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Thursday, October 15, 2009

Practice Notes: Problems on the Line Prove Perplexing

Georgia has tried it all when it comes to getting its ground game going, and no tailback has been the answer so far. The similar results from different runners might be a sign, however, that the problems start up front.

Coming into the season, Georgia expected to have one of the deepest and most talented offensive lines in the country, but so far, offensive coordinator Mike Bobo said the unit has simply not worked hard enough to get the job done.

“We’ve just got to be more physical at the point of attack,” he said.

Head coach Mark Richt said the tailbacks haven’t done a good enough job of picking up yards after contact, but the problem still remains that the contact is coming far too soon.

Bobo said he wants to see the line blow defenders off the ball, opening up some bigger lanes for the tailbacks to run through, but so far that simply hasn’t happened.

Injuries have played a part. While Georgia figured to be a deep unit, with eight returning players with starting experience, that depth has evaporated quickly.

Left tackle Trinton Sturdivant was lost for the season with a knee injury in Week 1, and tackle Josh Davis has been slow to return from two offseason shoulder surgeries.

Meanwhile, Chris Davis has been playing at left guard despite a lingering hip injury, and fellow guard Vince Vance is less than 12 months removed from ACL surgery.

“We’ve just got some depth issues there,” Bobo said. “We have some young guys we think are good players, but they’re just not ready yet. Josh Davis is getting back in the mix coming off shoulder surgery last season. He’s been practicing, but he hasn’t been 100 percent. We’re trying to work him in there to possibly be an answer to us playing a little better.”

While Georgia’s biggest issues running the ball have been between the tackles, Bobo said the injuries to Vance and Davis, along with a preseason ankle injury suffered by center Ben Jones, have not hindered the unit’s performance.

That said, a lack of intensity at tight end and fullback haven’t exactly helped either.

“It’s not totally on the offensive line,” Bobo said. “It’s the offense as a whole, coaches included, and we’ve got to pull it together, bond together, and figure out a way to get a victory this week.”


Caleb King will return from a one-game hiatus this week after missing last week’s game against Tennessee with a concussion and a broken jaw. Richt said he was pleased with how King has practiced this week and said there was a chance the sophomore could get the start.

If King does open the game in Georgia’s backfield, it would mark the first time this season that someone other than Richard Samuel got the starting nod, but it won’t signal any change to the backfield-by-committee approach Georgia has employed during the past four games.

“Caleb will play for sure, but I’m not sure if he’ll start the game. Richard will play and Washaun (Ealey) will play, and Carlton (Thomas) might play a little, too. We’ll be looking for the hot hand, a hot set of wheels.”

That’s the approach the Bulldogs have used virtually every week since King returned from a two-week absence caused by a hamstring injury earlier this season. In five of the six games, a different runner has accounted for the team’s longest run of the day and four different tailbacks have at least 13 carries this year.

The constant lineup shuffling hasn’t proved effective, as Georgia has failed to crack 100 yards on the ground as a team in three games, but Richt said no back has managed to offer enough encouragement for the coaches to settle on one player.

“I think we’ve probably gone into a couple games thinking, if this guy gets it going, we’re going to keep letting him go,” Richt said. “But we just haven’t felt like we’re certain enough going into any game to say we’re going to stick with this guy for 20 carries no matter what. We just haven’t gotten there.”

Samuel leads the team with 71 carries for 317 yards, but has just nine runs for 36 yards in the past two games.


He was supposed to be the grizzled veteran coming off the bench this season, but Kade Weston has earned the starting nod in each of Georgia’s past three games, and Richt said that’s all about his performance and not a knock on senior Geno Atkins, who has been relegated to backup duty.

“They’re all playing well,” Richt said, “but Kade’s earned the right to start. You can only start two at a time, but Kade, Jeffrey (Owens) and Geno have all been team captains, so they’ve all played well enough.”

For the season, Weston has four tackles for a loss, 1.5 sacks and 13 quarterback hurries – the second best total on the team behind Atkins. It’s a far cry from last season when he finished the year with just three hurries and no sacks.

“Last year he had a knee issue that bothered him the whole year and it kept him from getting in prime condition,” Richt said. “He battled away for the team even though he was hurt, and this year he’s been healthy, he’s been in tremendous condition, and his play has reflected all that hard work.”


With rumors swirling about changes to the staff and a two-game losing streak in the books, Richt knows that he needs to keep an even more watchful eye on recruiting at this point in his season.

After thumping Georgia last week, Tennessee coach Lane Kiffin said he looked at the annual game against the Bulldogs as the most important of the season in terms of convincing recruits to leave the state of Georgia and join the Volunteers. Richt said he’s certain more than a few other schools are giving talking to the Bulldogs’ commitments now that the season has taken on a more ominous tone.

“That’s just common practice out there,” he said. “You just keep battling and fighting. Whether you’re winning or not, whether you’re having a great season or a so-so season, you can never take for granted what you have as far as your commitments are concerned. You’ve got to recruit to the end. A lot of times we’ll say when a guy commits to you, that’s when the recruiting has begun. It takes on a different life.”

Richt said he’s certain that coaches from competing schools have already put some negative ideas about Georgia into the minds of some of the Bulldogs’ commitments, and it’s usually not surprising to hear the concerns of the players a few days later.

“A recruit and his parents will ask you anything that is on their mind and in their heart about those kinds of things,” Richt said. “And a lot of times you can just about predict where that thought came from.”

Richt said he tries to avoid negative recruiting when talking to high school players, but he warns them that other schools won’t be so kind.

“I want them to ask me anything because I tell them, when you’re being recruited always take with a grain of salt if another school is telling you something about Georgia,” he said. “Don’t necessarily believe everything you hear. … If another school is saying this about Georgia and that about Georgia, instead of just believing it, you need to ask us, because we’re the ones who really know the deal.”


With the merry-go-round at tailback circling through yet again this week, one name has been noticeably absent from the discussion – redshirt freshman Dontavius Jackson.

Jackson missed much of last season and spring practice with injuries and never managed to get into a groove during the preseason. Instead, he’s made his mark on special teams, so far, and hasn’t been written off by coaches just yet.

“Right now I doubt he’ll get some carries from scrimmage, but he’s competing,” Richt said. “He’s playing some special teams and he’s done some scout-team work that’s been impressive. He’s not sitting there getting totally rusty. He’s still working but I don’t know if he’ll get any carries this week.”


Coming into the season, senior receiver Michael Moore figured to be the primary alternative on offense when star wideout A.J. Green was blanketed with double coverage. As it has turned out, Moore hasn't been a major factor.

The senior had six catches last week, but none for more than 14 yards, and in four of his six games this season, he has caught two passes or fewer.

"He's had a couple of drops that were catchable balls that should have been made, and those are the things we're focused on," receivers coach Tony Ball said. "He's done a couple things in dropping balls and not creating some space that has prevented him from not having numbers."

Ball said Moore has been a part of Georgia's offensive scheme, but he may not have been targeted as often as anticipated due to extenuating circumstances during the games.

Moreover, Ball said, Moore's movement around the field has forced the receiver to adjust to a changing role, and that, too, could be a factor in his limited production.

"A year ago, he was primarily an inside receiver and he was the recipient of teams trying to take away A.J. and Mohamed (Massaquoi)," Ball said. "Now he's had to take on that role of playing inside and outside, and that could have been a factor in getting a limited amount of catches."


-- Despite the weather, Georgia practiced outside at Sanford Stadium on Thursday. Wednesday’s practice was moved indoors to focus on getting extra reps on fundamentals, Richt said.

-- Georgia’s coaching staff will take their mandatory furlough days next week, with the assistant coaches taking Monday off from work and Richt taking Friday off.

1 comment:

Faulkner said...

How does one come back from a broken jaw in 2 weeks???? I need some of whatever they are feeding these guys.