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Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Practice Notes: Dogs Show Less Energy

Maybe it was the two days off that proceeded Tuesday's practice. Maybe it was the grind of a second day in full pads that sapped the energy out of the players. Whatever it was, it didn't leave head coach Mark Richt particularly enthused with the performance of his team after Georgia's fifth of 15 spring practices.

"I think today was kind of luke warm," Richt said. "It didn't fire me up that much. It wasn't bad, but it wasn't championship level. The energy level wasn't quite what I'd seen to this point."

While Richt has said the defense has been significantly ahead of the offense throughout the spring thus far, he did say there was some leveling off in that competition Tuesday. During inside drills particularly, the offense looked sharper than it had before, including Saturday's first day in full pads in which Richt said the defense dominated.

There was some good news on defense Tuesday, too. Richt said the defense racked up four interceptions, including picks by Prince Miller and Reshad Jones. One unlikely defender managed to haul in an interception, too, and even returned for a touchdown.

"Geno Atkins intercepted a ball and took it to the house," Richt said. "It was only about five or six yards, but it was pretty exciting."


With Richard Samuel out of action, the competition for carries in Georgia's backfield isn't likely to be resolved before the fall no matter what, but Carlton Thomas' big spring has certainly made things a bit more intriguing.

"Carlton has done a very nice job of running the ball inside," Richt said. "He's made more people miss and broken more tackles at this point than Caleb (King) has, but Caleb is doing an outstanding job, himself."

Richt said King has a slight advantage in the blocking game due to the extra year of experience and game-day snaps he has gotten that Thomas has not. After watching both of them in practice, however, neither has shown they're ready to take over for the departed Knowshon Moreno just yet.

"We need to get both those guys quite a bit more reps in pass protection to be able to start separating them," Richt said.

While Samuel won't be fully healed from wrist surgery until June, Thomas and King are about to get a bit more competition for playing time this spring. Freshman Dontavius Jackson returned to practice Tuesday and participated in several of the team's drills. Although he technically wasn't supposed to take any hits, Richt said Jackson was knocked to the ground by accident on one play, but immediately popped back up, no worse for wear.

"He's phasing in right now, and it might be as early as next Monday (that he's back)," Richt said. "I think he'll go full before it's over."


Bruce Figgins didn't have much trouble playing through the pain of a serious shoulder injury for most of last season, but sitting on the sideline while it heals is turning out to be a bit of a chore.

Figgins said his spring has consisted of little more than simple strength training workouts, and he's getting a little anxious to find his way back onto the field.

"It's real hard," Figgins said. "You try to come with a positive attitude and still try to get yourself better day by day, watching film and watching what other people do."

Figgins' progress has been slow but steady so far, and his last visit with the doctors showed that the shoulder has shown no ill effects following a season of wear and tear and surgery in January.

"I'm slowly progressing in my rehab, week by week adding on stuff trying to get it stronger," he said. "I talked with the trainers (last weekend) who said it's good, it's healed, but you don't want to rush it. You don't want to take any risks, so that's where we're at, just trying to strengthen it up."

While Figgins' workouts are limited, his growth as a player hasn't been. He said the time on the sideline has given him a fresh perspective on what his role with the team can be, and he's using the lack of on-field action as a chance to develop his game in other ways.

"This is when a lot of leadership comes in," Figgins said. "I've grown a lot from having to sit back and not being able to do anything but push other guys."


It appeared that there might be a close battle for the chance to replace CJ Byrd at safety this season, but defensive coordinator Willie Martinez said Tuesday he feels pretty comfortable with a starting tandem of Reshad Jones and Bryan Evans right now.

Evans shifted from cornerback to safety midway through last season, a transition Martinez said isn't usually a simple one because of the increased knowledge a safety must have of the defense, but Evans has made it look easy.

"He understands our scheme," Martinez said. "He's done a good job of paying attention to what those guys were doing even when he was playing corner."

More than just knowing his role, Richt said Evans has embraced the change. After platooning at corner for two years, Evans seems right at home and his enthusiasm about the new challenge has been evident.

"He's very excited about safety," Richt said. "He's shown as much spirit as anyone. He's high tempo, high energy. He's doing a good job and he's found a nice home."


Figgins and Jackson are just two of nearly two dozen Georgia players currently sidelined with injuries following a season in which it seemed like the population of the trainer's room grew daily.

So far this spring, however, the Bulldogs have managed to stay relatively healthy, and Richt said no major calamities have hit the players.

"We've got a couple of guys with fingers and thumbs taped up," Richt said, "but so far so good."


Mike In Valdosta said...

Start worrying, DH, congress is getting into the newspaper business. Are you ready for Washington to revitalize your industry?

jferg said...

Sounds to me like Richard Samuel and the coaches believe the starting RB job will be Richard Samuel's once he returns. I believe this will be just like 2006 (year?) when Lumpkin, Brown, and Ware all competed for the starting position and the "hot" back would get most of the snaps in the game when they were "on".

I am interested to see how the energy level is today. To see if locker-room leadership is present like they have said it is this offseason. Last years team couldn't pick itself up by the bootstraps when it was down. I guess only time will tell....

Glad to see Evans' abilities being maximized at Safety. I really like this move and if he and RJ can tackle to the ground, they could be one of colleges most lethal safety combos NOT in Soutern California.

Mike In Valdosta said...

Totally agree with jferg. One difference between then and now, I believe this group has more ability to break the long runs. The 2006 group would all run over you, while Samuels is not shy about contact (sometimes I think he looks for it too much) King and Thomas have some moves.

I certainly hope this group does not go through all the trails and tribulations the 2006 group endured.

Regarding the safeties, I still believe there will be an opportunity for a youngster to break into the line up. We need to get that violence back we have been lacking the last few years.

David Hale said...

Jferg -- Team actually doesn't practice today. They get going again Thursday with Friday being their first full scrimmage. My money's on much better energy Thursday.

Mike -- I agree on the young safeties. Rambo, Knox and Banks are all talented enough to be playing soon. I actually thinking having a little bit of a rotation there will be big for the defense. They were so thin last year that there was no option OTHER than to go with Byrd and Reshad almost every snap.

And on the DC interference -- I'm just hoping to receive a large bonus before the walls cave in.