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Sunday, December 27, 2009

Practice Notes: Battle Gets Taste of the Future

There’s no doubt, Rod Battle said, he’d much rather be playing in Monday’s Independence Bowl against Texas A&M. But the senior defensive tackle has still managed to be a crucial part of the action in the lead up to the game, despite an ACL injury that cost him most of his final season with the Bulldogs.

Battle has worked as the de facto defensive ends coach after Jon Fabris was dismissed from the position earlier this month. While Rodney Garner has been in charge of the full defensive line, Battle has stepped up to oversee practice drills and work with the players as they prepare for the Aggies.

“I feel more like a coach now,” Battle said. “But it’s nothing different than what we did in the summer time, so it hasn’t been a shock or anything like that.”

Battle said he had considered going into coaching in the future, but despite his experience this month with the Bulldogs, he’s not ready to completely give up his dreams on the football field just yet. In fact, coaching isn’t even a fall-back plan just yet.

“If I have a shot to play professionally, that would be my No. 1 goal,” said Battle, who is still rehabbing the knee injury and isn’t sure if he’ll participate in Georgia’s pro day workouts in the spring. “I would like to work with sports, but I don’t know if I want to coach right away, but I might want to try the business side of things first.”

Battle graduated in December with a degree in sports management, and he said working in sports administration would be his first choice for future careers away from the field. But the experience of coaching his former teammates this month has provided him with some better context for the work a coach does – and the frustrations that come with the job.

“I can see why coaches get so frustrated now,” Battle said. “When you see somebody mess up, you get upset. But when you go over something and they get it right, it’s a good feeling.”


Texas A&M defensive coordinator Joe Kines’ last visit to the Independence Bowl was in 2006, when he served as Alabama’s interim head coach after Mike Shula was fired. The experience gave him a little sympathy for what his counterpart on the opposite sideline must be going through this season.

Kines and Garner worked together for a year on Jim Donnan’s staff at Georgia, but even without a personal relationship, Kines would feel for Garner, who has worked as the Bulldogs’ de facto defensive coordinator this month after Willie Martinez was fired.

But the biggest lesson Kines learned from his experience – a 34-31 loss to Oklahoma State – was that no one takes it easy on a coach just because he’s in a bad situation this time of year, and he doesn’t expect Garner to anticipate anything different.

“In this business, sometimes things happen this time of year,” Kines said. “Bowl games sometimes, those things happen and you just play yourself out of it.”


With Garner and two graduate assistants handling the defense against A&M, things will be a bit different than normal on game day.

Garner and fill-in linebackers coach Mitch Doolittle will be on the field for the game and will be in charge of calling plays for the defense. Todd Hartley, who has handled the defensive backs since Martinez’s dismissal, will be in the press box for the game, Richt said.

Despite all the shake-ups this month, Richt said the defense has been sharp in practice, which he said is a tribute to the energy and focus of the players.

“If the players didn’t want to take on the challenge and buy into what we were trying to do I think it would have been very difficult,” Richt said. “Guys like Jeff (Owens) and a lot of our leaders really took the responsibility to make this thing work. Coach (Rodney) Garner, coach (Mitch) Doolittle and Todd Hartley took a lot of hours and spent a lot of time to put the plan together, but the plan is designed for the players. This game is not as much about the coaches as it is about the players. I think they’ve done a nice job of putting the players in the position to make the plays.”


In his eight previous trips to a bowl game, Richt has enjoyed his fair share of success. He has won six bowl games in his career, including the past three.

So what’s the secret to his postseason success?

“We really spend all of our time practicing for our opponent. We want to focus on getting prepared for who we’re going to play, and I think that’s a big part of it,” Richt said. “But I think our players want to see the seniors leave on a high note.”

While some teams use the bowl as an early start to the following season and others may lack an emotional edge after a long season, Richt said he has always put a lot of focus on finishing with a win. That won’t be any different against Texas A&M, which Richt said provides a big challenge to his team.

“We’ve prepared for and we want to win this game for our seniors,” Richt said. “We want to win this game for the 2009 season. It’s the finish of this year. A lot of people talk about it catapulting you into the future. We don’t really spend time talking about that. We talk about this year. We talk about finishing strong for this season and this group of seniors. That’s what our main focus is. I think our guys will be very excited about playing because they have a lot of respect for Texas A&M.”


More than just getting one last win for the seniors, safety Bryan Evans said he wants Georgia to topple A&M to ensure the 2009 season isn’t remembered for being a remarkably disappointing one after a 7-5 regular season.

“We want to go out with an eight-win season,” Evans said. “Eight wins sounds way better than seven wins. I’ve never been on a losing team here, and not that a seven-win season is a losing season, but eight wins sounds way better.”


Senior Vince Vance is expected to get the start at right tackle for Georgia against A&M on Monday. Junior Josh Davis, who started the final six regular-season games, suffered an ankle injury during practice earlier this month, and despite Richt’s optimism that he could play, the odds are that Davis won’t see the field.

“Josh is available to play, but he’s not as far along as we hoped he was,” Richt said.
The only other significant injury this week belonged to defensive end Demarcus Dobbs, who was limited with an ankle injury, but Richt expects the junior to be ready to go against the Aggies.

“I think Dobbs will show up to play,” Richt said. “He’s always got a little something, but he’s the kind of kid who’ll play.”


rbubp said...

So Dave...

Given recent news yesterday and today, do you need more evidence for why we hate Florida so much?

papadawg said...


TODAY's Independence Bowl???

You almost gave me a heart attack!
I thought I might be missing it...

David Hale said...

Sorry papadawg! I write these notes for TOMORROW'S paper, so I have to tweak some of the wording, and I forgot to switch it up for the blog.

(Again... newspapers!)

papadawg said...

No problem, DH.

Keep up the excellent work!

Hey, are you doing a Live Blog during the game today?
It is today, right?