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Thursday, November 12, 2009

Notes: Curran Mulls NFL Future

With the season winding down and the hype surrounding next year’s top NFL draft picks heating up, Rennie Curran knew he would have some tough decisions to make.

The junior linebacker is second in the SEC in tackles and is on pace for his second straight 100-tackle season at Georgia, and many draft services see him as a potential early draft choice. So from family and friends to fans who see him on campus, he’s already being hounded about his future.

“That’s one thing people always want to know,” Curran said. “They see you in that position and you’re ranked high and having a good season, and they want to know.”

Curran said Matthew Stafford and Knowshon Moreno, teammates last season who were both selected in the first round of the 2009 NFL draft, set a nice template for how to handle things, and that’s a path Curran plans to follow.

“Knowshon and Stafford, I watched them go through the same thing, and they did a good job handling it,” Curran said. “Right now, I’m just focused on the season, honestly. It crosses my mind just like it would anybody else who was in the situation I’m in, but it’s a good situation to be in and have to think about. But for the most part, I’m just focused on what got me here, which is working hard and finishing strong, because that’s all I really feel like matters.”


He’s the reigning SEC defensive lineman of the week, but that doesn’t mean Montez Robinson will be seeing a ton of action this week, head coach Mark Richt said.

The freshman defensive end earned his first serious playing time of the season against Tennessee Tech, racking up five tackles and two sacks while filling in for injured starter Justin Houston. But Houston’s injured elbow appears healthy this week, and that means Robinson will be back to his role of backup.

While his big week didn’t bump him up the depth chart, however, it wasn’t without it’s benefits.

“It’d be difficult to get him the same amount of reps he got last week with Justin being back, but he’s progressing and gaining confidence in himself, and we’re gaining more confidence in him,” Richt said.

Beyond the confidence boost for Robinson, it was a nice reminder for Georgia’s coaches that a once glaring hole on defense now appears to be turning into a strength.

Georgia was so thin at defensive end in the spring that two walk-on tight ends were forced to switch positions so the team could scrimmage, and when starter Rod Battle went down with a season-ending injury early in the year, things look bleak.

But Robinson’s emergence, coupled with Houston’s strong play and improved seasons from Demarcus Dobbs and Cornelius Washington, depth is far less of an issue that Richt might have imagined.

“Considering what happened a year ago and Roderick going out relatively early, you might have thought, well, here we go again,” Richt said. “But it really hasn’t been that way.”


This week’s matchup against Auburn has earned some buzz due in part to the tremendous talent both teams sport at kicker. The Tigers’ Wes Bynum and Georgia’s Blair Walsh are both among the country’s most accurate field-goal kickers, and while Walsh struggled in kickoffs last season, he has turned that around and is now the SEC’s leader in touchbacks.

All that success has been good for Georgia, but it has left Brandon Bogotay, the junior college transfer from San Diego brought in to challenge Walsh for the job, without much playing time this season.

“Every game I want to get in, so I’m just waiting for my shot,” Bogotay said.

Despite the lack of playing time – which has involved just one kickoff this season – Bogotay isn’t complaining. In fact, he’s thrilled to see the kicking game doing so well.

“Everyone wants to get their PT, but we push each other, we get better from each other, and it’s really all about the team,” Bogotay said. “As long as one of us is performing, I’m going to be happy.”


There weren’t many members of Georgia’s 2009 signing class that haven’t seen the field this season, and several of those being redshirted are due to injuries. But of the six healthy players still waiting their turn to see the field on game day, Richt said many have adopted a healthy attitude toward work on the scout team.

“The great majority of their life right now is being on the scout team, but they can get better by doing it,” Richt said.

Richt pointed to past scout-team stars like Odell Thurman and Thomas Davis as examples of how this year’s redshirts are handling the job.

“Every day they said, ‘We’re going to give these guys as much grief as possible,’ and they got better,” Richt said. “I think we’ve got a little bit of that going on right now.”

Quarterbacks Aaron Murray and Zach Mettenberger both earned praise from offensive coordinator Mike Bobo, who said that both have gotten far more work with the first- and second-team offenses in practice this season than past freshmen quarterbacks, due in part to starter Joe Cox’s injury that keeps him from throwing on Wednesdays.

Linebacker Chase Vasser suffered a minor injury after a scooter accident on campus earlier this season, but Richt said he’s healthy again and performing well.

“Chase has done a good job on the scout team for us, and he’s back on track doing fine,” Richt said.

Georgia’s two freshmen offensive linemen – Chris Burnette and Dallas Lee -- have helped the scout team look far more impressive than years past, too.

“We’ve actually had one of our better offensive scout teams in a while. We’ve had some really good offensive linemen over there that have been able to give us a better picture.”

But the star of the redshirts, Richt said, might be defensive tackle Kwame Geathers, who has come particularly far from his first days on campus, when he arrived three days after the start of fall camp, slow and overweight.

“I don’t know the number that he dropped, but it was probably in the 30-pound range if not more,” Richt said. “That guy really did a phenomenal job of really getting his body down to where he could run and have some stamina.”


Throughout a tumultuous season that has seen Georgia drop four of its first nine games, Richt hasn’t had much of a roadmap for navigating the troubled waters in Athens. But his best comparison has been to look back at the Bulldogs’ 2006 season, when after a 6-4 start, Georgia won its final three games – all against ranked foes.

That run began with a shocking upset of Auburn on the road, a game in which Richt admitted afterward that he didn’t think his team could win. Now, as the Bulldogs try to rally to another strong finish, he’s doing his best to instill confidence in his players by reminding them of how much that 2006 team overcame.

“There’s definitely some parallels and some similarities,” Richt said. “We don’t know how it’s all going to finish, but as you’re looking for something to build on or put in front of your team to tell them that you can do it, you want to grab those positive comparisons.”


The biggest group of recruits to visit Georgia on a game day since Richt has been in Athens came when the Bulldogs hosted Auburn in 2005, he said. Most years, the Georgia-Auburn game draws a hefty crowd.

This year’s game may not draw quite as many recruits as the ’05 game did, Richt said, but it will be close, and the players who will be in Athens rate pretty high on Georgia’s wish list.

“It’s big, it’s what you would expect for Georgia-Auburn,” Richt said. “I know that as we covered the names that are coming in, not only is it a long list, but it’s a list of outstanding players for 2010, 2011 and even a couple of 2012s in there.”

Of course, the problem then becomes handling such a big group of players, but Richt isn’t complaining.

“It’s going to be a difficult day to manage because you want to spend time with these people and let them know how much you care about them,” Richt said. “When there’s such a massive number, it’s very difficult to get everybody the amount of love they probably feel like they deserve. But that’s a good problem to have.”


When he got to Georgia, tight end Arthur Lynch was already well aware of his role on the offense. Aron White and Orson Charles were both lean, athletic tight ends with immense receiving skills. Lynch was the brawn.

But with Georgia’s big lead in the fourth quarter last week, Lynch got his first chance to show that he’s capable of more than just pushing people around, picking up two receptions back to back – the first two catches of his career.

“That was a cool experience,” Lynch said. “We were up big and the other team was playing hard, but they called the same route twice and I caught it. It was cool to get in there and see what it was like. I’ve been playing at spots blocking, but in terms of route running and out catching passes, I hadn’t had the opportunity to do that until that game, so it was definitely cool to get a part of the offense.”


Tailgaters may want to be aware of some reduced parking around campus for Saturday’s game against Auburn. Due to the wet weather brought by Tropical Storm Ida, several grass-covered areas typically used for parking, including the lots near the intramural fields off East Campus Drive, will not be available. The school also urged fans to carpool, to avoid using pull-behind trailers and reconsider placing heavy objects on the wet grounds in other grass-covered parking areas.


Anonymous said...

Awesome that we have returned to the Ray Goff/Jim Donnan days of being an NFL farm club.

CMR's best job, upon getting here, was getting rid of the last guys who were more concerned with the NFL than winning championships-Charles Grant and Qu*ncy.

Now we are right back to square one. If you are going to be a top 10 pick, it is stupid to come back. Rennie is a fringe 1st day guy.

Why don't you just go ahead and start asking AJ Green if he is leaving after next year?

David Hale said...

I think you might be making too big a deal out of it, Anon.

For one, people are talking about it and want to know if Rennie's considering it, so it's my job to ask.

Second, I'm not sure there is anyone on the team who has stayed more focused on getting the job done than Rennie, so while he may be considering it, he certainly hasn't allowed it to affect his play or his attitude.

And third, what do you think drives recruiting? They may tell you a whole list of things, but when it comes to the top recruits, what they want to know is whether you can get them prepared for the NFL. College is all about preparing you for your career, and the best prep players want jobs in the NFL. Richt and his staff have been doing a good job of getting them there.

Bourbon Dawgwalker said...

Get a grip, folks. Not everyone grew up in suburbia and has a good family where everyone has a steady job. I'm pretty sure Rennie is his family's hope to make it big in the NFL and pay for his relatives to leave war torn Liberia and move to the US. Sorry if that means you don't get to watch him on Saturday, but he has bigger issues to deal with. Same thing with many of the athletes on our team. NFL contracts mean they can take care of family.

Also, Rennie has nothing to gain by coming back. He has proven everything he can prove on the playing field. His only problem won't be solved by coming back for another year, he'll still be 5'9. Enjoy his incredible play while it lasts.

Last, AJ is gone after next year. No way around that.

Dawg '85 said...

DH... you are right on... Anon, we sure don't want to run off NFL prospects. The key is to find 'em, sign 'em, cultivate, and replace. I guarantee they learned from the Knowshon red-shirt mistake, and they are stacking WR thinking A.J. will go early.

There is no better recruiting message than showing you put guys in the NFL... that's why we never will have trouble getting TE... even unspectacular Martrez got a shot.

The key now is anticipating who will go early and recruiting to fill those holes.

Whether to burn the redshirt has never been trickier. Maybe that plays into Marlon Brown's status? Just as few 1st yr NFL WR make an impact... maybe that is playing out for SEC freshman WR playing against "almost" NFL speed and schemes?

As for Rennie, I have nothing but respect and good wishes. It seems that these days, great teams need a little luck from "tweeners" like Rennie, Tebow, etc. and Hansbrough/UNC in hoops... to stick it out for 4 years. Stay another yr. Rennie!

Anonymous said...

When will the athletic department ban scooters? It seems there is an incident every year with license issues, and now there have been two injuries with one being serious. There is too much money invested in these athletes for them to risk injury riding around on a scooter.

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