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Monday, August 31, 2009

Practice Notes: Week 1 Unlikely For King

Tailback Caleb King did some minor workouts with the team during Monday's practice, but his prognosis for playing time at Oklahoma State continues to look grim.

Head coach Mark Richt said King would likely need to practice by Wednesday to have a shot at playing, and another source close to the situation said King would not make the trip.

For his part, King said the final decision would not be his.

"If I could play, I'd play right now, but it's on the team doctor, so I don't have anything to say on how I'm feeling or when I come back," King said.

King has been sidelined with a sore hamstring since Aug. 12 and has watched his spot on the depth chart slowly slide ever since.

While the sophomore tailback said he has been anxious to get back to work, Richt said the team is being cautious with King's recovery.

"We don't want to make him play if he's not ready," Richt said. "And if he can't, it's a long season. We want him back healthy, that's the main thing."

For King, missing the opening game won't be nearly as difficult as missing the past three weeks of practice.

At the start of the preseason, King, sophomore Richard Samuel and redshirt freshman Carlton Thomas were among five tailbacks battling for the starting job. Samuel has moved to the top of the depth chart in King's absence after two strong scrimmages, and Thomas is the current No. 2, Richt said.

"The hardest part has been me working so hard in the summer and preseason, and then getting hurt in the first scrimmage," King said. "But it's a long season, and I know I'm going to bounce back and be 100 percent, so I'm not going to worry about it."

If King can return, he would be the third tailback option against Oklahoma State. If not, Richt said Kalvin Daniels would be next off the bench, with fullback Fred Munzenmaier also serving as an option at tailback.

King said he has been getting in two rehab sessions per day since the injury, but won't force his return. When he does get back in action, however, he said he expects to again compete for a starting job.

"I believe that's not just at the running backs position," King said. "You're always going to compete. That's football. Whenever I come back, we're going to compete still."


Offensive linemen Ben Jones and Chris Davis both returned to practice Monday after missing time with ankle sprains last week.

Jones, Georgia's starting center, missed nearly all of last week with the injury, while Davis was in a protective boot through the weekend. Both got work against the scout team Monday, however, and Richt said he's confident that both will be ready for Oklahoma State.

"I'm glad they're getting (Monday), (Tuesday) and the next two days together," Richt said. "I don't think the time Ben and Chris missed will hurt us."

The return of the two linemen was a big relief for quarterback Joe Cox, too. After Georgia was forced to swap linemen in and out of the starting lineup throughout the 2008 season, Cox said it's crucial to have the team's veteran linemen healthy for Oklahoma State.

"Chris is the most experienced lineman we have and Ben is an awesome center who knows what to do and brings a lot of life to our offensive line," Cox said. "So it was good to have them back in the huddle and be able to do some stuff. We're excited about their progress."

Also on the injury front, linebacker Akeem Dent returned to full practice Monday after missing last week with a sore hamstring.


Cox is just days away from his first start in nearly three years, but Richt said fans can expect to see a bit of Georgia's backup quarterback, too.

Logan Gray has been mentioned as a potential change-of-pace quarterback due to his speed and athleticism, but Richt wouldn't rule out giving Gray a series or two to show what he could do with the offense as well.

"There might be some situations we'll put him in," Richt said. "We may give him a series. I don't know if we'll do that or not, but it wouldn't surprise me. But there are some situations we'll get him in the game."

For his part, Gray said he's ready for action. After two years with minimal playing time, he said he feels more confident and comfortable this preseason than ever before.

As to what his role might be, Gray isn't letting any secrets slip in advance of the game. One thing he does promise, however, is that the Bulldogs aren't leaving many stones unturned.

"We've talked about doing different things for this game," Gray said. "I don't want to tell everybody what we're planning on doing, but our coaches know what they want to do, and I think we're trying to get the ball in different people's hands and attack a defense in as many ways as we possibly can."


If King is unable to play Saturday, Richt said he's not sure who the fourth tailback on the depth chart would be, but he hasn't ruled out Dontavius Jackson from his plans.

At the end of spring practice, Jackson appeared to be right in the middle of the competition for carries, but after missing much of last season with injuries, the redshirt freshman has been sidelined with lingering injuries throughout this preseason, too.

"I don't know if he's been practicing half the time he's been here, maybe," Richt said. "He's been more like a true freshman in some areas. But he'll get his day, I'm sure."

Whether that day could come as soon as Saturday remains to be seen, but Richt said he spoke with Jackson and freshman Washaun Ealey and told them to be ready.

"We haven't totally counted those guys out of the picture by any stretch," Richt said.


Cox's lone start came against Mississippi three seasons ago, which means Saturday's contest won't officially be uncharted waters for him. Looking back, however, Cox said he can't take too much from his previous experience that will help him this time around.

"That was a totally different situation," Cox said. "That was three years ago, and there were a lot of things I still didn't know or wasn't sure about. It's a totally different confidence level amongst our team and especially for me."

Cox said the start in 2006 seems like another lifetime, and he has only thrown 28 passes since. That makes this season a bit of an unknown for him, which may be an advantage against Oklahoma State.

"I'm sure they've watched some (film) of me, but they've probably just watched a lot of our offense, too," Cox said. "I doubt that they've dug into the archives to try to find my couple of throws."


Richt took in his first game of the season Saturday when he traveled to see his son Jon play for Mars Hill.

Jon Richt transferred to the Division II school from Clemson this year and he saw his first college action Saturday, completing 5-of-14 passes for 116 yards, two touchdowns and one interception in a 28-0 win over North Greenville.

Richt's first touchdown pass was a 61-yarder in the second quarter, and his dad admits it got him a little choked up.

"When Jon threw his first touchdown pass, it was pretty emotional for me and Kathryn," Mark Richt said. "We got to enjoy the moment, and that was nice."


Georgia wrapped up its final practice in full pads Monday, and head coach Mark Richt said the day's work was particularly encouraging.

"It's our last day in full pads, last day doing any kind of tackling drills," Richt said. "I think the guys are beginning to really sense it's here. I feel a little more excitement and animation from the guys in practice, and I'm excited about that. Tomorrow in shells and two days in shorts, get a little crowd noise, and we'll be ready to go."

Cox said the team looked sharp and the energy level was high as the Bulldogs get set for their final three days of work before starting the season.

"You can tell it's getting close, and it'll only get better as the week goes on," Cox said. "Wednesday we'll go in shorts, and that's the first time we've gone in shorts, and that'll be the first time we've gone in shorts in a long time. But everybody's excited about it. We had a lot of energy today, and it's just going to keep getting better until the game."

Okie State Talks Bulldogs

Per Oklahoma State release...

Oklahoma State football coach Mike Gundy and selected Cowboy players met with members of the media Monday at (T-Bone) Pickens Stadium to discuss Saturday's season opener against No. 13 Georgia. Here are some of the highlights:

Mike Gundy

On the first week finally arriving
"We've had a couple weeks of preparation. I think our players are very excited; I know the coaches are. There's been a lot of excitement in this area in the last few weeks. I don't know if I've ever been around Stillwater when the `I need tickets' signs start going up last weekend at the local gas stations. We're all looking forward to another week of practice and the big game on Saturday."

On players wanting another shot at Georgia
"I wish I had an answer for that. That's kind of like the revenge factor. That question got brought up some last year when we played Troy. I think each individual has to handle that differently. Myself personally, I've gone way past that. We've had so many games since then. If that's something that can help motivate a player to compete and play hard, then I'm OK with that."

On limiting media access lately
"The reason we did it was because we had 16 open-media practices in a row. I felt like 16 opportunities in a 29-opportunity practice schedule was a quite a bit to start with. I noticed that the questions became very repetitive. It was the same thing over and over and over. I thought this is crazy; you guys should be home at dinner. It gave you a chance to be home by 5:30 or 6, not hanging around up here until 8 o'clock at night. I saw the players somewhat fatigued in that area. I felt like it would be better off for us to separate for eight or 10 days until we got to the week of the game."

On difference in program and team from two years ago
"I'm not sure yet. The question that you get all the time is `compare this game to what happened two years ago'. My answer has been, I think Georgia is a very good football team. I think they have a lot of talent. I think they're very strong, they're very physical. But, I think our football team overall, in all three phases from an organizational standpoint, I think we're a better team than we were. I think Georgia is as good as they were when we played them two years. I've said this a number of times, they lost a couple of first-round picks, but Georgia's got players. They always have and I'm going to guess for a long time they always will. The best example I can give is the first time we ever heard of Knowshon Moreno was when we played him. They were concerned if they had anybody that would be able to run the football."

On if Georgia game has the most hype of any season opener
“When we played at Nebraska a few years ago, there was a lot of anticipation at that game. I think just the local buzz and maybe even more so in the state, because of the preseason ranking. I don’t know what the numbers are, but it’s the highest we’ve been ranked preseason in a long time. Because of that, there’s a lot of excitement. We’ve had to work very hard to minimize that and try to get the players focused. We have to make sure they understand the most important thing is to prepare, practice and get ready to play the game.”

CB Perrish Cox

On what sticks out to him about Georgia
“The whole team. Georgia’s always been a good team. They are very talented at all positions. When we watch them, they are a nice power team. They’re just a power house.”

On how he’s preparing for Georgia wide receiver A.J. Green
“Going against Dez Bryant every day, I mean that’s all you can ask for. Green, he’s a talented receiver all around. Me and the other corners and safeties have got to go in prepared and ready. You look at him and every game they’re sending him deep and he catches some wild passes. We’ve just got to go in and defend him.”

On the game making or breaking the Cowboys’ season
“We try to keep our focus away from that and try to focus on the big picture at the end. We’re going in and playing a top-ranked team. They’ve always been a talented team week in and week out every year.”

DE Jamie Blatnick

On the key to stopping a power running game
“It would be assignments, getting in the backfield, messing up their timing, the hand-offs, the pulls. Then it would be just being more physical than their offensive line. It’s a challenge we look forward to doing.”

On how they prepare for a quarterback they’ve never seen play before
“The same way we prepare for a quarterback that we’ve seen play. Just watch what film we have on him and just don’t underestimate him. He seems like he’s a solid quarterback. He seems like he could run the ball, actually.”

QB Zac Robinson

On his confidence that the Cowboys’ offense will be able to do what it wants
“We feel good about the game plan and what we do offensively. We know that if we take care of the ball and control the tempo and just do the things that we’ve always done, we should be fine. Hopefully we can get some of those explosive plays and score enough points to win the game.”

On how he fits in as a team leader
“I know that guys look to me as a leader and anytime you’re the starting quarterback, they’re going to look to you as that. The thing about our team is we have so many great leaders. We have so many seniors that take leadership roles on offense and defense. Russell (Okung) and (Andre) Sexton and Perrish Cox, a bunch of those guys have stepped up. This is my third year as the starter. I’ve just tried to improve being a leader every year and just kind of lead by example and hopefully guys follow.”

On if he’s ready to kick off or if he needs the rest of the week
“I’m ready to kick this off right now. It’s been a long time and I know guys are excited and if we could play tomorrow I’d be all about it.”

CB Terrance Anderson

On if he expected to play in big games like this
“Actually, yes I did. Coming into the Big 12, you have to expect to come and play against some of the best talent in the country. Coming in, I was like, `Hey if I can go and make it in the Big 12 everything else is going to be alright.’”

On if OSU got more preseason hype than he expected
“I could probably say it’s a little bit more than I expected. We’re actually getting known nationally for the first time, finally. We’ve been working up to it, so now it’s just time to put the pads on and go out there and show everybody why we’re ranked so high.”

On if he’s looking forward to the challenge of facing A.J. Green
“Oh yeah. I go against, in my opinion, the No. 1 receiver in the country every day, so this is just another step to try and prove that our secondary is getting better and better.”

DL Nigel Nicholas

On the talent in the Big 12 versus the SEC
“I really don’t know. Every league has great players and great teams. Football is football.”

On if the defense’s first goal is to stop the run
“We’re not too focused on stopping the run or stopping the pass. We’re just really focused on going out there and playing hard. If you play hard everything’s going to work out. Like coach Young says, `The harder you play, the luckier you’re gonna get.’ So we’re just going to go out and play hard.”

The Cost of a Big Game

I wrote earlier today about Georgia's tough scheduling philosophy during the past few years. Since 2005, the Bulldogs have played (or will play this year) seven out-of-region opponents as part of Damon Evans' plan to market the team outside of the Southeast.

The thought process was that big games against non-regional opponents would create national attention. But until the Bulldogs head to Stillwater, Okla. on Saturday, I'm just not sure how true that has been. Let's take a closer look at how I'd rank the overall significance of the seven games through this season:

7. Arizona State, Sept. 26, 2009. I think I've heard more discussion of Tennessee Tech than of this matchup. Despite the name, I think most Georgia fans are essentially looking at this as a cake walk for the Dawgs.

(NEXT UP: LSU at home.)

6. Colorado, Sept. 23, 2006. There were really only two things to remember about this game: 1.) Joe Cox came in and led the Dawgs back from a 13-0 second-half deficit, and 2.) Colorado brought its mascot, Ralphi, the 1,300-pound Buffalo, with them to Athens. Colorado finished the season 2-10, which actually made Georgia's 8-4 campaign look pretty darned good.

(NEXT UP: Win over Ole Miss in Oxford, 14-9)

5. Central Michigan, Sept. 6, 2008. This was hardly a marquee matchup, but it did bring Dan LeFevour, who was garnering some early niche support for a Heisman, to town. This game was actually closer than most people remember in the first half -- probably a sign of things to come for Georgia -- but it featured two of the most memorable plays of the year for the Bulldogs: Demarcus Dobbs interception return for a touchdown at the end of the first half and Knowshon Moreno's leap. The latter didn't even make "SportsCenter," which in the end, probably turned into the most talked-about portion of this game. Final score, Georgia 56, Central Michigan 17.

(NEXT UP: Win over South Carolina in Columbia, 14-7)

4. Arizona State, Sept. 20, 2008. At the beginning of the season, this game looked like it was going to be a crucial step for the Bulldogs. Instead, the Sun Devils' offensive line was so bad it made Georgia's defensive ends actually seem impressive. Yes, as many as 30,000 Georgia fans traveled to Tempe for the game, but that probably helped gain respect for the Bulldogs far more than their 27-10 win over a lousy ASU team did.

(NEXT UP: Loss to Alabama in Athens, 41-30)

3. Oklahoma State, Sept. 1, 2007. In retrospect, it's hard to say what this game really meant. On one hand, the 35-14 beat down of the Cowboys put Georgia on the map following a disappointing 2006 season. On the other hand, a home loss to South Carolina came a week later, essentially ending Georgia's hopes for an SEC title. The Bulldogs spent the rest of the season trying to make up for the Gamecocks' defeat, and it's easy to wonder if things might have been different had Georgia opened against a less challenging opponent.

(NEXT UP: Loss to South Carolina in Athens, 16-12)

2. Boise State, Sept. 3, 2005. It might be hard to remember now, but there were a lot of people who thought the upstart Broncos would come to Athens and teach the Dawgs a thing or two about the impressiveness of the mid-majors. Instead, Georgia delivered a 48-13 beatdown that officially ushered in the D.J. Shockley era.

(NEXT UP: Win over South Carolina in Athens, 17-15)

1.) Oklahoma State, Sept. 5, 2009. No question about it, this is the biggest opponent to date, and it appears to be a tough test for Georgia. The Cowboys are a top-10 team from a power conference opening up a remodeled stadium before a lively crowd. But wouldn't you have said essentially the same thing about Arizona State before last year's game? I think the Cowboys will be decent this year, but they're still -- at best -- the third biggest name in the Big XII (and you could make an argument that they're actually closer to the fifth or sixth) that still has a lot of questions about the validity of their advanced billing.

(NEXT UP: South Carolina at home)

Now, you may disagree a bit with my rankings, but I think at the very least this should illustrate that the reward of a marquee matchup has hardly been worth the toll preparing for and playing a high-level team has put on the Bulldogs.

That, of course, is not to say that the plan has been a failure -- but rather that it simply hasn't been a success yet. There are some big games on the horizon, too. (*All schedules tentative, courtesy of Sic 'Em Dawgs.)

In 2010, Georgia plays at Colorado on Oct. 2.

In 2011, the Bulldogs open at home against Louisville on Sept. 3 and host New Mexico State on Nov. 5.

In 2012, Georgia goes to Louisville on Sept. 15 -- one week before traveling to Alabama.

In 2013, Georgia opens the season at Clemson on Aug. 31 with the Tigers returning the favor in 2014 in Athens.

So... what do you think? Are the tough opponents worthwhile -- particularly with an already arduous SEC slate and an annual date against Georgia Tech on the docket? Does the fact that Georgia is 5-0 with a number of blow-out wins in these games so far validate Evans' philosophy? Or does the fact that Georgia is just 3-2 the week after these games (with all three wins being decided by fewer than seven points) mean that the toll these games takes is more than they're worth?

Has Damon Doomed the Dawgs?

The grand plan seemed to make enough sense at the time. When the NCAA added a 12th game to the regular season, Damon Evans decided Georgia should add a big(ger)-name non-regional game to fill its annual slate. The idea behind the theory was that the games would garner national attention and help Georgia market itself beyond the Southeast.

Again, in theory, it was a win-win scenario. From a business standpoint, fans who had never been within 1,000 miles of Sanford Stadium would have a chance to see Georgia up close and personal, and maybe become fans of the Bulldogs along the way. From a TV standpoint, Georgia would be in line to headline the day's slate of games thanks to a matchup with national appeal. And from a football standpoint, the games would help Mark Richt and company widen the team's recruiting base.

In theory, it made sense. But with with easily the biggest of these supposed marquee matchups looming in Stillwater, Okla. in five days, has it really worked?

That probably depends on who you ask.

For one, the games haven't exactly lived up to the national billing. Last year's Arizona State trip was a lot of fun for the fans, but after the Sun Devils lost to UNLV the week before, the matchup lost much of its national appeal. As it turned out, the rest of Arizona State's season went down the toilet, too, meaning the win didn't even register as a particularly impressive one for Georgia by year's end either.

What did register was the inconvenience of making the trip.

"One of the biggest issues with it, just living through the Arizona State travel, that’s a tough trip to fly all the way over there and come back and be ready to keep grinding. The travel part is tougher than who you’re playing,” Richt said. “If all these teams we wanted to play would always come to Sanford Stadium or even Atlanta for that matter, I think it would be better for us.”

Richt has made no bones about saying he thinks the scheduling hasn't particularly worked in Georgia's favor, and while its hard to pin too much of the blame on the travel, Georgia did fall behind 31-0 in the first half of its next game after the ASU trip.

Of course, Richt's viewing the schedule from the perspective of a football coach, and Evans is obviously taking more of a business approach. On that level, he said, there's no questioning the success of the plan.

"It was an exciting time at Arizona State," Evans said. "I haven’t met a person yet who said it wasn’t a great trip, who said it wasn’t a great game. I remember Kirk Herbstreit saying, 'This is what Georgia needs to do.' I’ve always believed that and I will continue to believe that we need to continue to step out of this region. That’s why Oklahoma State, that’s why Arizona State, that’s why Colorado. Some might say, 'Damon, it’s too tough.' Maybe it is, but I’m not so sure. When you schedule those games, you don’t know how it’s going to play out. I know we’re in a tough conference but I want to get around and help grow that presence nationally, and I have confidence in us to be able to compete and beat those opponents, so that’s the route I’m going to continue to go.”

Evans may deem the tough scheduling as a win for Georgia, but the only wins that really count are the ones in the standings, and fans are getting a little tired of looking up at Florida -- a team that has made no bones about keeping a manageable schedule.

"Do we wake up and say, (UF AD) Jeremy (Foley) and I sit down, let's put together the most difficult schedule in college football? Absolutely not," Florida coach Urban Meyer said. "We have some great rivalries within the state. We're going to do that. There's not a whole lot of discussion about going out. Once again, our scheduling philosophy is we want to play at least one big time program. That's built in our schedule every year. Sometimes when you see USC play Ohio State, that's their big one. We already have FSU. Then we'll try every couple years to get another one in there. That's kind of what we've done."

That might be a valid point if Florida State had been a remotely "big" opponent at any point during Meyer's tenure, but that simply hasn't been the case. Still, it's a big-name opponent and the talent level on the field at FSU certainly takes its toll on the Gators.

Only... it doesn't really. That games ends the regular season for Florida, meaning the wear and tear of playing a top-tier opponent would only really be felt in a potential SEC title game (and yes, the Gators looked a bit "off" in the first half of last year's SEC championship) before the team got a month off to relax and recuperate before its bowl game.

That could be true for Georgia, too, but Evans isn't putting Georgia Tech in the same category as Florida State.

"In Florida, they have two teams (Florida State and Miami) who have historically competed for national championships that they play," Evans said. "We haven’t had that in-state rival that’s been at that high of a level."

Food for thought for those Tech fans who sit and wait patiently for each new AJC blog to post so they can immediately add a snarky comment.

But there's also this argument from Evans: If you win tough games, it gives you a clearer path to the national championship.

"What big games do for you is give you national exposure in the voters mind, so that’s what I hope these games will do for us," Evans said. "I don’t think it will backfire."

Oh no?

Well, it seems odd then that many of those voters are the ones penning preseason prognostications that say things like, "If Florida gets past its lone tough game at LSU, a national title seems a near certainty" and "The winner of Texas-Oklahoma will almost surely play for the national championship."

That's three teams that each play essentially one marquee opponent all year (at least "marquee" in the sense that the writers seem to be applying the term) and they're getting a free pass to a national title shot.

But let's take this scenario: If Georgia loses to Florida by 3, but Florida loses to LSU by 10, and both teams win the rest of their games -- including the Bulldogs' season opener against Oklahoma State -- both would have one loss, but the Gators would go to the SEC title game. Do you think there's any chance that Georgia would then play for a national championship over Florida? Hey, beating Oklahoma State in 2007 sure didn't help put the Bulldogs past a two-loss LSU team.

The bottom line is that the scheduling has been a business decision, and even that is only true if your business's mission statement doesn't begin with: Win football games.

I'm in no way suggesting Georgia shouldn't have a challenging schedule, but life in the SEC with an annual matchup against Georgia Tech is pretty challenging. That's the way Richt sees it, too.

And even if you want to award some bonus points for appealing to a broader audience, the fact remains that the new SEC TV deal with ESPN tends to negate that argument, too.

“The plan was never to have Oklahoma State and Arizona State and Georgia Tech," Richt said. "That was never the plan. We did it because we wanted to do it for the fans and to get out of the Southeast region, but living through it is a little bit tougher. We had enough to get Georgia out there, but now it’s every game, every SEC game at least.”

In the end, winning SEC and national championships broadens your national allure. Losing in Stillwater -- or perhaps more likely, at home to South Carolina a week later after an exhausting trip West -- doesn't make you a whole lot of new fans.

Evans has gone on record as saying he wants Georgia to emulate the success Florida has achieved. That just doesn't seem to apply when it comes to scheduling.

ADDENDUM: I'll have more on this in a little bit, but for those touting the worthiness of the schedule, here's one other note to consider...

In the five out-of-region games Georgia has played since 2005 (Okla. State, Ariz. State, Central Mich., Colorado, Boise State), the Bulldogs are 5-0 in those games, with only the Colorado game being remotely close.

But look ahead one week. In Georgia's next game after playing a non-region opponent, the Bulldogs are just 3-2, with all three wins coming by 7 points or less (and if you remember any of those three wins, you know they all could easily have been losses).

That simply underscores what both Richt and I are saying: It's not necessarily about the final score against the tough opponent, it's about the toll it takes to play them.

Monday Links (8/31)

Late start to my day, so lots to get to... on with the links...

-- Here's a sure sign things are about to get going: Georgia has the game notes posted for its opener against Oklahoma State.

-- I love this post over at Lucid Idiocy. First off, if you're guaranteed Georgia girls and Sanford Stadium, how much can you really complain about anyway? A version of that philosophy has been my mantra as a Cubs fan for years. But more to the point, Travis points out some key question marks and wonders how many Georgia fans can feel confident about. Here's my answer: Three. Click over to Travis' blog and see if you can guess which ones. Answers at the bottom.

-- While Travis offers some questions to ponder, Dawg Stephen says the best thing to do this time of year is simply believe -- particularly given the number of leaders Georgia has this season.

-- The Hobnail Boot looks at what lies ahead and comes up with a pretty enthusiastic opinion of the Dawgs, too.

-- A couple of blog recommendations for you:

First off, a big tip o' the cap to Jason Butt for tracking down an interview with Verron Haynes for us over the weekend. If you haven't already been reading Jason's Georgia blog -- The Chapel Bell -- you'll definitely want to check it out.

I got an email over the weekend from a reader, Nancy R., whose husband is a huge UGA fan, but she's a bit of a novice when it comes to football. I'm sure this is the situation in a number of households of readers here. Anyway, Nancy is such a devoted wife that she's taken it upon herself to learn all she can about the Bulldogs, and she's even started a blog about it. I highly recommend checking it out, and maybe even forwarding the link to your significant other who might still be a bit perplexed by the difference between a cut block and a chop block.

-- In case you missed it, Jeff Owens' blog is back with a Q&A with Ben Jones. There are other upgrades, too, though, including an application that will allow you to pose questions directly to Jeff that he'll answer on the blog.

-- The Red & Black's roster rundown continues: Up today, Logan Gray through Kwame Geathers.

-- David Ching has a column in the Banner-Herald that essentially sums up exactly what I've been saying every time someone asks me how good the Dawgs will be this year: I'm not sure how many games they'll win, but they'll be a lot less frustrating to watch than they were last season.

-- The Senator doesn't exactly disagree with Ching's findings, but in regards to the Matthew Stafford-Joe Cox debate, there's a bit of clarification made at Get the Picture that is definitely worth the read.

-- T Kyle King has an entertaining way to kill about five minutes for all you history buffs/literary enthusiasts/Bulldog fans.

-- Rather than link to some Oklahoma State material today, I'm just going to send you over to the always great Georgia Sports Blog, which was kind enough to consolodate a bunch of Cowboys links in one place.

-- In case you're wondering what will be in store for the Dawgs weather-wise, here's the 10-day forecast. (h/t Peter S.)

-- The Telegraph's Coley Harvey is doing a game-by-game preview of Georgia Tech's season, and he takes a look at Georgia in yesterday's edition.

-- The Swine Flu has hit Alabama -- (funny, you'd assume it would be Arkansas first) -- and several players have been quarantined.

This continues to be an extremely overlooked story throughout college football. I noted a couple of weeks ago that Georgia quarantined several players over the summer, not necessarily due to swine flu, but illness in general.

I spoke with Charles Bloom at the SEC offices, too, and he said the conference has not adopted any particular policy regarding H1N1 outbreak, but that the schools have shared "best practices" with each other.

That's all well and good, but what happens when/if a team has 20 players sick the day of a game? The SEC -- and the NCAA, too -- would be smart to have a game plan in mind for a situation like this before it happens.

-- ESPN's Chris Low writes that Steve Spurrier is "re-energized" and excited about the season. I'll be interested to see how high that energy is when the Gamecocks are in the midst of a four-game losing streak. Low also has an insightful Q&A with the OBC.

-- The Birmingham News got input from columnists in each SEC city for its preseason preview. The bottom line: Things look better for Florida than anyone else.

-- If you're a "Lord of the Rings" fan or simply want to listen to a guy whose five-foot-nothin', hundred-and-nothin' without a speck of athletic ability speak to a crowd, Sean Astin will be at UGA tonight.

-- This is sad news, I think: After nearly three decades on the air, the end has come for "Reading Rainbow." Luckily, the educational system in this country is plenty strong enough to survive the loss... now, about those teacher furloughs...

-- If you're like me and trying to find an early replacement for the void in your life "Lost" will leave after it ends its run next year, this sounds like it could be a suitable alternative.

-- I had just assumed this had already happened, like, 12 years ago.

-- And finally, I was visiting some friends over the weekend and was introduced to this video from the mid-80s by B-52s frontman Fred Schneider. As the B-52s got their start here in Athens, I feel it is tangentially related to the subject matter of the blog, therefore it is an acceptable link. But more importantly, I think this might be the single more ridiculous, awful, utterly insane piece of '80s crap I've ever seen. In other words, it's completely awesome. Enjoy.

(And regarding Georgia's question marks: I think Joe Cox, Brandon Boykin and the offensive line will be just fine. Cox knows what he's doing and has a good enough arm to get the job done. He's David Greene with less playing experience. Boykin is going to be the break-out star of this year's defense. Mark my words. And the offensive line -- well, with all the hype surrounding them, I can't fathom any of them want to explain to Stacy Searels why they didn' turn out to be as good as everyone thought this season.

Now... the other questions:

I'm not too concerned about the starting safeties. I think Reshad Jones has learned his lessons and has too much riding on his success this season (i.e. an NFL contract) to slack off. Hey, it might not be the "right" motivation, but at least it's motivation. Bryan Evans should be fine, too, but I'd be a little concerned about the depth behind them.

Watching the defensive ends this fall, I actually feel a lot more comfortable with Rod Battle and Demarcus Dobbs than I did a month ago, but until Justin Houston gets back, there's just zero depth behind them. That will be a problem in Stillwater when there's a heat index in the triple digits and no reliable backups to rush the passer.

I think Richard Samuel and Carlton Thomas (and yes, Caleb King) have a chance to be a very successful backfield, but I still want to see how they hold up against SEC defenses before we proclaim that problem solved.

And of course, the defensive coaching? I'm curious to see how many lessons were learned from last year. If I have one major criticism of Georgia's staff overall, it's their relentless desite to "stick with what works" even when it doesn't particularly work.

So what do you guys think... what worries you the most right now?)

Just How Good Are Charles & Lynch?

After watching the tight end position essentially disappear from Georgia's offense a year ago, hopes are high for the position this year. But how good are Georgia's two freshmen tight ends, really? Well, that's probably hard to say until we actually see them play. Until then, the next best opinion is probably the one that comes from the guys covering Orson Charles and Arthur Lynch in practice.

So, with that in mind, I got some input from linebacker Nick Williams, who has seen a good bit of both tight ends while playing Sam linebacker this preseason.

Here's what Williams had to say...

On Lynch: "Arthur is really aggressive, and that's going to help our running game. He's a great blocker. He can catch, he's got great hands, but he's a great blocker. He's a smart player. That's the one thing I've learned. I always hear Coach Lilly saying, 'Good job, Arthur.' I'm thinking, man, this guy's a freshman? He's got all the intangibles."

On Charles: "He's got good speed, good size, and he can run. He's coming on at blocking, too. His footwork is good, good balance. He's going to be a great player. Whenever you're lining up over Orson, you know he's got at any time he could break a big play, so you better be going hard. And he can do so many things that when I'm lined up over him I'm thinking, is he blocking, going out for a pass, because he's a good blocker, he can run routes, he can catch a pass. So you've got to be 3-D-like. He's going to be a good one."

Bottom line, Williams said: He's as excited as anyone to see Lynch and Charles in action.

"I want to see them," Williams said. "I go against them every day and I want to see what they do in the game."

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Catching Up With... Verron Haynes

Some of you may remember Jason Butt as the talented sports writer from the Red & Black. Others may remember him from his delightful performance in "Angels in the Outfield." Regardless, Jason is now covering the Atlanta Falcons for CBS Sports and was kind enough to track down former Bulldog Verron Haynes for the latest in our "Catching up with..." series.

Jason Butt: After spending your entire NFL career in Pittsburgh you had to take a year off because of a knee injury. What is it like coming back to the NFL with a chance to make the Falcons, a team very close to where you played college ball?

Verron Haynes:
It’s definitely refreshing. I had a chance to get some rehab on my knee and it’s back to 100 percent and I feel good. Coming back to a place where I’m known and where I went to school is a great feeling because the fans here, a lot of them are Bulldog fans as well as Falcon fans, so that plays into the favor. And the system, I can definitely attest to the hard-work system they have around here. That’s what Pittsburgh implemented when (offensive coordinator Mike) Mularkey was up there, when they drafted me. Coming here, I’m definitely in the same system. It’s definitely headed in the right direction and it helps when you are able to come play football and not think. I think that’s one of the most difficult things for a rookie. They say the speed of the game is faster, but it’s really because you are thinking so much. I have a leg up with this offense and that’s key.

JB: Now, I know you're well aware that in the NFL nothing is guaranteed. Has that crossed your mind this preseason?

The one thing about it is the older you get the wiser you get. And you don’t count numbers and all that stuff. You just try to make the best out of every situation you get, and every opportunity in performing. And that’s what I’m doing now, I’m living in the now – not looking farther than today, not looking farther than the play that’s called. I’m living right here in the now and working as hard as I can every day and on every play.

JB: On this Falcons team there's you, Thomas Brown, D.J. Shockley and Tony Gilbert—all former Georgia guys. Is it easier to approach those guys in the locker room and do you get to share your experiences with each other?

The Bulldog Nation is definitely running thick on the team. And we definitely have some experiences and some times where we get on other universities that are close to here and they try to rag us. But we’re pretty deep in the locker room.

JB: You're famous in Athens for "P44 Haynes," the play to beat Tennessee in 2001. What is your reaction when that's ever brought up in front of you?

It’s definitely an honor. Once you look back, and that was our first time when coach Richt came and we got to implement his Finish the Drill statement that he was preaching form the time he walked on campus. It actually opened up the season for us and gave us a sense of self accomplishment and understanding of if you do the little things it will take you far.

JB: How often do you keep in touch with Mark Richt, if you're able to do so?

I talked to coach Richt pretty frequently. He had me come down for the Tennessee game last year. I spoke with the team, so that was definitely cool. And I still talk to a bunch of guys that are still on the coaching staff there. That’s always going to be home for me. That’s still my family.

JB: Let's switch gears and talk about this year's Georgia team. How do you think they will fare this season?

I expect great things. For one thing, the pressure is off as we all know. The one thing that I know is that coach Richt is going to have those guys working hard — and that’s going to pay dividends. I think collectively they are going to take more of a cohesive approach as a team unit, come together and gel which will make them excel.

JB: With Joe Cox waiting as long as he has to start, do you have any advice for him?

He’s had a long time to grow as a quarterback. And he needs to take the experience, and enjoy it, embrace it. Another thing is as you get older and you get thrown into the fire, you see it and you learn from your mistakes. The veterans don’t make the same mistakes twice. So when he’s in there and takes his lumps and bruises along the way, it’s going to make him a more efficient quarterback.

JB: You made reference to the pressure being off Georgia this season. However, the Falcons have a lot of expectations this year. Do you think it's easier or any different to manage those expectations at the professional level than the college level?

I think the main thing is what you put in is what you’re going to put out. And we’re putting in some good work. But, now that’s not guaranteed that we’re going to have success. But we’re working each and every day hard, and I think it’s going to pay dividends.


Big thanks to Jason and Verron for their time.

Deleted Scenes: Georgia's Leadership

I feel like I've probably written a bit too much about the Bulldogs' improved attitude this offseason, but hey, whan you've got to find 8 months worth of stories without a game being played, you've got to come up with material from somewhere, right?

Anyway, I think the newsworthy stuff from my story in today's Telegraph are the quotes, particularly Mark Richt's mention that this team might have the best leadership of any he has coached. Still, there were plenty of quotes that didn't make it into the story, so I figured I should post them here...

Rennie Curran on the team's attitude...
“It’s been night and day with the morale of the team, the attitude of the guys. Whether it’s running 10 hundreds or whatever, everybody’s just focusing on doing whatever it takes. It’s great to have all the guys buy in and know that when they come to Butts-Mehre, it’s time to work, that they separate the work from the play.”

Curran on what has changed...
“I feel like we have just a lot of hungry guys who are ready to get out there and make things happen. You look at the guys who left and the guys who are replacing them – Brandon Boykin for Asher Allen, Darryl Gamble coming in there for Dannell, Bryan Evans – these are guys who have been waiting to get the opportunity and are just hungry and excited about wearing the ‘G’ and are dedicated. I’m excited. Whenever we step out on the field as a defense, it’s a good feeling knowing I’ve got guys who are as dedicated as I am and want us to win as much as possible.”

Curran on what the coaches did to create more leadership...
“Coaches have always been trying to get us to understand it’s not about how many times they tell us certain things, it’s when we as players take charge and take that leadership to get better. Right now, I think we’re in a position where we realize all those things they’ve been saying, all the things it’s going to take to make us successful.”

Michael Moore on the personality of last year's team...
“We were a team full of stars and I guess they’re trying to say we didn’t handle it the right way. I don’t want to say that, but maybe we should have taken a different approach.”

John Lilly on how Richt tried to shape the personality of this year's team...

“Coach Richt really set the tone early in the offseason, and he would continually remind everyone that the star of this team is going to be the team. You think about a lot of great teams that there have been throughout the last several years and in many cases the teams that won national championships, it was hard to really pinpoint a guy that really stood out or was a do-it-all guy. That’s probably where it started, and he’s tried to make a point of emphasizing that. But then the players have to buy into that with a very unselfish and team-oriented attitude. We’ve got a lot of guys who have won a lot since they’ve been around here. The guys that just got here want to win. I think they know what it’s going to take to get that done.”

Mark Richt on how the team developed new leadership...
“A group of men just decided they wanted to make a difference in leadership, especially our seniors, and there’s just been a very strong buy-in.”

Richt on what the leadership has been like this year vs. others...
“I think we have a lot of strong leaders this year, and Rennie is certainly one of them. I really like what Evans has done. Prince Miller, Reshad, Gamble, Jeffrey, Geno, Rod Battle and of course Rennie. A lot of guys are really making a point to be leaders. It’s outstanding. Rennie is a big part of it, but some years, quite frankly, that leader is outnumbered. It looks like an overwhelming task. But Rennie’s got a bunch of guys like him that are very motivated to do well, do it the Georgia way, do it the way the coach says, and they’re the quality control at practice as much as the coaches are. And that’s what I told the guys, as much as we can be a player-driven team, then the coaches don’t have to spend as much time driving you and can spend time teaching and guiding you. You’d rather be taught and guided than pushed. So if you can find a way to motivate from within, coaches can spend a lot more time teaching.”

Richt on how much of a role the coaches have in developing leaders...
“We have a huge hand in that. It’s our job to cultivate the culture that we’re after, and it’s up to us to recruit the type of players that are going to buy in to the Georgia way. We have to understand that on the front end. Some guys, quite frankly, got it before they got here or had a very strong bent to be a leader. A guy like Rennie, Rennie showed up, loved Georgia, worked hard, was going to do what Coach said from Day 1. With some guys, you have to develop that trust. Some guys need to learn how to work. Some guy need to learn what the Georgia way means. It’s a culmination of that kind of thing, but once you get the culture right, you hope it will continue. This year, maybe more than any year that I can remember, if the young guys watch the old guys and say that’s the way to do it, we’ll continue to have a great culture on this team.”

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Practice Notes: No Limitations for Dawgs' Offense

With all the new faces on offense this year, head coach Mark Richt might like to have a little time to break in the rookies and get a feel for how the unit functions before taking off the training wheels.

With high-powered Oklahoma State looming in Georgia’s first game of the season, however, that’s a luxury Richt said Georgia can’t afford.

“We’ve got to turn it loose,” Richt said. “We can’t sit there and think too much. We’ve got to let them all play, put them in a position to make plays, and hopefully they will.”

The combination of Oklahoma State’s quick-strike ability and potentially sizzling temperatures in Stillwater for the game, Richt said he’ll have little choice but to put his young players on the field and give them a chance to make an impact.

That list of new faces includes first-year starting tailback Richard Samuel, two freshmen tight ends in Orson Charles and Arthur Lynch, and freshmen receivers Marlon Brown and Rantavious Wooten, along with first-year starting quarterback Joe Cox. With so many inexperienced players on the field, there are plenty of questions for Richt and his staff, but he said the Bulldogs aren’t planning to wait long to find out who’s ready for the job.

“If you’re not quite sure of all your personnel, you’re more apt to make sure the right guys are getting the ball, which is not as much fun as a coordinator,” Richt said. “When you’re sitting there going, ‘Well, so-and-so is in the game, so I’ve got to do this or that,’ I hope that we don’t have to do that. We’re not going into this game saying that’s what we’re going to do because we feel like we’ve got to let these guys go out there and make plays.”

If there’s an upside, however, it’s that so much transition can affect both sides of the ball.

While all the changes on offense make game planning for the opener a tricky task for Georgia’s play callers, it also complicates the job for Oklahoma State’s defense, Richt said.

“I’m sure they’re sitting there not sure who’s going to be where or who’s going to make plays or who we’re going to put in position to make plays,” Richt said. “The only thing they probably know for sure is A.J. Green. Other than that, they’re probably guessing a little bit.”


Saturday’s practice marked the official end of the preseason, with the focus Monday shifting entirely to Oklahoma State as Georgia begins its usual practice routine leading up to a game.

While not every question the coaches had entering fall practice has been answered, Richt said there’s no mistaking the improvements he has seen in the preparation his team has gotten this preseason.

“By a long shot, we were able to prepare the way we normally like to in terms of the number of days we scrimmage and tackle to the ground and every single day in inside drill was live tackling,” Richt said.

The biggest different, Richt said, has been a reduced number of injuries. While a number of players missed some action with minor hamstring injuries, there haven’t been any catastrophic injuries similar to what occurred last preseason.

The result has been an increased focus on the fundamentals – particularly tackling. Richt said in addition to the tackling during scrimmages and inside drills, the team added tackle work to perimeter drills as well – a new addition from past seasons.

“It’s a world of difference when you look at how many times we were in pads and tackled to the ground,” Richt said.


Offensive linemen Ben Jones and Chris Davis both missed practice again Saturday, each recovering from ankle sprains that Richt said shouldn’t cost them any playing time.

“I expect Ben to be practicing Monday, and Chris I’m not certain,” Richt said. “Ben might do everything, but my guess would be just scout work. Chris may be ready for scout work, too, I’m just not sure.”

For the second straight day, Kevin Perez handled the first-team snaps at center, and while the 265-pound junior might be a bit overmatched in size, Richt said he’s confident that Perez can get the job done if called upon.

“Perez knows what to do, his body just didn’t get as big as he would hope and we would hope it would,” Richt said. “But he’s very smart, he’s been tremendous in our meeting rooms, and now that he’s had this opportunity to play, he’s done a very admirable job. We could certainly function with him.”


Defensive coordinator Willie Martinez said the depth chart in his secondary has taken shape, and it’s not exactly what Richt had discussed earlier this week.

Bryan Evans and Reshad Jones will be the starting safeties, with Brandon Boykin and Prince Miller the starting corners. Behind them, Sanders Commings, Baccari Rambo and Makiri Pugh will handle reserve duties at safety, with Branden Smith and Vance Cuff the first two corners off the bench.

Richt had suggested that Pugh and linebacker Nick Williams might handle the bulk of the work at nickelback, but Martinez indicated that role would actually belong to Miller, with either Cuff or Smith filling in at corner.

Smith’s emergence this preseason has been particularly impressive, Martinez said, given his mix of immense athletic ability and strong work ethic.

“He’s a very competitive player,” Martinez said of the freshman cornerback. “He’s a worker. He’s a fast learner. He’s always trying to do his best. He’s got a great attitude and with his ability, he’s coming on. He’s getting better.”

As to Georgia’s other two freshmen defensive backs, the news is a bit more tepid.

Cornerback Jordan Love has been limited in practice for the past week due to a toe injury, and the reduced reps have been a setback.

Safety Shawn Williams, on the other hand, has gotten more looks than expected due to some other injuries at his position, but Martinez said Williams still isn’t close to being where he needs to be to earn significant playing time on game day.

“We like him, but how much he’ll play this year, right now, that’s undetermined,” Martinez said. “He’s got a ways to go. But that’s expected for a young kid, particularly at safety, which is pretty difficult.”


With Justin Houston suspended for the first two games of the season, Martinez pronounced Demarcus Dobbs and Rod Battle the starters for Oklahoma State – a move that hardly comes as a surprise given the lack of experience further down the depth chart.

Martinez said Dobbs and Battle have both looked good, but the challenge now will be finding players who can fill in as backups consistently.

“Those are the two guys with a tremendous amount of experience, and they’ve been doing a good job,” Martinez said. “The other group of guys are just mixing in there trying to develop the depth. Some guys are getting better.”


Georgia ran through a final scrimmage against the scout teams Saturday, albeit a particularly regimented one.

Richt said the Bulldogs’ first-team offense and defense each ran 20 scripted plays against the scout team, and each of the six kicking units took three reps apiece. Some goal-line and short-yardage work involved tackling, but the majority of the practice was thud drills.

While the workout was brief, Richt said the team got what it needed from the practice.

“We had what I hoped we’d have today – a situation scrimmage that was thud the majority of the plays where we got good tempo, the sense of a game where you have to substitute,” Richt said. “It was good energy. We had 20 plays on each side of the ball. It was spirited, it was organized.”

Georgia returns to practice Monday, and will spend the first two days of the week in full pads. The Bulldogs will go to shorts and shoulder pads Wednesday and Thursday, then have an off day Friday before the game.


According to Jeff Owens' Twitter feed, he found a nice note in his locker after coming off the practice field Saturday. It was an invitation to the East-West Shrine Game. Next up, according to Owens, is a similar invite to the Senior Bowl.

UGA TV Programming Update

Here's a quick rundown of the Dawgs' TV programming schedule, per UGA release...

DAWG REPORT – A 30-minute weekly show that provides a behind-the-scenes look at all Bulldog varsity athletic teams…hosted by Matt Stewart and produced by CSS…airs each Monday at 10 p.m. exclusively on CSS.

MARK RICHT WEEKLY NEWS CONFERENCE – Live coverage of Coach Richt’s weekly conference … airs Tuesdays at 12 noon on CSS.

BULLDOG GAMEDAY – This 60-minute production by WSB-TV will preview each Georgia football contest during the 2009 season with insights and analysis from college football experts … hosted by Chuck Dowdle and Zach Klein … airs at 10 a.m. each Saturday exclusively on WSB.

GEORGIA FOOTBALL RE-AIR – A complete recap of every Bulldog game with Matt Stewart calling the play-by-play and Buck Belue providing color analysis with production by CSS … airs each Sunday at 11 a.m. on CSS.

INSIDE GEORGIA FOOTBALL WITH MARK RICHT – A 30-minute inside look at Georgia football with game highlights, features on Bulldog players and other special stories … hosted by Chuck Dowdle along with Coach Mark Richt … airs Sundays at 1:00 p.m. and 7:30 p.m., and Mondays at 6:30 p.m. on SportSouth and on additional affiliate stations throughout Georgia and the Southeast (see below).

WALB (Albany) – Sunday / 12:30 p.m.
WNEG (Toccoa) – Sunday / 4 p.m. & 11 p.m.
WPGA (Macon) – Sunday / 11 p.m.
WJBF (Augusta) – Sunday / 12 p.m.
WTOC (Savannah) – Sunday / 11:35 p.m.
Cox Sports – Wednesday / 4:30 p.m.
WJXS (Jacksonville, FL) – Sunday / tba
WTVM (Columbus) – Sunday / 11:30 p.m., Sun Sports – Wednesday / 12 a.m.

UGA ONLINE VIDEO FEATURES – Daily coverage of the Bulldog football squad and all varsity sports from an insider’s perspective … a state-of-the-art presentation on presented by the Georgia Sports Properties video team.

*Broadcasts begin Aug. 31st with the airing of the first "Dawg Report" episode at 10 p.m. on CSS.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Practice Notes: King Questionable For Week 1

When it happened, Mark Richt called it a 7-to-10-day injury, but 17 days after his last practice, Caleb King still isn't close to returning to work and could be in danger of missing Georgia's first game of the season against Oklahoma State.

Richt said he watched King run the sidelines during practice Friday, but couldn't speculate as to when the sophomore tailback might be healthy enough to return from a sore hamstring that has sidelined him for the majority of the preseason and kept him out of the competition for the starting tailback job that now appears to belong to Richard Samuel.

"You just can't predict hamstrings," Richt said. "We're hopeful that he's ready to practice early next week, but I don't know how he's going to feel."

Georgia has just three full-contact practices left before departing for Oklahoma State, which means the pressure is on for King to prove he's healthy enough to play in the game.

Offensive coordinator Mike Bobo said King would likely need to fully participate in a practice no later than Tuesday if the tailback was going to be part of Georgia's game plan against the Cowboys.

"I don't have a definite timeline because you never know what's going to happen with your other guys, but Monday and Tuesday are going to be the bulk of the work days next week," Bobo said. "I'd definitely like to have him out there Monday, and Tuesday at the latest."

Georgia is likely to bring only about 70 players to Stillwater, Okla. for the game, making each seat on the plane a valuable one, Richt said. Whether one of those seats belongs to King or not will ultimately be decided by the potential impact the coaches feel he can have in the game.

"We're not taking anybody on the plane unless we think they can play in that game and help us win," Richt said. "So if we don't think he has any chance of playing, he won't go. If we think he's got a chance of playing, he'll be on the plane, and if we need him, we'll put him in."


With King potentially out of the lineup, former Dodge County tailback Kalvin Daniels has worked his way up to the No. 3 spot on Georgia's tailback depth chart.

"Kalvin's done a really fine job," Richt said. "He had a good spring, he's had a good fall, and he's really done an outstanding job. Right now he would be our No. 3 if Caleb is not capable to go."

Samuel and redshirt freshman Carlton Thomas are likely to be Georgia's top two runners against Oklahoma State. Freshman Washaun Ealey was also in the mix for carries this preseason, but a hyperextended elbow hindered his progress, and at this point he's not in line to see much action.

"I talked to Washaun today about keep banging, keep competing," Richt said. "Sometimes kids will look at that depth chart and think you have no chance, but two weeks later, you might be it. I just wanted to remind him that, don't count yourself out because things can change in a hurry."

Despite the advice, Richt said he won't burn a potential redshirt for Ealey simply to allow the tailback to work on special teams in Week 1.


After Ben Jones went down with a sprained ankle last week, junior Chris Davis moved over to handle reps at center for the Bulldogs' offensive line, but that plan hit a speed bump this week, too.

Davis suffered an ankle sprain, too, and was wearing a protective boot for practice Friday. Richt said Davis was day-to-day and said the lineman could return to work Monday.

"He may do scout team only Monday, but that's how we phase guys in off an injury like that," Richt said. "We think he'll be ready."

Jones didn't practice again Friday, but he was jogging the sidelines and appeared to be moving well.

Still, with two projected starters missing time, Bobo said finding continuity on the offensive line remained a concern as Georgia readies for the season opener.

"Guys have got to practice together, make calls together and be on the same page," Bobo said. "The only positive is that the guys who are out there do have experience. But getting those guys healthy and getting them ready to play in the first game is definitely a concern."


Bobo isn't expecting a runaway victory for the Bulldogs in Stillwater, but even if Georgia's up big in the fourth quarter, he said fans shouldn't expect to get an early look at either of the team's freshman quarterbacks.

Zach Mettenberger and Aaron Murray were both hoping to land the No. 2 spot on the depth chart during the preseason, but that hasn't happened so far, and Bobo isn't going to risk burning a redshirt for either player to get them a few snaps in mop-up duty.

"We still have a few more days of practice before we finalize that decision," Bobo said, "but right now neither one of them would play."


Thanks to a suspension, junior Bruce Figgins won't see the field until Week 7 against Vanderbilt at the earliest, but his coach, John Lilly, said that hasn't altered the tight end's mind-set this preseason.

"I've been really proud of Bruce," Lilly said. "I think he's worked extremely hard and tried to help the young guys along, which shows a lot of maturity on his part. I think he's responded very well at this stage, but now here comes the tough part because the games start being played, and I know that's going to be difficult for him."

Figgins earned a six-game suspension for an unnamed violation of team rules in April, but he's also working his way back from offseason shoulder surgery that held him out of spring practice. Lilly said Figgins still isn't 100 percent, and there's a chance the team could decide to redshirt the tight end for the entire season.

"We're preparing him to be ready to go when that time comes, but with some injuries and trying to rehab his shoulder and things like that, if they're not responding well, that still could become a concern down the line," Lilly said. "Right now, he's mentally preparing to play and we're trying to have him physically ready to play."


Joe Cox knows Georgia's offense so well, it's not hard for Bobo to forget that he hasn't started a game in nearly three years.

"Sometimes as a coach, I have to realize that he's not a fifth-year starter, he's just a fifth-year senior," Bobo said. "It seems like he's been starting forever because he knows everything."

Despite Cox's intimate understanding of the playbook, Bobo said he has tried to remain cautious with what he asks of his starting quarterback.

"As a coach, you can't take things for granted just because he knows everything in the film room but hasn't experienced it in live action," Bobo said. "So you've just got to be real diligent and make sure that we're covering everything with him. He's doing a great job of preparing extra."

For months, Richt has been pretty open that Cox would have all the same leeway to change plays at the line of scrimmage that Matthew Stafford enjoyed last season, but Bobo wasn't ready to reveal any information on Cox's job description just yet.

"You'll have to wait and see on that one," he said.


There's no doubt a distinction between the type of offense played in the Big XII and the SEC, but Richt said he knows a thing or two about the style he can expect from Oklahoma State when the Bulldogs open the season in Stillwater next Saturday.

"It reminds me of the style of ball we played when we had Charlie Ward at Florida State – the spread, manipulating the pace of the game, fast-slow, getting guys in space, making plays, trying to wear people out by putting points on the board rather than trying to punch you in the mouth every time," Richt said.

Big XII teams are credited with a much more wide-open offensive style based around speed and finesse, but Richt did caution that there was more to Oklahoma State than the typical spread offense.

"I will say that Oklahoma State does a really fantastic job of the balance that most coaches are looking for," Richt said. "They will run the ball – and they run it from the spread, but you can run it from the spread with a physical nature and they do that."


After dissecting the film from Wednesday's practice game, Richt said he was a bit more encouraged by the team's performance, but there were still too many problems for him to dub it a success.

Defensively, he said the Bulldogs looked sharp, but the scout team's offensive line was so weak it was hard to get a good gauge of the first-team defensive backs.

"Because our second unit can't protect well enough against our first defense, it's just tough to find out what our holes are on the perimeter, if in fact they're there," Richt said.

On offense, the majority of the reps looked good, but missed opportunities are under a much bigger microscope during those scrimmages, he said.

"You play a half, and you don't have a lot of opportunities, so even if you lose one drive because of a penalty, it's just disappointing, and we did have one of those," Richt said. "It was better after watching the film as I felt like coming off, but it still wasn't as sharp as I would like."


The weather was a bit cooler and the rain held off, and Georgia's players responded with an encouraging day of work on the practice field Friday.

"They had a lot of energy today," Richt said. "I really like the way they practiced. I saw real good focus. They just looked good today. They gave me a good feeling."


Saturday's practice won't be an official scrimmage – Georgia has just three of those during the preseason, with the last coming this past Wednesday – but Richt said his team will go through many of the same motions as a scrimmage in order to tie up a few loose ends before taking on Oklahoma State.

"We'll do everything but tackle to the ground," Richt said. "We're going to do more team substituting, kickoff, defense, punt return and block. There will be some short-yardage, goal line, and we'll go a few plays live, but just a few."

Richt said the work will be designed mostly to iron out some flaws he saw during the team's practice game against the scout team and to get in a bit more reps on plays coaches didn't get to see enough of during the past week.

"We're actually ramping it up just a tad by scrimmaging the short-yardage and goal line plays," he said. "It'll look a lot like our practice game scrimmage, but it'll be a lot more scripted. We've scripted what we think we need to see that we haven't seen. But it's still going to be played like a game, just without the tackling."


Linebacker Akeem Dent missed another practice with a sore hamstring, but Richt said he appeared healthy and should be back at practice early next week.

"I happened to see Akeem running and changing direction," Richt said. "I saw him doing some things that made me feel he was getting close."

Marcus Dowtin and Richard Samuel both were in green, non-contact jerseys Friday, too, but each was participating in drills with their respective positions.

Safety Quintin Banks will miss the opening game with a knee injury, but Richt said that he's hopeful the rest of the Bulldogs' roster will be ready for action by next Saturday.

"We're still hopeful on everybody else other than the guys we know of with season-ending injuries," he said.

From the Mailbag: One Week to Go Edition

It's Friday, there's just one week until football season, so that means we crack open the mailbag...

(Quick note: All of these are real emails, comments or Tweets, but some have been abridged for easier reading. Also, if you send me correspondence that you don't want included in a mailbag or re-posted on the blog, please say so.)

Brett writes: David read on a site (Zach) Mettenberger ran scout team in preparation for Zac Robinson. I don't see any similar qualities between the two wouldn't Logan gray be the best fit for that duty?

No similarities, Brett? Umm... they're both named Zac(h), aren't they? You've got to start thinking like a coach, man!

Actually, Mettenberger, Aaron Murray and walk-on receiver Vernon Spellman each took turns playing the role of Robinson during Wednesday's practice game. For the scout-team work, the coaches will often rotate in different players to simulate the various skill sets of an individual opponent. So on a passing play, it might be Mettenberger in there, and on a designed run, it might be Spellman.

Bob W. writes: I enjoyed your piece in today’s paper regarding the grueling practices the Bulldog players have endured and their commitment to themselves, the team, the school and the fans.

Rennie Currans comments at the end of the article struck a chord with me.

Curran said. “If we don’t sacrifice now, it’s going to get ugly. The way I look at it is, I’d rather hurt now than hurt on ESPN or in front of those fans and look sloppy in front of the fans. We’ve been putting work in day in and day out, and hopefully it’s going to pay off.”

That being said I was wondering what commitment will the fans have to the team? Will it be “you’ve got our support 100 percent” but then the Dawgs hit a bump in the road and the blame game starts or the Defense has a bad day and the fans begin to cry out for Martinez’s head?

Or will the fans step up and pledge their undying support for this unheralded group? Thick or thin “We are Dawgs through and through” should be the mantra of the Dawg Nation.

I see this as a challenge to the fans to make the same type of commitment as the players have made. Stand firm, hurt when they hurt, celebrate when they celebrate, admit any shortcomings but forge on.

When the season draws to its conclusion can the fans say “they laid it on the line for us and we laid it on the line for this group of Damn Good Dawgs!”

If you so choose put it out there to the fans. Curious as to how deep is our (the Dawg Nations) allegiance.

I'm a First Amendment guy, so I'm not going to criticize anyone for speaking their mind, but I figured it was a sentiment worth sharing, and the rest of you can do with it what you will. Something tells me though that we'll still hear an occasional "Willie Must Go" cry this season.

(And a side note... I was cleaning out some old clothes for Goodwill the other day and came across a "Fire Ed Wade" t-shirt I'd bought several years ago when the current Houston general manager was busy ruining the lives of every Phillies fan on the planet. It was a pretty low-quality piece of merchandise, but on the back it listed every bad move Wade had ever made, from signing Gregg Jeffries to hiring Larry Bowa. I wore it to a Phillies game during Wade's last season before being fired, and not only did I get a number of drinks bought for me by fans who loved the shirt, but people would actually come up and ask to have their picture taken with me. Anyway, I mention all this because it seems to me someone is missing out on a prime chance to make some quick cash off disgruntled Georgia fans here.)

Jimmy H. writes: First off, thanks for the blog, stories, and all the information you share about Georgia football. I was wondering why there has been no mention of AJ Harmon this season ? I assume he is still on the offensive side of the ball, maybe 2nd or 3rd string? Any info would be great.

I couldn't begin to tell you why, but I would bet that I get more questions about A.J. Harmon than almost any other player on the team. Anyway, I posed the question to Mark Richt, and here's what he had to say:

"He's showing signs. In any given day, he makes plays where he looks like he's getting it, then he makes plays where he gets beat. He's working against Geno every day, working against Jeff, Kade. Those guys are pretty darned good, so I think anybody's going to have a rough time against them. Our No. 1 unit would be struggling against those guys. But he's getting comfortable as an offensive lineman. I think he has the ability to do it. He has really gotten his body in good shape. He's still got a ways to go, but he trimmed it down and now he's building it back up in a real positive way. He's getting his technique down, getting more comfortable with all his assignments and the tandems. I think he's making good progress."

Anonymous writes: David: Objectively, didn't Adrian Karsten's rise--as seen through his walk up to the top of the roof Carrier Dome--and fall--as seen in his later tragic death--symbolize perfectly the modern day highs and lows of the Syracuse football program?

You know, I had to Google this to get the whole story on Karsten because I'd simply forgotten about him altogether. And in that respect, he's just like the Syracuse football program.

Anonymous Suckup writes: did you ever talk to anyone about why Carlton Thomas doesn't appear to be getting any looks at punt returner or kick returner? I thought he would be a good candidate, but what do I know?

I reported a while back that Mark Richt did not list Thomas among the players working return duty for Georgia this fall. Here's the thing about getting info from Richt -- he's rarely deliberately evasive, but I honestly think sometimes he just has too much on his plate to remember every detail of what's going on.

Anyway, I checked with Bryan Evans, who Richt said was among the kick return options. Evans told me that Thomas is working with the kick returners, along with Vance Cuff, Branden Smith and Brandon Boykin. So you might then assume that Thomas was a legitimate candidate, right?

Well, Richt did his best to shoot that down again Wednesday, adding that Richard Samuel is a leading candidate to handle kick returns and saying Thomas wasn't particularly close.

"Carlton (Thomas) is in there, too," Richt said, "but I don't know if he'd be in the top three right now. But he's been getting work."

So, why would Richt say Samuel was a top candidate and Evans not even mention Samuel's name? Your guess is as good as mine, but if I were a betting man, I'd say there's a little subterfuge on Richt's part that Mr. Evans simply wasn't in on.

Carter writes: CMR said the following regarding Ros career ending injury: "We have petitioned for an NCAA medical exemption that will allow him to remain on scholarship." Does such an exemption allow a player to maintain an athletic scholarship without counting against the limit of 85?

Yes, Ros can remain on scholarship for the rest of his time at Georgia without counting against the team's 85 scholarship limit. That doesn't begin this season, however, so it won't open up a scholly for someone currently on the team. It will mean an extra slot for the 2010 class.

@RexRobinson5 asks via Twitter: I am curious to know that if something HAS clicked with Richard (Samuel) compared to last year what was it that clicked?

I'm not sure it's "something" as opposed to a lot of things. Richard spent the spring studying, learning and getting more comfortable with being a running back in the SEC. That might seem like a small thing, but for a kid who was 16 when he arrived on campus, it's really not.

I had a story in yesterday's Telegraph on Samuel's thirst for knowledge, and I think that was his biggest asset in developing from where he left off last season to being Georgia's probable starter this season.

Jake G. writes: Do you know what's going on at the cornerback position? ... Do you see our cornerbacks as a strength, wash, or weakness for us this year? Probably tough to say with a redshirt freshman starting on one side...

I corrected Jake in his email that Brandon Boykin was, in fact, a sophomore, not a redshirt freshman. Then I asked Bryan Evans for his thoughts on Boykin, and Evans also referred to him as a freshman. Goes to show you how little playing time Boykin got last year, I guess.

Anyway, here's what else Evans had to say:

"Boykin is very athletic. I don't think it's a drop-off at all (from Asher Allen). He needs to get some experience, but that comes with the game. I have no doubts that Boykin is going to probably be one of the best first-year starters on our team this year. People need to look out for him."

As for the rest of the secondary, the most recent two-deep I've gotten is this:

WC: Prince Miller, Branden Smith
SC: Brandon Boykin, Vance Cuff
NB: Makiri Pugh, Nick Williams
SS: Reshad Jones, Baccari Rambo
FS: Bryan Evans, Sanders Commings

Brian writes: It looks like Brandon Boykin has locked down a starting corner spot, and that Pugh and Rambo are the backup safeties, but I have yet to see anything saying who the nickle corner is. Especially against a team like OSU, I imagine that the defense will be playing nickle more often than not. Do you know who is likely to be that fifth defensive back?

Good follow-up to Jake's question. I talked with Mark Richt about the nickel position, and he agrees that the importance of having a good nickel is growing each year.

What the defense essentially does when going against three-wide or a spread offense is drop the Sam linebacker (who would normally be on the tight end) in favor of an extra defensive back (usually a safety). This gives the defense a bit more speed to handle coverage and avoid the mismatch of a wideout being covered by a linebacker. Considering the number of teams now using some version of the spread, this has become almost a default defense for Georgia in recent seasons and the reliance on the nickel will be even greater this year.

Richt said Makiri Pugh has spent the most time working at nickel, and the extra reps he got this fall while Evans, Quintin Banks and Reshad Jones were out with injuries, could prove to be key in his preparation. Pugh even iced Georgia's practice game with an interception late in the "fourth quarter" on Wednesday.

The more intriguing name at nickel, however, might be sophomore Nick Williams.

Williams has easily been one of the most popular players this offseason among the coaching staff because he loves to hit and he's a bundle of energy. (And, I'll add, one of the nicest guys you'll ever meet.) Because of all the injuries, he's been shuffled back and forth from safety to linebacker to safety and back to linebacker in the past 18 months. While moves like that have hindered the careers of players like Kiante Tripp, it may have turned out to be a blessing for Williams, who now may see action at both the Sam and the nickel -- which as Richt said, will essentially be the same position when Williams is on the field.

"They've let me know that maybe I need to learn everything, and that's my mentality is that I'm just going to learn it all so whenever it's time for me to go in, I'm prepared," Williams said. "I think it will get me on the field more. Coach likes versatility. He likes guys who can do more than one thing."

Williams has been packing on and losing weight seemingly every month because of the position shifts, but he said he's now at a comfortable 220 pounds, which is where he plans to stay. The weight hasn't cost him much speed either. He ran a 4.47 at the end of offseason workouts.

Brad writes: With respect to the "Team" attitude, I heard a story from practice last Wednesday. A couple players got into a tussle during practice and were punished with running. I'm told the entire team put on running shoes and ran. If that is true, then that is impressive.

That's a great story, but sadly, it's apparently not true.

There have certainly been a few scuffles, but Jeff Owens said the team running part didn't happen. (Well, he called it "an exaggeration.") Not that you should be too concerned about the fights. They happen all the time, he said, and that's a good thing.

"That's the name of the game," Owens said. "Every play, offensive line and defensive line are getting into it. Backs and linebackers. Everybody's getting into it. Every play, you're competing, and when you're competing, the aggression's out there. But it's all just love. If you sat out there and watched practice, you'd see scuffles every day. But you're competing, and that's the name of the game. That's how you get better, you compete."

Jon writes: After reading comments made about Abry Jones last week, I was wondering if there was any thought of playing him some at defensive end since there are so many seniors on the interior line?

Good thought, Jon, and having seen a little of Jones' high school tape, I think there's little question he could do it. Problem is, the coaches aren't planning on it, so it's not likely to happen. Of course, that doesn't mean you won't see a good bit of him this season.

“Right now, he’s inside and we don’t see him being outside right now," Mark Richt said. "Abry has done a very nice job and he's right on the cusp of getting some good playing time. Right now we think he’ll play.”

(NOTE: If you were playing a "right now" drinking game with that quote, please pause here and take a few minutes to sober up.)

@007dawg writes via Twitter: For Branden (Smith): What road trip are you most looking forward to in your first season?

Branden didn't have to think too long about this one: “I’d have to say Jacksonville. I heard it’s loud, and there’s nothing like playing with a lot of fans. So I’d say Jacksonville.”

Mike B. writes: what kind of camp has Justin Houston had? I know there is the two game suspension thing but what about game three? Is he going to take over the starting job or just be depth?

The reports on Houston have all been very positive, despite his suspension. I wondered whether he might backslide after a great spring because of two-game absence, but virtually every player I've talked to has said that Houston has continued progressing and working hard, which leads me to believe that, if he's not the starter Week 3, he'll be right in the thick of things.

“He’s been really good about it," fellow defensive end Demarcus Dobbs said. "He’s been coming to all the workouts, showing up on time and being a great leader to those other guys. Even though he’s had this setback, he doesn’t show it.”

JaxDawg writes: you do not have children. If you did, you would realize that while we want to give our children plenty or freedom, checking on them and monitoring their activities is the mark of a good parent. Most is innocuous chatter - but not always.

This was in response to my comment that parents befriending their kids would be the ultimate death of Facebook.

I get what JaxDawg is saying, and while I don't have kids (and Lord knows, that's best for everyone), I can fully understand how Facebook allows parents to get a certain peace of mind through a social networking site. Heck, I've certainly stalked enough ex-girlfriends that... you know what, scratch that last part.

Anyway, the bottom line is not that I'm personally opposed to parents joining Facebook. The problem is that it's simply bad for business for Facebook. Hey, I'm in favor of prisons and liquor stores and Sonic drive-thrus, but I don't want any of them to be built next to my house because it lowers the property value (you know, if I owned property). I imagine the operators of Facebook view parents much the same way.

jferg writes: Should we read anything into CRGs comments on Jeff and Geno...something to the tune of "if those two don't get it going, they might not even start, regardless of what list they're on". Was that just a barb to get his horses working hard again? I don't remember CRG ever saying something like this for no reason. Have the two big guys been slacking a little? He even said Kade has been a better leader. Really? Can you go deeper for us?

I appreciate JFerg's willingness to take Rodney Garner at face value, but I can promise you, Garner's never met a player he didn't think was slacking off. That might be a slight exaggeration, but he really does find ways he wants all his guys to improve, and he's not shy about telling them and the media about it.

So, bottom line, Geno Atkins and Jeff Owens will still be the two starters -- and two of the best interior linemen in the country -- but Kade Weston and DeAngelo Tyson will see a good bit of action, too.

Frank D. writes: We, of the Dawg Nation, have been working by email committee, sub-committee and focus group. Behind your back.

The Season of Most Apprehension stretches out before us. We are nervous. We are Don Knotts with a hairy Dawg fetish and lines on a mirror. We are caffeined, bourboned and Valiumed. We are a mess.

We lay our collective agony at your feet. We have come to Delphi and bow before you. We ask, we plead for your wisdom, insight and undivided attention to our needs. We need every minute of your time. Every second.

In light of the crisis at hand, the Committee for the Season of Most Apprehension has assembled a regiment for you to follow over the next four and a half months. This is NOT a suggestion. I hope I make myself clear on this point.

Until the clock runs out in the unnamed bowl game, you shall, and without complaint or equivocation:

1. Forgo sex with any other humanoid other than yourself, and keep that to a bare minimum.

2. Eliminate meals. Fruit cups on-the-go should suffice. This will additionally eliminate the Gas-X tab on your expense account.

3. Bathe infrequently.

4. Dispose of your watch, alarm clock and hair brush.

5. Bunk in with the team. Joe Cox talks in his sleep.

6. Pray to Buddha. Jeezus is working with the meek this fall.

7. Unplug your TV.

8. Avoid Barbara Dooley.

9. Channel Squab Jones.

10. Get a swine flu shot.

These Ten Commandments are absolute and unconditional. You are bound to these orders as of noon today. Thank you.

There are two things particularly frightening about this email. (And, yes, I know what you're saying... "Only two?")

First, it's amazing how many of these items I was already sticking to without being asked. I may need to rethink my life and where it all went wrong.

And second, this wasn't my favorite email of the week.

Which leads me to...

McCullough writes: David, this posting made me a big fan of yours. Of course, it could be the beers I've already consumed, but so many parts of this made me very happy. I'm so glad to have your stuff to read every day, and this was a banner day for you. I don't give a $#@! about Lost, but that's OK. So many parts of this post was very enjoyable. I can't even go into detail. But, you the man. Thanks.

Now here's what we're going to do. I want everyone reading this to drink a fifth of bourbon, then re-read the mailbag again. Then, tell everyone you know about how great it was. I think we're remarkably close to becoming the first blog post to win a Pulitzer.

Thanks for all the questions, folks. Keep 'em coming, and we'll do more next week.