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Saturday, August 8, 2009

Practice Notes: Ealey, Lott Out With Injuries

The injuries haven’t been serious, but the dings and scrapes are starting to mount for Georgia after a week of practice.

Freshmen Washaun Ealey and Derrick Lott are the latest Bulldogs to come up lame after both hyperextended their elbows on separate plays during Friday’s practice. Neither injury is considered serious, head coach Mark Richt said, but both players will be kept out of contract drills Monday.

“There’s no damage as far as broken bones or anything like that,” Richt said of Ealey’s injury. “It won’t need any kind of surgery. It just swelled up a little bit, and when the swelling goes down and he thinks he can get going again, he’ll go, but I can’t say how long.”

While Lott is considered a longshot to earn playing time behind a trio of senior defensive tackles this season, but Ealey is part of a five-man race to earn carries at tailback.

Richt said the injury could be a setback for Ealey, but assuming the freshman continues learning at the same pace, the missed action won’t necessarily prevent him from remaining in the mix for carries.

“He’ll have plenty of time if he can keep learning without the reps,” Richt said. “He’ll be able to do ball-handling drills and probably pass skeleton drills soon, he just won’t be able to go full contact.”


Georgia wrapped up its first week of fall practice Saturday under a glaring sun that had players a bit antsy to get in a few licks before two-a-days begin Monday.

“Practice was hot and nasty, and everybody was in a bad mood, which was OK,” Richt said. “The emotions were flying pretty good, and they’re ready for Monday. They’re ready to put the pads on and start playing football.”

Perhaps no player is more eager to get a few hits in than senior defensive tackle Jeff Owens, who missed nearly all of the 2008 season following a torn ACL he suffered early in Georgia’s opening game against Georgia Southern.

Owens said his knee has felt fine throughout the team’s first five practices, but donning full pads and laying out a few hits on Monday morning will be a true test – and a big reward.

“I love when guys come out and want to hit,” Owens said. “That makes me want to get out there and hit somebody – especially for me because I haven’t tackled anyone to the ground in a year. When I get back out there, I’m going to feel like I’m a kid again, like it’s Christmas. I just want to hit somebody.”


Walk-on offensive lineman Casey Nickels has already racked up a few superlatives during the past few months. The junior from Tignall was named the most improved offensive lineman and outstanding walk-on at the end of spring practice and opened the fall second on the depth chart at right guard.

Saturday, Nickels received another honor, too, earning a scholarship after three years as a walk-on.

“It’s a lot of fun to award scholarships to those guys who work so hard,” Richt said. “This is Casey’s fourth year, he’s working with our No. 2 unit now, and he’s working his tail off.”

The scholarship came as a surprise and a welcome reward for Nickels, who said it put the past three years of effort into perspective.

“To be a walk-on you’ve got to love the sport,” Nickels said. “Because you get pounded on for three or four years, especially on the line, you know? Hitting 325-pound defensive tackles everyday, it takes a toll on you.”


Richt insists the No. 2 spot on the depth chart at quarterback is still an open competition, but sophomore Logan Gray is doing his part to ensure Georgia’s two freshmen spend 2009 as redshirts.

After drawing praise during the spring, Richt said Gray’s growth has continued this fall in terms of his knowledge and confidence.

“I think he’s done a nice job of preparing himself,” Richt said. “You can just see there’s a lot more confidence in his ability to run the system than even in the spring probably. I think he had a great spring and took the momentum into the summer and has done a very nice job.”

While a starting job may not be up for grabs, Richt said the back-up quarterback will see significant playing time this year, and that’s all the motivation Gray needs.

“That’s what I’ve been thinking about this whole summer,” Gray said. “I’m going to do whatever I can to get on the field.”


Asked how he would sum up the first week of fall practice, Richt had some words of encouragement.

“I would say it was a great start – a lot of energy, a lot of guys trying to do it the Georgia way," he said. "It’s been highly organized practices, and I’ve been pleased with the focus.”

The defense continued to be ahead of the offense, with Sanders Commings hauling in a pick-six as Saturday's star, but Richt said he saw progress all around, including from the freshmen, who he said are making both plenty of big plays and plenty of mistakes.

Georgia moves on to its first day of two-a-days Monday, with the morning practice set to be in full uniforms for the first time this fall. Richt said the staff had not yet determined which drills would be contact.


Georgia had 79 players earn a 3.0 GPA or better during the summer semester, including 22 Bulldogs who landed on the Dean's list. The combined team GPA for the summer was a 3.148 -- a mark Richt hailed as a major stepping stone.

"That was a goal we talked about in the spring to get it over 3.0," Richt said. "We'd been banging away at 3.0, but we hadn't quite gotten there, so that is outstanding."


If you're a regular follower of Jeff Owens on Twitter, you may have noticed things have been a bit quiet the past two days. Following a day of downtime due to a hacking of the social networking site, Owens said he hasn't been able to access his account.

But fear not, Owens said. He's passing along today's tweet through the media.

"If I could tweet, I'd say practice was challenging," Owens said. "We competed and a lot of guys got after it. I think we got better today.”

As a side note, I told Owens that was way beyond the character limit. Shows what I know... it was 98 characters.

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