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Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Practice Notes: Samuel Seizing Control at Tailback

After Saturday's scrimmage, running backs coach Bryan McClendon met with each of his five tailbacks to give them a progress report on their play and an update on their status on the depth chart, which he said is finally starting to take shape.

"You do see a pecking order start to fold itself out," McClendon said. "Everyone understands it's based off what I see out there on the field. You start to see how stuff plays itself out a little bit."

To be sure, McClendon isn't declaring a winner of the competition to replace Knowshon Moreno as Georgia's starting tailback, but sophomore Richard Samuel does appear to have a leg up at the moment.

Samuel wowed coaches in Georgia's first scrimmage, racking up 108 yards on the ground on just five carries. His numbers in Saturday's scrimmage weren't quite as impressive, but he ran hard and the film showed clear progress.

"Right now, you can see Richard start to sort of take things on, and you do start to see him start to separate himself from other guys in the pack," McClendon said. "Now to say he's the clear-cut guy, maybe or maybe not. There's still a long time to see. We've still got three more weeks to go."

Samuel's primary competition figured to be sophomore Caleb King, but King has missed the past week of practice with a hamstring injury.

McClendon said he saw enough of King before the injury that the missed time hasn't set him back, and stressed that he didn't want any of the tailbacks to assume injuries were a key factor in how the depth chart takes shape.

While King may have fallen behind Samuel at this point, it may be even more important for him to stay ahead of redshirt freshman Carlton Thomas.

After an impressive spring, Thomas racked up 90 yards on six carries in Saturday's scrimmage. Although Thomas isn't an ideal size for the role of an every-down back, he has continued to show he belongs in the mix.

That puts a bit of pressure on King to come back strong, as McClendon said he doesn't anticipate more than two tailbacks seeing significant action in the early going.

"You're definitely looking for guys to solidify themselves in that top two just to get the quality reps," he said. "You need four guys because it's a long season, and those backs get hit on a lot, but as far as me saying we're going to play four guys, I just don't think that will be the case."

A REAL GRAY AREA

While the tailbacks continue to compete, the battle for the back-up quarterback job hasn't been that much of a competition.

Offensive coordinator Mike Bobo said he has been impressed with all four of his quarterbacks, but senior Joe Cox and sophomore Logan Gray have clearly been ahead of the pack.

"I think Joe has done a nice job of establishing himself," Bobo said. "You can tell he's been here five years. He has great knowledge of the system and great command of what we're trying to do. I think Logan's had a great spring and he's really improved from spring until the fall, and he's really gotten better every practice. The young guys are still just trying to figure things out. It's going a little bit fast for them."

With Cox firmly planted in the role of starter, Bobo still isn't ready to call the fight for the second spot a done deal. After all, he said, Matthew Stafford was tied for third on the depth chart after two scrimmages in 2006, but by Week 3 of the season, he was the starter.

For now, however, there's an obvious pecking order.

"Right now I'd say that Joe is a solid No. 1 and Logan is a solid No. 2," Bobo said.

'NOT GOOD ENOUGH'

After two days off and the first day of classes, Georgia's players finally returned to the practice field Tuesday, and it wasn't the warmest of welcomes, head coach Mark Richt said.

While Richt said a few players were likely still getting the hang of mixing classwork with football, and a few others had strong individual performances, the overall grade for the day's practice didn't meet the standards the coaches wanted.

"It was not good enough," Richt said. "It wasn't a horrible practice. There were some good things, but it wasn't good enough to win, especially with who we're playing Game 1. It wasn't good enough."

LIKES WHAT HE SEES

Georgia's three most experienced safeties are all wearing green non-contact jerseys, meaning a couple of redshirt freshmen are getting plenty of work in practice.

While Richt said Baccari Rambo had an impressive interception in the end zone during Tuesday's practice, the star of the show has been converted corner Makiri Pugh, who may have found a home at safety.

"Safety and the nickel is where he belongs," Richt said. "He's a much more natural safety, and I think he's found a home. After looking at the film (of Saturday's scrimmage) he made some really fine open-field tackles. I really liked what I saw."

HURTS SO GOOD

Receiver Marlon Brown has spent nearly the entirety of fall practice with his hand wrapped to protect an injured finger, but Richt said it hasn't slowed the talented freshman.

Brown had two catches in Saturday's scrimmage, but it was his blocking that caught the eye of his coaches.

"As we talked about personnel, (receivers) coach (Tony) Ball mentioned specifically that he liked that he fought in the downfield blocking and didn't use his hand as an excuse or complain about it in any way," Richt said.

HAMMIES HAPPEN

Rex Bradberry is a member of Georgia's strength and conditioning staff and is working on his PhD at Georgia. Bradberry has spent a good bit of time studying hamstring injuries, Richt said, as part of what might become his dissertation, and his findings are something Richt already assumed true.

"It happens every single camp," Richt said. "It's almost identical now as it was 20 years ago. You just have X amount of guys that are going to get pulls."

Georgia has six full- or part-time starters currently sidelined with hamstrings, with safety Bryan Evans and linebacker Akeem Dent the most recent additions to a list that already included Darius Dewberry, Reshad Jones, Aron White and Caleb King.

While the number is higher than Richt would like, he said none of the injuries appear particularly serious, and his staff has remained cautious when bringing players back.

"Hamstrings are funny in that you get to the point where you feel you're ready to go, but when you accelerate or burst as if the game's riding on it, sometimes you can come back too soon," Richt said. "So I always like to tell the guys, when you feel like you're ready, you're still another three or four days away at least."

ONE BAD DAY

Georgia's coaches have made a point of stressing penalty-free play this fall, but last Friday's practice was a bad one.

"The last practice prior to the scrimmage was horrible," Richt said. "It was a day mentally where I think everybody gave in to the heat, gave in to fatigue, and things got a little sloppy. That was really the only day where if you watched the stats, you'd say Georgia was a very undisciplined football team."

Since then, however, things have been back to normal, and Richt said the number of flags in Saturday's scrimmage and Tuesday's practice were minimal.

ODDS AND ENDS

-- Defensive end Kiante Tripp missed Tuesday's practice with a shoulder bruise.

-- It's official. The news that senior Marcus Washington has been working at defensive end isn't new, but Richt made Washington's move from linebacker official Tuesday. "That's what he's working," Richt said. "We know he can play linebacker if need be, but he's in the meetings and he's taking every rep at D-end right now."

-- Freshman lineman Chris Burnette has been spending most of his time at center recently, a move that Richt said is a perfect fit. "It's not 100 percent, but we think he's a fine center prospect," Richt said. "His body type is definitely center/guard, and you want your centers to be smart and athletic, and he's definitely that."

-- Richt confirmed that Aron White is still his No. 1 tight end, but how he prefaced his response to the inquiry might tell you something about how good the freshmen have looked. When asked who was atop his depth chart, Richt's immediate response: "That's a really good question."

-- While McClendon was a bit cagey about revealing his current depth chart, Bobo said Samuel and Thomas are currently running with the No. 1 unit and Washaun Ealey and Kalvin Daniels are running with the twos. Dontavius Jackson just returned to practice Tuesday after missing several days.

-- When it comes to the other depth-chart battles, Richt isn't handing out too many details. He said he spoke with coaches to get a rough idea of who the 75 members of Georgia's travel team would be for Oklahoma State, but he didn't ask about the actual depth charts and he's not naming names beyond that. "I listened to them basically give me a review of how each player did in the scrimmage and how they've done to this point," Richt said.

-- Geno Atkins, Rennie Curran and Jeff Owens were among 62 players named to the Bronko Nagurski Trophy watch list, which was released Tuesday. Georgia is one of just four schools -- Penn State, Florida and Alabama are the others -- with at least three players named on the list.

4 comments:

Dawg Stephen said...

Vance Cuff. He had a GREAT scrimmage last week and he is not getting any mentions. He is flying under the radar, and he will be a great playmaker this year.

This is THE BLOG when i need information, thank you David!!!

Anonymous said...

Hammies don't just happen. The damage is a direct result of imbalanced training of the quad vs. the hamstring. The injury results when brain signals get mixed up telling the quad to contract and the hamstring to contract at the same time. The injury occurs at the point when the quad wins the battle causing the constricted hamstring to abnormal stretch (aka pull). Because the quad is typically over developed compared to the hamstring, the hamstring almost always looses. The risk of this injury can be reduce by proper balanced development between the quad and hamstring.

jferg said...

hammies do happen...and as long as they're the minor kind that were healed 3 or 4 days ago and we're in that "waiting an extra 3 or 4 days" grace period, I'm ok.

I'm not ok if these things keep our starters from playing tackle football...which has proven to be detrimental to our team's success.

DWH said...

No kidding jferg...I like the tackle football version of UGA MUCH better than the two-hand tag version of '08.