said. "I don't want to take his place, but I want to show the coaches can be that marquee guy that Mohamed was."

Massaquoi finished with 58 catches and 920 yards a year ago, teaming with A.J. Green to form one of the most dangerous receiving duos in the country. Massaquoi's departure means that plenty of receptions will be there for the taking in 2009, however, and while King hopes to get his share of grabs in his second season, he said the overall depth the Bulldogs will have at wide receiver next season could make it an even more dangerous group than they had last season.

"Success was pretty high last year," King said, "but we've got enough talent in the room to do some great things."

-- Georgia's depth chart at linebacker is far from settled as the team prepares to begin spring practice next month, but Curran's job at Will linebacker appears to be the one certainty in the group.

Last season, Curran led the SEC in tackles and established himself as one of the top linebackers in the conference, but he said he would be open to shifting positions to middle linebacker in 2009 if his coaches were interested.

"I don't see why not," Curran said. "I played Mike in high school, and I know the position pretty well. I feel like I could easily fit in there, and whatever coaches need me to do, that's where I'll play."

-- Green spent the 2008 season burning cornerbacks around the SEC, but he doesn't want anyone to forget he's more than just a wide receiver. Green was a start basketball player in high school, and while he said he's not planning to try out for the Georgia hoops team, he still puts on a show on the court when he gets together with teammates for pick-up games.

"I went to the Ramsay (athletic center) a couple times to shoot around a couple times," Green said. "I've still got it."

2 comments:

jferg said...

It's not hard to see why there is a lot of focus on the team this year. Forget last year and it's "disappointments" and "lack of leadership"...yayaya.

The opportunity at hand ALONE is enough to motivate these guys. There are at least 50 guys vying for starting positions that were held down by someone else last year. In my opinion, this is why everyone is more focused. Almost everyone has a legitimate shot at STARTING and/or playing A LOT! Just look at the new positions that are open...
QB
RB
FB
OL
TE
WR
CB
S
MLB
SLB
DE
The good news for the Dawgs? We have people who have played in the SEC at almost every one of these spots--really only CB is a true question mark--and the talent and competition should create a pretty dang good player there too!

David Hale said...

That is a great point, jferg... nothing motivates better than opportunity. And there should be plenty of it this year.