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Friday, August 28, 2009

Practice Notes: King Questionable For Week 1

When it happened, Mark Richt called it a 7-to-10-day injury, but 17 days after his last practice, Caleb King still isn't close to returning to work and could be in danger of missing Georgia's first game of the season against Oklahoma State.

Richt said he watched King run the sidelines during practice Friday, but couldn't speculate as to when the sophomore tailback might be healthy enough to return from a sore hamstring that has sidelined him for the majority of the preseason and kept him out of the competition for the starting tailback job that now appears to belong to Richard Samuel.

"You just can't predict hamstrings," Richt said. "We're hopeful that he's ready to practice early next week, but I don't know how he's going to feel."

Georgia has just three full-contact practices left before departing for Oklahoma State, which means the pressure is on for King to prove he's healthy enough to play in the game.

Offensive coordinator Mike Bobo said King would likely need to fully participate in a practice no later than Tuesday if the tailback was going to be part of Georgia's game plan against the Cowboys.

"I don't have a definite timeline because you never know what's going to happen with your other guys, but Monday and Tuesday are going to be the bulk of the work days next week," Bobo said. "I'd definitely like to have him out there Monday, and Tuesday at the latest."

Georgia is likely to bring only about 70 players to Stillwater, Okla. for the game, making each seat on the plane a valuable one, Richt said. Whether one of those seats belongs to King or not will ultimately be decided by the potential impact the coaches feel he can have in the game.

"We're not taking anybody on the plane unless we think they can play in that game and help us win," Richt said. "So if we don't think he has any chance of playing, he won't go. If we think he's got a chance of playing, he'll be on the plane, and if we need him, we'll put him in."


With King potentially out of the lineup, former Dodge County tailback Kalvin Daniels has worked his way up to the No. 3 spot on Georgia's tailback depth chart.

"Kalvin's done a really fine job," Richt said. "He had a good spring, he's had a good fall, and he's really done an outstanding job. Right now he would be our No. 3 if Caleb is not capable to go."

Samuel and redshirt freshman Carlton Thomas are likely to be Georgia's top two runners against Oklahoma State. Freshman Washaun Ealey was also in the mix for carries this preseason, but a hyperextended elbow hindered his progress, and at this point he's not in line to see much action.

"I talked to Washaun today about keep banging, keep competing," Richt said. "Sometimes kids will look at that depth chart and think you have no chance, but two weeks later, you might be it. I just wanted to remind him that, don't count yourself out because things can change in a hurry."

Despite the advice, Richt said he won't burn a potential redshirt for Ealey simply to allow the tailback to work on special teams in Week 1.


After Ben Jones went down with a sprained ankle last week, junior Chris Davis moved over to handle reps at center for the Bulldogs' offensive line, but that plan hit a speed bump this week, too.

Davis suffered an ankle sprain, too, and was wearing a protective boot for practice Friday. Richt said Davis was day-to-day and said the lineman could return to work Monday.

"He may do scout team only Monday, but that's how we phase guys in off an injury like that," Richt said. "We think he'll be ready."

Jones didn't practice again Friday, but he was jogging the sidelines and appeared to be moving well.

Still, with two projected starters missing time, Bobo said finding continuity on the offensive line remained a concern as Georgia readies for the season opener.

"Guys have got to practice together, make calls together and be on the same page," Bobo said. "The only positive is that the guys who are out there do have experience. But getting those guys healthy and getting them ready to play in the first game is definitely a concern."


Bobo isn't expecting a runaway victory for the Bulldogs in Stillwater, but even if Georgia's up big in the fourth quarter, he said fans shouldn't expect to get an early look at either of the team's freshman quarterbacks.

Zach Mettenberger and Aaron Murray were both hoping to land the No. 2 spot on the depth chart during the preseason, but that hasn't happened so far, and Bobo isn't going to risk burning a redshirt for either player to get them a few snaps in mop-up duty.

"We still have a few more days of practice before we finalize that decision," Bobo said, "but right now neither one of them would play."


Thanks to a suspension, junior Bruce Figgins won't see the field until Week 7 against Vanderbilt at the earliest, but his coach, John Lilly, said that hasn't altered the tight end's mind-set this preseason.

"I've been really proud of Bruce," Lilly said. "I think he's worked extremely hard and tried to help the young guys along, which shows a lot of maturity on his part. I think he's responded very well at this stage, but now here comes the tough part because the games start being played, and I know that's going to be difficult for him."

Figgins earned a six-game suspension for an unnamed violation of team rules in April, but he's also working his way back from offseason shoulder surgery that held him out of spring practice. Lilly said Figgins still isn't 100 percent, and there's a chance the team could decide to redshirt the tight end for the entire season.

"We're preparing him to be ready to go when that time comes, but with some injuries and trying to rehab his shoulder and things like that, if they're not responding well, that still could become a concern down the line," Lilly said. "Right now, he's mentally preparing to play and we're trying to have him physically ready to play."


Joe Cox knows Georgia's offense so well, it's not hard for Bobo to forget that he hasn't started a game in nearly three years.

"Sometimes as a coach, I have to realize that he's not a fifth-year starter, he's just a fifth-year senior," Bobo said. "It seems like he's been starting forever because he knows everything."

Despite Cox's intimate understanding of the playbook, Bobo said he has tried to remain cautious with what he asks of his starting quarterback.

"As a coach, you can't take things for granted just because he knows everything in the film room but hasn't experienced it in live action," Bobo said. "So you've just got to be real diligent and make sure that we're covering everything with him. He's doing a great job of preparing extra."

For months, Richt has been pretty open that Cox would have all the same leeway to change plays at the line of scrimmage that Matthew Stafford enjoyed last season, but Bobo wasn't ready to reveal any information on Cox's job description just yet.

"You'll have to wait and see on that one," he said.


There's no doubt a distinction between the type of offense played in the Big XII and the SEC, but Richt said he knows a thing or two about the style he can expect from Oklahoma State when the Bulldogs open the season in Stillwater next Saturday.

"It reminds me of the style of ball we played when we had Charlie Ward at Florida State – the spread, manipulating the pace of the game, fast-slow, getting guys in space, making plays, trying to wear people out by putting points on the board rather than trying to punch you in the mouth every time," Richt said.

Big XII teams are credited with a much more wide-open offensive style based around speed and finesse, but Richt did caution that there was more to Oklahoma State than the typical spread offense.

"I will say that Oklahoma State does a really fantastic job of the balance that most coaches are looking for," Richt said. "They will run the ball – and they run it from the spread, but you can run it from the spread with a physical nature and they do that."


After dissecting the film from Wednesday's practice game, Richt said he was a bit more encouraged by the team's performance, but there were still too many problems for him to dub it a success.

Defensively, he said the Bulldogs looked sharp, but the scout team's offensive line was so weak it was hard to get a good gauge of the first-team defensive backs.

"Because our second unit can't protect well enough against our first defense, it's just tough to find out what our holes are on the perimeter, if in fact they're there," Richt said.

On offense, the majority of the reps looked good, but missed opportunities are under a much bigger microscope during those scrimmages, he said.

"You play a half, and you don't have a lot of opportunities, so even if you lose one drive because of a penalty, it's just disappointing, and we did have one of those," Richt said. "It was better after watching the film as I felt like coming off, but it still wasn't as sharp as I would like."


The weather was a bit cooler and the rain held off, and Georgia's players responded with an encouraging day of work on the practice field Friday.

"They had a lot of energy today," Richt said. "I really like the way they practiced. I saw real good focus. They just looked good today. They gave me a good feeling."


Saturday's practice won't be an official scrimmage – Georgia has just three of those during the preseason, with the last coming this past Wednesday – but Richt said his team will go through many of the same motions as a scrimmage in order to tie up a few loose ends before taking on Oklahoma State.

"We'll do everything but tackle to the ground," Richt said. "We're going to do more team substituting, kickoff, defense, punt return and block. There will be some short-yardage, goal line, and we'll go a few plays live, but just a few."

Richt said the work will be designed mostly to iron out some flaws he saw during the team's practice game against the scout team and to get in a bit more reps on plays coaches didn't get to see enough of during the past week.

"We're actually ramping it up just a tad by scrimmaging the short-yardage and goal line plays," he said. "It'll look a lot like our practice game scrimmage, but it'll be a lot more scripted. We've scripted what we think we need to see that we haven't seen. But it's still going to be played like a game, just without the tackling."


Linebacker Akeem Dent missed another practice with a sore hamstring, but Richt said he appeared healthy and should be back at practice early next week.

"I happened to see Akeem running and changing direction," Richt said. "I saw him doing some things that made me feel he was getting close."

Marcus Dowtin and Richard Samuel both were in green, non-contact jerseys Friday, too, but each was participating in drills with their respective positions.

Safety Quintin Banks will miss the opening game with a knee injury, but Richt said that he's hopeful the rest of the Bulldogs' roster will be ready for action by next Saturday.

"We're still hopeful on everybody else other than the guys we know of with season-ending injuries," he said.

1 comment:

BenG said...

David, thanks for the great update. I have a question. What in the world happened to Dontavius Jackson? It's like the guy just dropped off the face of the earth.