(Be sure to check out my story in today's Telegraph on how Georgia is working to build depth on the offensive line.)
Decisions are still a long way off, and the progress hasn’t been disappointing, head coach Mark Richt said. But Richard Samuel, the newly converted inside linebacker, still isn’t guaranteed to see the field in 2010.
“He’s new to the position and we want him to be ready to really compete for us,” Richt said. “If we think he’s ready to do that and produce at a high level, then we want him to play. But if he’s still finding his way a little bit, I don’t think we’ll be in a big rush to get him out there.”
Samuel, who entered Georgia in the spring of 2008 as a 16-year-old running back, played as a true freshman, and thus still has a redshirt year available should coaches choose to let him learn a new position from the sidelines this season.
While Samuel earned the starting tailback job out of fall camp last year, his role diminished significantly down the stretch and it was announced he’d switch to defense for 2010 – a role he played in high school. He opened the spring at outside linebacker, but was moved to the interior early on, and his play in last Saturday’s scrimmage gave Richt some cause for optimism.
“I can envision one play where he took on a fullback on an isolation block and played off the block to make the tackle right there in the hole,” Richt said. “He looked like a linebacker, and he hasn’t played a lot of defense lately.”
Richt said there won’t be a set standard for whether or not Samuel earns playing time this fall, and he’ll likely be evaluated the same way any first-year player would be. For now, Richt said, he wants Samuel to simply keep working, and the evaluation won’t need to be made until the games start being played.
“The big thing is just practice hard, learn what you can,” Richt said. “We have these thoughts but then sometimes by the second scrimmage in the fall, two or three guys are down ahead of you, and you’re playing whether you’re ready to or not.”
HIT MAN MAKES HIS MOVE
The competition at safety has been intense this spring, with four players vying for time with the first team alongside Bacarri Rambo. While Shawn Williams looked like a leading candidate through much of the early spring workouts – and Williams chipped in with a long interception return for a touchdown – that role may now belong to junior college transfer Jakar Hamilton.
“Jakar has really done well,” Richt said. “He’s been playing a good bit with Bacarri, working with the No. 1 unit. They’re trying to find combinations of guys working together that make the most sense, and they’re still trying to work those things out. But those two right now are out front.”
FINDING A BALANCE
Speaking of those scrimmage stats, Georgia’s three quarterbacks are trying not to let the numbers carry too much weight as they move forward.
Zach Mettenberger and Aaron Murray each had good outings Saturday, while Logan Gray’s numbers were a bit off the pace, but all three quarterbacks are trying to remember that there’s still a long way to go.
“You have to balance it all out because you don’t want to have a great day and think you’re in the lead for the race or you have a bad day and think I fell behind,” Gray said. “You still want to go out and do your best every single day and try to get better. Especially at the quarterback position, if you have a good throw or a bad throw, you’ve got to put it behind you because there’s going to be so many more coming.”
That’s a lesson Murray has learned, too. While he’s aware the scrimmages earn a bit more attention – both from the fans and the coaches – he said he’s been assured that a final decision on the starter will be made only after a thorough evaluation of each day of practice and practically every throw the quarterbacks have made.
“Some days you’re going to have great days, and some days you’re going to have bad days,” Murray said. “One of those days might be the spring game, and that’s the day everybody sees the stats but they don’t see in practice you might do well the rest of the time.”