(NOTE: Updated with extra notes after first posting)
Some of this is a little repetitive from yesterday's signing day coverage, so my apologies for that. But if you didn't sift through the whole live blog yesterday, it'll seem new to you.
I also met with Carlton Thomas and Reshad jones today, and we're scheduled to meet with Shaun Chapas, Kiante Tripp and Israel Troupe a bit later this afternoon, so I'll have more notes later tonight or early tomorrow...
-- Bryan McClendon, Georgia's new running backs coach, went to visit freshman Richard Samuel in the hospital just moments after the tailback came out of surgery to repair an injured risk.
Samuel was still a little groggy, but his focus was already on the football field.
"The first thing he said was, 'Coach, I want to go work out,'" McClendon said.
It was hard for McClendon to fault his player for the motivation, but the recovery process won't move quite that fast for Samuel, who, along with Caleb King, was considered the top contender to replace Knowshon Moreno in Georgia's backfield.
"I was like, 'You might want to chill out just for a little while,'" McClendon said. "That's just how he is. I know he's going to work hard and do what he has to do to get back as soon as he can and join this competition full swing."
Samuel's injury will keep him out of spring practice, however, and that's likely to hurt his chances at landing the job of primary ball carrier.
The injury happened in Georgia's bowl game against Michigan State, but Samuel had hoped to avoid surgery. After a few weeks of rehab, however, it became obvious that the surgery would be a necessity.
"It was a bummer," McClendon said. "He was really bummed out about it. Richard is one of those guys that he loves to work, he loves to practice, he loves to be around the guys."
Before the injury, Samuel was on pace to break the school power clean record in the weight room and was working to turn all he had learned in the film room in 2008 into on-field production this spring.
Now he'll be relegated to off-field activities, but fellow tailback Carlton Thomas said Samuel is handling it well.
"He's in the weight room all the time, working out with the guys," Thomas said. "He's still the same old Richard, still working, still getting better. Hopefully when everything gets right, he'll be back in the grind."
-- Offensive line coach Stacy Searels was a hot commodity prior to Georgia's bowl game when Auburn came calling in hopes of luring the offensive line coach away from the Bulldogs. Although he met with Tigers officials, Searels said he's thrilled to be staying in Athens.
"I like the job I have here at Georgia," he said. "I'm proud to be at Georgia. The reason I'm here is Mark Richt, this staff, particularly Mike Bobo and working with him, and it makes it real easy to do my job."
-- For the past two years, Knowshon Moreno made Tony Ball's job as running backs coach pretty easy. This season, however, Ball won't just be without his playmaking tailback he'll be coaching a new position entirely.
Ball took over as wide receivers coach last month, with former receivers coach John Eason moving to an administrative position. He said the transition is going well so far particularly with the addition of new recruit Marlon Brown but there's still work to be done.
"I'm still moving unloading some receiver information and packing some running back information," Ball said. "Any move is always stressful, but I'm looking forward to the challenge."
-- Head coach Mark Richt said 20 players missed the first day of mat drills this week due to injuries, but the number of beat-up Bulldogs should dwindle to almost zero by the time fall camp kicks off.
"If you look at the June list of where we predict everybody being, it's almost 100 percent of our football team by June should be ready to do everything full speed," Richt said.
In the meantime, Georgia's injured players are still getting in plenty of work. The team implemented an additional station for drills with a coach assigned to ensure they work any muscle group that is fully functioning a tough test for players still recovering, but a necessary one, Richt said.
"We're going to have a full-time field coach with those injured players to make sure that every body part that does work is strained to the max," Richt said. "They're going to get graded and they're going to wish they were healthy."
-- The additions of Marlon Brown and Rantavious Wooten add two big-time playmakers to the Georgia receiving corps, but wide receivers coach Tony Ball said he's looking for another young wideout to add a spark on offense beyond the new recruits.
"We need more speed, more big-play ability," Ball said. "If you look at Tavarres King, he's quick, he's got some explosiveness, very good top-end speed, and was able to go through this year and get some experience. Now he's just got to make the mental change and become the player he's capable of becoming."
-- Richt wouldn't mind having a few extra days to rest after Georgia's season opener at Oklahoma State for 2009, but he said the rumors of a potential Thursday night game between the Bulldogs and Cowboys isn't likely.
"I would be excited about it because it would give us two extra days to prepare for our next opponent, which is South Carolina," he said, "but right now I don't know if that's going to happen."
-- Quarterback Zach Mettenberberger got his first taste of mat drills this week, and he said his legs were still throbbing hours after it was over. He didn't get much empathy from fellow early enrollee Aaron Murray, who got to skip the worst of the grueling offseason workouts as his leg and ankle still recover from an injury he suffered last fall.
"People say he's more mobile than me," Mettenberger said with a laugh, "but right now he's not."
-- Montez Robinson had already received offers from virtually every Big Ten school, but a quick 40 time at a combine suddenly sparked interest in the defensive end from Indiana around the SEC, too.
It wasn't until Georgia recruiting coordinator Rodney Garner had a chance to sit down with Robinson and his coaches, however, that he realized just how special a player the Bulldogs' newest defensive end was.
"Just getting to know him, you really felt a bond toward him, a love for him, and you really felt like he was an outstanding young man," Garner said.
Robinson was born in Alabama, but since he was a young child, he had been a ward of the state. With eight younger siblings, he was thrust into the role of an adult early on, and his hard work and determination on the football field has been just a small piece of what he has accomplished in his life, Garner said.
"Here's a kid that came from a very difficult set of circumstances, but yet he was able to rise up and is going to be able to do something special with his life," Garner said.
Garner said it didn't take long for the Bulldogs' coaching staff to embrace their new recruit, and what finally drew Robinson to Georgia over several other schools was a sense of family he hadn't found before.
"It's not just from an athletic standpoint, but I think we all fell in love with him as a person, too," Garner said. "We're excited about him getting here in June and getting in with this family. We know he's going to have a family once he gets here."
-- Offensive line coach Stacy Searels always carries a sheet with him that lists his depth chart with the top five players – his starters – listed at the top, and another group below listing who will be first off the bench.
"I put them just like that, and there was a couple times last year I had to refer to the sheet to find out who was next," Searels said.
Injuries made simply filling out a lineup a tough task, with nine different players seeing significant action. The most troublesome position was left tackle, where Trinton Sturdivant suffered a season-ending injury in fall camp, and four other players filled in at various times throughout the season.
Sturdivant is recovering well from knee surgery, however, and Searels said the sophomore was a big help in the film room.
"He was in all our meetings during the fall," Searels said. "I asked him to help be a coach, and we went through a lot of tackles and he gave them pointers. We look forward to him getting well and giving us more depth."
-- There won't be a lack of competition for jobs on the offensive line this fall with several linemen coming back from injuries and three new recruits – Lee, Chris Burnette and Austin Long – adding their names to the mix.
Lee has been on campus since early January as one of three early enrollees, and he said he's not too worried about the competition.
"Just learn as much as I can and get as strong as I can, just take it one day at a time and figure out how to do it," he said, "then hopefully come spring, we'll see what happens."
Searels has a longstanding policy that he plays the five best linemen, regardless of their class or experience, and that opportunity played a big role in Lee's decision to come to Georgia, he said.
"I love that whoever the top five are is going to play," Lee said. "He doesn't really play the whole favorites game just because they're older or he likes them. That's pretty cool."
Prior to Lee's arrival, there was some thought that the 305-pound lineman could move to the defensive side of the ball, but Lee said he's getting the hang of things already, and his head coach said there is no thought of a position change at this point.
"I think we're pretty settled on Dallas being an offensive player right now," Richt said. "He's going to be an offensive lineman for us."
-- Aaron Murray has already made it clear – in his new living situation, he's the neat one. Murray said the battle over who takes the trash out has surpassed his competition with fellow quarterback Zach Mettenberger for a spot on the depth chart. Lee is the third roommate in the group, and if it comes down to him playing the role of tie-breaker, he said he has to lean toward Mettenberger.
"Me and Zach aren't exactly sloppy people," Lee said. "We're both sort of O.C.D. But Aaron's at a whole different level than us."
Thursday, February 5, 2009
(NOTE: Updated with extra notes after first posting)