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Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Practice Notes: Samuel's Job In Jeopardy

Richard Samuel figured to lose some carries after Caleb King returned to the lineup for the first time this season against Arkansas, but after two fumbles during the game, Samuel could be in danger of losing his starting job.

“I don’t know if we are ready to move him from the No. 1 position, but I would say if that kind of thing continued, we’d have to really consider whether or not he should start for us,” head coach Mark Richt said. “You can’t have two a game, that’s for sure, and continue to play the kind of football you need to to win.

Samuel had the first 100-yard game of his career against Arkansas, picking up 104 yards on 16 carries, including one for an 80-yard touchdown, but he coughed the ball up in crucial situations twice.

In the first quarter, Samuel mishandled a pitch from quarterback Joe Cox that was recovered by Arkansas to set up a touchdown. In the second half, Samuel lost the football after being hit at the end of a run. He scrambled to recover the ball, scooping it into his chest before the Razorbacks could grasp control.

Ball security has been an ongoing issue for the sophomore tailback, who had problems with fumbles last season, including one on the first carry of his career. Coaches had hoped Samuel had rectified the issue during preseason practice this year, but the tailback said he still has some work to do.

“I approach it as focusing more on the ball itself – the little fundamentals of protecting the ball and looking the ball in,” Samuel said.

Complicated the backfield situation further was the strong performance by King in his first action of the season. The sophomore ran for 59 yards on 11 carries, often looking more explosive than Samuel.

“There will definitely be a plan to play both of them,” Richt said. “Caleb did very well. He ran the ball well. He pass protected well and secured the ball well. He showed no signs of the hamstring becoming an issue for him, so it was a very good performance.”

King said he was excited about regaining a key role in the offense, but he said running backs coach Bryan McClendon has not indicated how the carries might be split this week.


After his defense allowed 41 points against Arkansas – a second straight lackluster performance – defensive coordinator Willie Martinez said some changes could be in store.

Arkansas had numerous big plays, and Georgia struggled to stop the opposing passing game for the second straight week. The Bulldogs have allowed 721 passing yards in the past two games, and nearly all of the members of the defensive backfield have been beaten at least once, and Martinez said he thinks it’s time to see what some of his younger players can do.

“We’re going to get some other guys some more opportunities,” Martinez said. “We’ve got some young players we’re trying to get in there.”

Redshirt freshman Sanders Commings will see action at both safety and cornerback, Martinez said, while Baccari Rambo has earned additional playing time at safety as well.

“We’re going to play Baccari Rambo more,” Martinez said. “I should have played him more in this past ballgame just because of the amount of reps.”


For the second straight week, Georgia played without two of its top linebackers, as Darius Dewberry and Akeem Dent missed the game against Arkansas, both with sore hamstrings. Martinez said both could miss this week’s contest against Arizona State as well.

“We’d like to have them back, but they’re still questionable,” Martinez said. “We hope to get them back, because it’s important.”

Dewberry and Nick Williams missed the game against South Carolina two weeks ago, but while Williams was able to return last week, Dent was a surprise scratch.

The absence of the veteran linebacker was obvious, Rennie Curran said, as the use of several younger players caused some problems in coverage.

“There were plays that could have been made that he normally would have made if he was out there,” Curran said of Dent. “We’ve got young guys in that were a little confused at times, and that’s going to happen when a guy goes down.”

Despite Martinez’s cautious approach, Curran said he was optimistic Dent could be ready to play this weekend.

“I feel like he’ll be able to come back this week,” he said. “He’s a warrior, and he fights through everything.”


It looked much worse than it actually was when cornerback Vance Cuff was helped off the field in the second half against Arkansas last week. Cuff suffered an MCL sprain and is day to day, and the junior didn’t participate in Tuesday’s practice.

Despite his absence, Richt said he remained optimistic that Cuff could be ready for Saturday’s home date with the Sun Devils.

“At this point, I’d say it’s possible that he plays,” Richt said. “We’re more hopeful than not. If he can’t do anything at all tomorrow, we’d probably get a little discouraged, but (trainer) Ron (Courson) feels like he is going to have a chance.”


With Cuff potentially missing time, freshman Branden Smith could see increased action this week.

Smith was beaten badly for a long touchdown against Arkansas last week, but Martinez said the freshman speedster has taken a good approach to the bad play.

“It’s not something you want to see what happened to him in the game Saturday, but he is really working hard," Martinez said. "He’s talented and excited, and he gets better each day, each week. So I’m excited about him.”


Two weeks ago, Joe Cox did all he could to avoid the critics. This week, he's relishing the spotlight after tying a team record with five touchdown passes and leading the Bulldogs to their second straight come-from-behind win.

“It’s a lot different just being in Athens after you win," Cox said. "You go places, and everybody wants to pat you on the back. After a loss, you don’t even want to go out of your house. You don’t want to go out to eat and be seen in places because you know people are probably talking about you."

Of course, Cox hasn't forgotten those low points either, nor is he trying to. In fact, he said he's used the criticism as motivation.

"Anybody who's a competitor, if you have people saying you're not good, you want to play good," Cox said. "That's something I say to myself before every game is that these people don't think I'm any good. It's been driving our offense, too, since Week 1. Everybody says we have a terrible offense, we don't have Knowshon and Matthew, it's the end of the world, we're not going to be able to score any points for the rest of the season. Obviously, we want to prove people wrong."

So far, so good. The Bulldogs have posted 93 points in their past two games -- their highest total in a two-game stretch since 2004. More importantly, the team is winning, and that's a while lot more fun than the alternative.

"We know what it feels like to lose, we know what it feels like to win, and we definitely want to keep winning,” Cox said.


Richt said there are two big weights holding his team back -- turnovers and penalties.

And always the storyteller, Richt had his own analogy for the coaching staff's approach to the issues.

“I always make the analogy of the team being a train," Richt said. "You want to get that train on the track and you want to get it rolling down the track and gain momentum and energy as you go. … We are getting it rolling pretty good, but I think we’ll roll a whole lot faster if we don’t have the two anchors out the back of the caboose that are stuck in the ground dragging behind us, and that is our turnover ratio is very poor and penalties have cropped up on us. If we can just cut those anchors lose, I think we will fly even better and if we just improve in those two areas, I think everything will improve.”


Lee said...

Wouldn't it be nice if "opening up the defense with some young talent" worked out like "opening up the offense" did?

It's hard to say since watching a game on TV doesn't give you a good view of the pass defense schemes once the play starts, but if we can get a consistent set of linebackers back from injury, I'm hoping that'll cut down on open tight ends and backs.

Anonymous said...

Hey TG the headlines

Might want to rethink comments you made in reference to my opinion yesterday that Samuel is getting less carries from here on out.

Im not saying, Im just saying.

hinesacl said...

Are penalties really holding us back? I saw where you posted the penalties from the Ark game and 10 or 11 of them were on the offense.

Doesn't seem like those penalties slowed those guys down too much, if you put up 50 on an SEC team on the road.

Turnovers...both the offense having them (and where they have them) and the defense not creating them is what is 99% of what is causing the problems.

The team is almost winning in spite of themselves and with help of big plays by younger players.

Steve said...

I hope this game does present some more opportunities to see Branden Smith in coverage. I've seen multiple sources say Smith got "beaten badly," and while I acknowledge the receiver had a step on him, the ball was thrown perfectly and the catch was phenomenal.

Maybe I'm too optimistic, but I think the Dawgs will be able to build a two touchdown lead, at least, by early in the second half, and then maybe we'll get to throw some of the more inexperienced players into the fire.

Yodi said...

I wouldn't say B.Smith was "beat badly". It was a play where the WR had to fully extend and make a great catch, it was also a well placed ball by Mallet. I watched the replay a few times On Demand and it actually looked like Smith wasn't quite ready when the ball was snapped.

jferg said...

If competition makes people better--bring it on. Hopefully a few guys step up and we start putting things together.

Did anyone else notice that RS didn't seem to be running quite as "angrily" at Ark as he was against UsC? He looked more like the "old" RS, IMO. Or was it just my perception?

IveyLeaguer said...

Nice job covering the issues, David.

I have a theory about our defense which incorporates a number of these, for example playing the young safeties. At long last. that is sweet music to my ears - let's hold Martinez to that. Here's the theory ...

One of the problems of our defense the past several years has been players who simply don’t give 100% every play, guys that take a play off every now and then. Talent aside, you can’t have a top notch defense when that is going on. Sooner or later, a good offense will burn you, and Petrino and Mallett, in particular, did a good job of that last Saturday.

I know this hasn’t been mentioned much anywhere, if at all, but the fact is we can’t just continue to ignore this. There is no way around it. There may be other stuff going on, but if we don’t tackle this problem, it’s going to be a long year. Furthermore, it is fixable. Address it, and there is no reason we can’t beat anybody we play the rest of the year.

So the problem is, we have players who feel they can take a play off now and then - both mentally, physically, or both. And they’ve felt that way for quite some time, some of them perhaps their entire Georgia career. They’ve been led to believe they can get away with it. I suspect we’re talking about a handful of players at most, not the whole team. We all know it only takes one to mess everything up, that it’s a team game and you play defense as a whole unit composed basically of 5 smaller units. That raises the question …. why did this happen and how do we correct it? Did we recruit the wrong players? Or is it the coach’s fault for not getting the most out of his players, and for allowing this thing to happen in the first place???

I suspect it’s a little of the first and a lot of the second. One thing we know about this years’ team … we have some heart and intensity, and have now developed enough mental toughness that we suddenly have a shot at anything, really, in spite of our problems (this is largely due, I suspect, to the drive and character of 2 players - Curran and Cox).

It would be shameful to throw this shot away simply because we can’t get players to play 60 minutes of ball without taking a play off. Because we can’t go 100% every play till the whistle blows. In the old days, there were players who went 100% for 60 literal minutes. Nobody has asked these kids to do anything even close to that.

We’ve got to demand more out of our defense, and out of our secondary, especially. We’ve got to have 11 guys going all out every play, whatever that takes.

After watching the Arkansas film, I’m convinced that we can return to a traditional Georgia defense - IF the coaches will get a handle on this. The DE’s are coming along, and even though it seems they’re crawling, they’re pretty close and getting better.

If we can get this one thing done, it will open up all kinds of possibilities as a team.