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Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Wednesday Football Notes (2/18)

Plan on a strong finish to the week for the blog, as I've got some good stuff on tap for the next few days, but right now, I'm about to go cover Georgia hoops. In the meantime, however, here are some news and notes from today's meetings with the football team, with plenty more to follow later this week...

-- A year ago, Prince Miller wasn't even sure he would be a starter in Georgia's secondary. Now, he's the only cornerback on the roster with starting experience, a lone veteran surrounded by a talented crew of up-and-comers.

While the role of grizzled veteran may be a new one for Miller, it hasn't changed his preparation this offseason, he said.

"I don't think you approach it too much differently," Miller said. "Every season you want to prepare yourself as a leader, especially if you're going to be playing."

Miller started 10 games last season and finished the year with 50 tackles 37 more than any other cornerback currently on Georgia's roster.

With the departure of Asher Allen for the NFL draft and Ramarcus Brown to graduation, the task of getting the multitude of young corners, including incoming freshman Branden Smith, ready for action has fallen to Miller, and his influence is already being felt.

"He's really helping us in the film room just getting focused," freshman Brandon Boykin said. "When we get out there, there's no playing around. His mind is focused. It's really helped us and you can tell how much better we've gotten already."

The improvement will need to come quickly, because Boykin, Vance Cuff, Sanders Commings, Makiri Pugh and Smith are all likely to see increased playing time next season and will be counted on to fill key roles in the secondary.

"We all realize now this is all we've got," Boykin said. "There's no more Asher, no more Ramarcus, all these experienced guys. We're going to get thrown into the fire whether we like it or not."

While Boykin may still be a bit nervous about what's in store for 2009, Miller said he has the utmost confidence in his young teammates, regardless of how much playing time they've had in the past.

"They don't have the starting experience, but they've played in games," Miller said. "They're ready to play, that's what they came here to do, so they're going to relish the opportunity."

-- Bryan McClendon will be the youngest position coach in the SEC next season, but he won't be without a veteran coach to lean on.

Offensive line coach Stacy Searels was given the title of running game coordinator after a dalliance with Auburn in December, taking some of the load off McClendon, who is in his first season as Georgia's running backs coach.

It's a relationship McClendon said will help the team, and he isn't concerned about the two coaches stepping on each others' toes once the games begin.

"Stacy's done a great job of helping with the running game ever since he stepped foot on this campus doing stuff that gives us a better chance to do in the run game," McClendon said. "I'm really thrilled that he's been able to get that position, but I don't think it's going to change too much."

-- Tight end Bruce Figgins said he's feeling better, but the padded sling he's forced to wear to protect his surgically repaired shoulder is still getting on his nerves.

A Wednesday visit to the doctor was another step in his path to recovery, but Figgins still doesn't plan to see much action for a while. He won't participate in spring practice sessions, and his offseason workouts have been limited to lower-body work so far.

"It's a lot of film study and making sure I'm prepared mentally and getting stronger in doing what I can do until my shoulder is stronger," Figgins said.

Figgins may not see much action this spring, but he said he fully expects to play a big role by the time fall practice begins in August. In fact, he's hoping to be ready for the start of summer conditioning in June.

"That's what I'm trying to prepare for, being able to go full speed then," he said.

-- When Georgia's defense struggled down the stretch in 2008, the Bulldogs had the luxury of offensive stars Knowshon Moreno and Matthew Stafford to help bail them out. With both players headed to the NFL, however, linebacker Darryl Gamble said this year the defense expects to assume the burden of keeping the team afloat in close games.

"It's going to rely a lot more on the defense this year because we've lost two good offensive players," Gamble said. "People are going to look at us to pick up the slack that they left off on the defensive side of the ball. We've got the talent. It's just going to be up to us whether we do it or not."

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