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Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Practice Notes: Questions Remain on King's Status

It’s been a roller-coaster ride for tailback Caleb King the past few days, and that’s probably been the most painful part of his month-long hiatus from football.

On Saturday, he watched Georgia play Oklahoma State, sitting alone in his room. Sunday, he returned to practice and for the first time in weeks, he felt pretty good. By Tuesday, however, his practice was cut short once again, and his prospects for playing against South Carolina this Saturday took a hit.

“We saw him Sunday and for what we asked him to do that day, he ran around well,” head coach Mark Richt said. “Then we got into a full pads day and added more periods, the hamstring fatigued faster than it normally would, and we pulled him out. I would say it’s not a slam dunk at this point.”

King did some light work during individual workouts Wednesday and practiced during scout-team work, but he said he’s still not sure whether he has any chance of playing in Georgia’s home opener Saturday.

“I honestly don’t know,” King said. “If they don’t think I’m 110 percent, I know they’re not going to play me at all. So if I don’t, I’m not going to play at all, and if I do, I’ll play a lot.”

King said his hamstring is feeling much better, but the muscle fatigues much faster than normal due to his extended absence from the playing field and said coaches could decide to rest him another week to allow him time to build up the strength again.

That’s OK with him, King said, but he would just like to know an answer one way or the other.

“It’s frustrating, but it’s more frustrating because I don’t know what they’re going to do with me,” he said. “But it’s all right. I’ll play if I have to play, but if I don’t, I’ll sit down and wait ‘til next week.”

Richt said it will likely be after today’s practice that coaches will make a final decision on King’s availability.


Freshman kick returner Branden Smith took some heat from fans for twice deciding to return kicks from deep in his own end zone, but Tony Ball said it wasn’t Smith’s decision.

“It’s on (Shaun) Chapas,” Ball said. “The returner can sometimes get disoriented trying to field that type of kick, especially a young player like Branden. And I told (Chapas) if you have to, you go in the end zone and grab him and don’t let him come out. Those are the trials and tribulations, but they’re not issues that can’t be fixed.”

Chapas, who works as the upback, was told to make the decision on whether to return the kick or take a knee in the end zone for a touchback, but the angle of the kick made the choice difficult.

“My initial thought was Chapas should have kept him in the end zone,” Ball said. “After asking Chapas about it, he felt like it being a line-drive kick, that threw things off. There was some dynamics there where he had to make some decisions, but Chapas has done it for a couple of years, so I trust him.


Georgia’s offensive line will have a different look to it in the Bulldogs’ second outing of the season, and it won’t be just because starting left tackle Trinton Sturdivant is out for the season following an ACL injury.

Justin Anderson will get the starting nod at right guard this week over incumbent Chris Davis, who Richt said lacks the size to create a favorable matchup against South Carolina’s hefty defensive front.

“The guys we’re playing are big men, and (Anderson) has just got more girth to him,” Richt said. “Chris, I’m sure, will end up playing, but you get two big guards in there when you play a team that’s mostly a four-man front, usually they cover your guards and you want to get some big men in there to hold up against them.”

Senior Vince Vance will step in at left tackle for Sturdivant, who tore his ACL for the second time in as many years during the second half of Georgia’s opener against Oklahoma State.

Vance filled in for about 25 snaps against the Cowboys, and offensive coordinator Mike Bobo said he turned in a strong performance.

“He did good,” Bobo said. “He played with energy and didn’t have hardly any missed assignments which is what we expect from Vince.”


Both Richt and Bobo offered some minor criticisms of the offensive line’s performance against Oklahoma State, but Richt said he didn’t think any problems were a result of ankle injuries suffered by Davis and center Ben Jones late in preseason practice.

“I can’t say they feel great, but they weren’t limping around as they prepared in practice,” Richt said. “They did miss some work, some of those opportunities to just kind of get in the groove, but I don’t think the pain from the injuries caused any change of their ability to do their job.”


With King potentially missing another week of action, Richt said he hasn’t ruled out using freshman tailback Washaun Ealey – both at running back and on special teams.

The problem, Richt said, is that due to an early elbow injury during fall camp, Ealey is still behind in terms of how much progress the coaching staff had hoped to see.

“If you have some cumulative reps and you miss some time, that’s one thing,” Richt said. “But if you’re not there to learn it from scratch, it’s hard to throw them into the middle of a game plan and say, ‘Go do it,’ when he doesn’t even have the basics down.”

Despite being a bit behind on the learning curve, however, Richt said Ealey has remained in the mix during practice and could still see action – if not against South Carolina, potentially down the road.

“We are still trying to incorporate him in those areas, and we’re still getting him reps to try to keep him greased up and keep his mind in it,” Richt said.


Senior receiver Kris Durham, who underwent season-ending shoulder surgery during the offseason, returned to receiving drills Wednesday for the first time.

Durham was kept out of any competitive situations, Richt said, but he got work in catching passes, which was an important benchmark.

“It’s encouraging and certainly he’s excited about it,” Ball said. “And it’s always good to have Kris around.”


After watching the film, Joe Cox said it was obvious he held the ball too long on too many snaps against Oklahoma State, a problem that led to a number of incompletions.

The problem, he said, was he started overthinking the situation, but when he takes the field against South Carolina, he’s promising a back-to-basics approach to making his reads.

“When you start looking around, you start getting your eyes in the wrong spot, you start worrying about too much,” Cox said. “It’s almost over-analyzing what’s going on. So that’s what I felt was happening with me, but it’s something where you just go back to your basic reads and fundamentals and work on timing.”


When Richt addressed the media on Tuesday, his analysis of Georgia’s shortcomings against Oklahoma State was a fairly harsh critique of his offense. In short, he said the intensity was lacking.

“We didn’t play with speed and finish blocks like we should,” he said. “We just need that little extra effort on each play to block a little bit longer or create a little bit more space, and that can make all the difference in the world between a guy getting tripped up and a guy going to the house. I don’t want to cause any kind of panic, because it’s not that at all, but we want to see a little more fire coming out of them.”

Upon further review, however, Richt decided his comments might have been a bit too severe.

He said he watched the game film once more Tuesday evening and came to the conclusion that the shortcomings weren’t quite as problematic as they appeared at first blush.

“It really wasn’t so much up front, it was some perimeter blocking issues, some backs needing to continue running their feet or place their hat in a better spot,” Richt said. “We ran some outside plays and were getting hats on everybody and fit up on them pretty good, but just didn’t sustain long enough.”


Logan Gray figured to see some action against Oklahoma State, but as it turned out he was in on just one offensive play – a designed run for a short gain.

After the offense struggled to just 10 points, however, a vocal contingent of fans was hoping to see a bit more of the backup quarterback in Georgia’s next game.

That could be the case, Richt said, but nothing’s guaranteed.

“He can run our system, and we had planned to get him in the game mostly in the red-zone area,” Richt said. “We did get him in there one time, but unfortunately we didn’t get in the red zone very often. Right now, Joe’s definitely the No. 1 guy, and we’ll see if and when Logan will get in there.”


Brandon Bogotay was brought in this offseason to provide competition on kickoffs for sophomore Blair Walsh, but it was the incumbent who earned the job again.

Richt said Walsh's consistency, hangtime and accuracy landed him the job, but he hasn't ruled out the possibility that Bogotay could still win the job down the road.

“It was very, very close," Richt said of the competition. "It wasn’t like Bogotay did poorly. In my opinion, they both kicked it good enough to win the job, and Bogotay’s not done by any stretch.”


The history of the Georgia-South Carolina series suggests there won’t be many points scored Saturday. So despite his offense struggling badly in its first game of the season, Richt said a low-scoring affair wouldn’t be more cause for concern.

“All I’m worried about is winning the game,” Richt said. “I appreciate the victory and not the style points.”


From Georgia receiver A.J. Green on what this week’s game means: “Losing that last one last week, I just want a victory to get this feeling out of my stomach and get a victory under my belt.”


Anonymous said...

David I wish your site was read by all true UGA fans. Your outside (non-fan) analysis of the games, players, coaches, and program are what I want to read every day. It is nice to have insight to the dogs through a media outlet that doesn't write with an exterior motive. Thanks for the time you put in to this site and keep up the good work!


Josh said...

So we're pinning our hopes on a guy who hasn't practiced in a month, still isn't healthy today, has rarely been healthy for the last 3-4 years, and when healthy has been average at best?

Will Q said...

Not me. I'm still on board with Samuel. In his quotes, he's shown awareness of what held him back in the OSU game (shoestring tackles and going down on the first hit). Of course, that doesn't automatically mean he's going to get better, but it's a good first step. (Plus, he still averaged over 4 yards a carry; that ain't spectacular, but it's good enough to move the ball if they stick with him.)

jrt said...

Does anybody have a bad taste in their mouth about Coach Ball calling out Chapas? He could have easily noted there was a problem without calling him by name.

This is the same Coach Ball who said that because the flow of the game was so fast, he didn't realize that 2 stud WRs never got in the game.

rbubp said...

"some backs needing to continue running their feet"


Anonymous said...

why cant our coaches get freshman ready to play? They continue to claim the kids "just arent ready", yet the rest of the league and college football world are playing freshman. Look at how many rushed for 100yds last week in the SEC alone.

It blows my mind. And it isnt like we are running some super complicated spread offense.

Hobnail_Boot said...

jrt - no kidding.

This is also extremely frustrating when coupled with our coaching staff's insistence that low, line-drive kicks to the end zone are a bad thing. I swear..