I'm putting together a story for later in the week on the inside linebackers and new ILB coach Warren Belin. I figured I could share a few of the quotes I got for the story here though, for those of you sick of talking QBs and ready to hear more about the new-look D...
Warren Belin on Christian Robinson...
“Christian is improving each and every day. I’m very pleased with his progress. He’s playing multiple positions for us at the inside linebacker, and he’s a young man that’s a hard worker, works really hard at being the best he can be at doing the fundamentals and the little things right, and as he continues to grow into our defensive package, he’s going to make a great contribution to our football team.”
Belin on Marcus Dowtin...
“Marcus is very talented, and we’re excited about what he brings to the table as a student-athlete. Again, as he said and as I would also agree, we’ve got to consistently be the best, know our assignments, and physically do everything we’re asking him to do. Mentally he’s very, very close to where we need him to be right now. He’s had a few mistakes here and there. As a linebacker coach, the No. 1 thing that I’m going to ask is that he does things the right way all the time. And there are no excuses for missed assignments and missed alignments. There’s just none. We get beat if you don’t do things the right way.”
Todd Grantham on Robinson and Akeem Dent...
“Dent and Robinson have played both Mike and Mo, so they give you some flexibility there. We’re also working to progress Richard Samuel, because he does show up as far as his ability to run and chase and we’re trying to work with him to see if we can find a role for him as we move forward.”
Grantham on where Richard Samuel must improve...
“I just think the key and diagnose of blocking schemes. He has a feel for where the ball’s going, but is it a downhill run? Is it a wide play? I just think it’s more the recognition of the blocks and where do I need to fit based on the recognition of the call. That’s based on experience, but the guy was in here last Friday after meetings watching tape trying to get ready for the scrimmage because he wanted to get better. If our guys will do that and work to improve, I think we’ll be fine.”
Christian Robinson on the mix at ILB...
"To us, it’s really not a battle. We’re just trying to put the best guy forward. Everybody is working really hard. We have different groups for different situations. Coach [Todd] Grantham will take me and put Downtin in, or Darryl, or Dent. It’s a group of guys who are going to put our best foot forward every time. Some guys are bigger, some guys are faster. Whatever coach Grantham wants from his linebacker corps, he’s going to do it."
Robinson on the leadership of Akeem Dent & Darryl Gamble...
"Having Darryl and Dent, they’re just great leaders and great people. If we have a rough day, they’re the first ones to get on us and bring us up. They were just as influential as Rennie (Curran) was. They’ve been here, this is their fifth year, so everybody knows them, everybody respects them. They’ve earned their time, and they’ve been playing since they were freshmen. When they say something you listen. Coach comes first, but those guys are second.”
Akeem Dent on Belin's expectations...
"With him he just wants everybody to go out and play with great energy, have a great attitude, and give great effort. There are a lot of things that you can’t control, but you can your attitude and effort. He wants us to go out every day and just play."
Tuesday, April 20, 2010
I'm putting together a story for later in the week on the inside linebackers and new ILB coach Warren Belin. I figured I could share a few of the quotes I got for the story here though, for those of you sick of talking QBs and ready to hear more about the new-look D...
Friday, February 26, 2010
We got to pepper Georgia's players with a lot of questions yesterday, and to prove they weren't anywhere close to midseason form when it comes to dealing with the media, we actually got a few good, candid answers. They'll be sick of us soon enough, though, no doubt.
Of course, mixed with the great quotes were a few not-so-great ones, too. So, let's trot out the first edition of our new feature at Bulldogs Blog… Good Quote, Bad Quote.
“I was talking to Coach (Mark) Richt about being All-American. I believe that if I would have stayed healthy last year, I would have easily gotten that. So that’s my goal is just to be an All-American.”
That's from A.J. Green, the only guy I know who can use the phrase "Just an All-American" and I wouldn't suggest he might be underselling the accomplishment.
I asked A.J. what it's been like for him that, entering his third year at UGA, he'll now be playing with his third different quarterback. He said it was definitely a bit odd, particularly since he played with the same QB all through high school. So my follow-up question, of course, was this: "So, does that mean you'll definitely be sticking around for your senior year so you can play with the same QB twice?"
Sadly, there was no such commitment coming from the star wide out: “I don’t know, man," Green said. "Whatever happens.”
I think we all have a pretty good feel for what might happen.
“Tell Darick ‘pretty boy’ Rogers he doesn’t have to know me but I bet he will feel me!! Lol”
“I compete against the best receiver in the nation everyday at practice. Why should i worry about that guy.”
Both of those quotes came from Bacarri Rambo's Twitter page in the days following Da'Rick Rogers' last-minute departure from his commitment to UGA and his eventual decision to head to Tennessee instead. Funny stuff, and we all love a little trash talk, right?
Of course, that leads us to...
“I wasn’t really directly talking to him. I was just shocked that you would say you were going to one school and then change your mind at the last (minute). It wasn’t directed to him. It was directed to no one. I was just confused and curious as to why they would do things like that. But if he wanted to think it was him, I can’t stop him from thinking that, so it’s whatever.”
That's Rambo on his explanation of the war of words with Rogers. Hey, I'm all for trying to throw some water on the fire now, Bacarri, but it's hard to say you didn't direct your comments at a guy when you used his name. Of course, I guess when you hit like Rambo does, who's gonna argue with him?
Kris Durham was on hand for interviews, all dressed up in khakis and a button-down shirt. The reason for the nice duds? Well, he said he got dressed up for us, which we of course appreciated, but in fact it's because he has been student teaching at Oconee County Middle School.
Anyway, Durham said he's had the occasional behavior problems with his students, so I asked if he ever threatened to send Bacarri Rambo after them to get them to behave.
“No," Durham said, "I don’t have him using his Twitter page very much.”
Tell me if you remember hearing this before…
“I believe we’re working harder than last year. Last year, we had a lot of leaders and we thought things were just going to be handed to us and didn’t work as hard as we should, I thought at least. This year, we’re working hard.”
That's not from Joe Cox or Rennie Curran or any of the guys who spoke on the subject last offseason. That's from A.J. Green yesterday.
Sorry, A.J. I'm just not buying in this year.
“From what they said the other day, they gave more A’s than they’ve given in a long time. The guys are really going to work, just really trying hard to impress the coaches and trying to get better. You can tell everybody’s excited around here, especially the defensive guys. We’re ready to go to where I feel Coach (Todd) Grantham and the defensive staff will just let us play and let us have fun out there."
Now, I'm definitely going to be a bit more skeptical of the hard work and leadership quotes this offseason, but I gotta say, this quote from Marcus Dowtin is pretty encouraging.
While I'm sure every offseason is The Best Offseason Ever, I think there probably is a good bit of truth to what Dowtin said. In fact, it was obvious just from talking to the defensive players how enthusiastic and excited they are about the new regime and the new scheme.
In fact, here's one last quote I think every UGA fan will be excited about, courtesy of Mr. Rambo...
“It’s a whole lot different, especially with the footwork that Coach (Scott) Lakatos is teaching us," Rambo said of working with his new defensive backs coach. "Most of the people in the NFL run the same thing as Coach Lakatos is teaching us. It’s a whole different footwork thing from Coach Martinez.”
And not to bash Willie Martinez, but here's how Branden Smith discussed learning that new footwork:
“Backpedaling, coming out of the breaks, turning – those are different," Smith said. "The footwork that Coach Lakatos is teaching us right now, I’ve done it in high school, so it’s nothing new and it’s easier to learn.”
I can only assume if it was good enough for the five-star player in high school, and it's good enough for the pros in the NFL, it's going to be a nice addition to the secondary at UGA.
Thursday, February 25, 2010
After missing all but about 40 minutes of the past two seasons, Trinton Sturdivant hasn’t been forgotten by Georgia’s coaches. But just the same, they’re not exactly counting on him either.
After an impressive freshman season at left tackle in 2007, Sturdivant tore multiple ligaments in his left knee in fall camp in 2008, then suffered a torn ACL in Georgia’s opening game last season.
“When we’re talking about our objectives as an offense and what we want to accomplish this spring, we want to establish depth at the offensive line with out counting on Trinton Sturdivant,” Bobo said. “He’s a luxury. We think he’s going to be back, he’s ahead of schedule, he’s doing great, but we have to establish depth besides him.”
In each of the past two seasons, Georgia shuffled replacements at left tackle after Sturdivant’s injuries, and in both cases, it took the offensive line a while to find its groove.
So this season, Bobo hopes to have a group ready to play with or without Sturdivant – which likely means opening with senior Clint Boling filling the left tackle job, where he worked at the ends of both the 2008 and 2009 season and performed well enough to earn All-SEC honors.
Of course, while that’s the plan for now, it’s certainly not etched in stone if that luxury becomes a reality, Bobo said.
“If we get ‘The Luxury,’ he’ll probably be at left tackle,” Bobo said of Sturdivant. “Whoever those best five are, we’re going to put them in the best position where we think they can be successful. If Trinton’s out there, and he’s one of our best five, my bet is he’d be at left tackle.”
QUIETING THE CONTROVERSY
After soon-to-be Tennessee wide receiver Da’Rick Rogers spurned Georgia just days before signing day this year, Bulldogs safety Bacarri Rambo voiced some displeasure with the lack of commitment shown by players who were once committed to coming to Athens.
On his Facebook page, Rambo wrote he though it was “messed up” for players to renege on a commitment at the last minute and promised, “When I catch you on the field I’m going to knock fire from you.”
That started an ongoing war of words between Rambo and Rogers in which the receiver lambasted the safety via Facebook and Twitter and Rambo returned serve with a few quips of his own.
Now that the feud seems to have simmered down, Rambo said it was all a bit of a misunderstanding.
“I wasn’t really directly talking to him,” Rambo said. “I was just shocked that you would say you were going to one school and then change your mind at the last (minute). It wasn’t directed to him. It was directed to no one. I was just confused and curious as to why they would do things like that. But if he wanted to think it was him, I can’t stop him from thinking that, so it’s whatever.”
Regardless of any confusion, Rambo doesn’t think he has much to clear up. He said he has no plans to contact Rogers, but won’t continue the war of words either.
“I’m going to try to be the better man and just let that die down and not say anything to him,” Rambo said.
A GOOD MOVE
A large contingent of Georgia fans that drooled over Richard Samuel’s physical skills but scratched their heads at his inability to avoid contact as a tailback got their wish this offseason when the rising junior was moved to linebacker.
As it turns out, those fans weren’t alone in hoping for a change for the talented former tailback. Junior linebacker Marcus Dowtin said he has been lobbying Samuel to make the switch for two years.
“I spoke to Richard when we first got up here freshman year and told him you should make that switch and come over to linebacker with me,” Dowtin said. “So I always wanted him to do that, and now that he’s over there, he’s definitely going to do something great. He’s an athlete. He’s strong, he’s fast, and I think he’ll be a great complement to me, and I can be a great complement to him out there. He’s made our linebacker corps a lot more athletic and a lot faster.”
* Tailback Washaun Ealey said he still hopes to swap his uniform number from 24 to 3 – the number he and all of his family members wore during their high-school playing days – but he has yet to get a final OK from head coach Mark Richt.
* Cornerback Chad Gloer was moved to wide receiver this month to help fill in the gaps on a shallow depth chart.
* Despite some rumors that a move to the offensive line could be in store, Bobo said Kwame Geathers is staying put on defense.
* Cornerback Jordan Love is back at work after missing much of last season with a toe injury that has nagged him since high school. He underwent surgery to repair the injury, and fellow corner Branden Smith said the results are encouraging so far. “Right now, he’s feeling good,” Smith said. “He’s ready for the season to start right now. His recovery is coming along very well.”
* Spring practice officially begins Thursday, but Bobo said that is more of an opportunity to meet with the players and maximize their practice time. The team will then take 12 days off during Georgia’s spring break before reconvening – and essentially re-doing the Day 1 workouts – on March 14.
* Bobo was also sporting a black eye during interviews Thursday. The injury came courtesy of grad assistant Mitch Doolittle during Wednesday's pick-up basketball game.
I got lots more info, including plenty on the defensive changes, from today’s meetings with players, but you’ll have to wait until tomorrow for that.
Friday, January 29, 2010
At this point, it's hard to gauge how Todd Grantham's new 3-4 defense is going to affect the current roster of Bulldogs other than to say it's definitely going to shake things up.
But of all the fan-friendly quotes I've heard from Grantham so far, I think this one caught my eye more than any others when it comes to player development:
"The best thing you can do is create one-on-ones. You try to get the guys that can win for you against the guys that can’t win for them. I don’t think there’s any question that can be an asset for us, and I think that some players will thrive because of that. I think some guys will enhance their careers because of that, because we’re going to find ways to make guys in protection – whether it be a back or a freshman guard or tackle – we’re going to find ways to make those guys block.”
Add that to Grantham's insistence that the best players will play and there's a clean slate for those who hadn't seen much playing time in the past, and I'd say it's a safe bet that we'll see some new stars emerge on defense next season.
So, with that in mind, I tried to put together a quick list of five players I think might see the biggest impact in Year 1 from Grantham's arrival.
Now, keep in mind, this isn't a list of which players I think will find the most success. My guess is Justin Houston is going to be a first-team All-SEC guy in 2010 -- but he might have been that anyway.
And it's not a list of who the new faces will be this season. Players like Garrison Smith and Jakar Hamilton appear to have bright futures, but again, they would have likely had bright futures regardless of the DC.
This list is of five guys who have already been in Athens for at least a year who have a chance to see the career path they were on shifted in a positive direction now that the new staff is (almost) in place. For some, it's a matter of the scheme now matching their skills. For others, it's about getting a fresh start with a new opportunity to prove themselves. And for others, it's just about getting some better coaching to iron out the flaws in their game.
Anyway, here's what I came up with...
Cornelius Washington (RSo./DE). At 6-4, 250, Washington is a big boy, but his pass-rush skills have always hinged on his speed. Add to that the fact that in the 4-3, he was going to be stuck behind Houston and Demarcus Dobbs on the depth chart, and you have a guy with a ton of skill who wasn't being utilized in the best way. Enter the 3-4 and it's a completely different story. While Dobbs possesses the wider frame that could keep him at DE, Washington is a prototype outside linebacker in Grantham's scheme and could be an absolute stud as a pass rusher. If he teams with Houston at OLB in 2010, Washington's numbers could be off the charts, and Georgia's pass rush could be downright frightening.
Akeem Hebron (Sr./LB). I'm not entirely sure where Hebron fits in, but the fact of the matter is, he arrived at Georgia as one of the most highly recruiting linebackers the Dawgs had landed in recent years and his career has come and gone with about as little fanfare as any top-100 recruit could have. He has appeared in just nine games and made just four tackles total at Georgia, but with a fresh start under Grantham and the departure of Rennie Curran, there's a chance Hebron could salvage the final season of his college career much the way Brandon Miller did in 2007.
Marcus Dowtin (Jr./LB). Dowtin made huge steps forward in 2009 and was arguably Georgia's second best linebacker already. But the biggest chink in Dowtin's armor has been his consistency. I've been told by Curran and John Jancek and Darryl Gamble and even Dowtin himself that he has a tendency to take a play or two off on occasion or to let down his guard from time to time. Something tells me that Grantham and his 11 years of NFL experience won't be letting that happen any longer. Dowtin is talented enough to be a future star at the next level, and I wouldn't be shocked if Grantham gets him to just that point. Add to that Dowtin's strong tackling skills, strong work in blitz situations and ability to play in coverage and he seems like a good fit at ILB in the 3-4 to boot.
Kiante Tripp (Sr./DE). This might be wishful thinking on my part, but for anyone who has followed Tripp's career, you have to root for the kid to finally make something of himself at Georgia. He's been misused from the beginning, and he hasn't complained. Wherever coaches have needed him, he's gone. And each time he makes a position change, he gets thrown to the wolves, then cast aside quickly. The same was true last year after moving to DE when Tripp struggled to get onto the field after some early injury concerns. And as much as it would be a shame for a guy who has given his all for Georgia to miss out on a finding some success, it would be a crime for UGA to let someone with Tripp's combination of size and athleticism to graduate without turning him into a real player. Tripp's body type could work very well on the D line in Grantham's 3-4, and while he'll no doubt be pushed by some younger talent like Abry Jones and Kwame Geathers, he won't be without a good group of fans pulling for him to turn the corner after so many setbacks.
Jordan Love (RFr./CB). A lot of competition for the final slot -- with Geathers and Jones among the younger players who might thrive in new roles and Darryl Gamble or Akeem Dent among the older players who might cap their careers nicely in the 3-4 -- but I didn't want to only consider the front seven. In any defense, it's incumbent upon the corners to provide solid play in the run game, and Prince Miller did that really well last year. In the 3-4, that responsibility becomes even more important. Certainly Branden Smith could fill that role and do it well, but Love is bigger and more physical and could find himself in competition for a bit more playing time this season than he might have been otherwise. A foot injury kept him off the field in Year 1 of his career, which might have put him behind the 8-ball with the previous regime, but a strong spring could now leave him in prime position to be, at worst, the top corner off the bench in nickel situations.
So, what do you guys think? Any sleepers you're particularly excited about in 2010? Any veterans you're hoping will get one last shot?
Wednesday, November 4, 2009
Joe Cox swears he hasn’t owned a working computer in 18 months. At times it might have been an inconvenience, but lately, he’s been happy not to have it.
With Georgia’s 4-4 start to the season and Cox’s 12 interceptions to go along with the record, Cox hasn’t had much interest in surfing the Internet to see what fans are saying about his performance.
“Anybody can get on that and talk about sports,” Cox said. “That’s like me going on WebMD and talking like I’m a doctor and telling these guys what they should be doing in hospitals. That’s the least of my worries.”
It’s not that Cox doesn’t understand the concerns of fans. He freely admits that he hasn’t played well, and he said he would have understood if head coach Mark Richt had decided to bench him after last week’s three-interception performance against Florida.
But being at the center of a sea of criticism is no easy task, and the only real option, he said, is to avoid it.
“When you have a bad game, and you go out to eat the following week, you feel like there might be people at the restaurant talking bad about you,” he said. “It’s tough. You don’t want to go out sometimes and be places. I’ve changed so much in my life as far as how much I do and where I go just based on the role that I have on the football team. It’s tough to get used to. You never know how crazy it is until you’re really in that position.”
Cox said he even warns his parents to stay away from message boards and fan blogs after the games. While he can handle the criticism, he said they take it much more personally.
The animosity aimed at Cox reached a new crescendo this week as the Bulldogs dropped their second straight game to Florida, with Cox’s bad throws at the center of the underwhelming performance.
But rather than let his quarterback twist in the wind this week, Richt announced Monday that Cox would remain the starter, citing a unanimous vote among the coaches.
“It means a lot having your coach’s confidence. I’m definitely glad it’s not something I have to answer, and I’m just glad I have another week where I have to play football.”
It hasn’t been the senior year Cox had dreamed of, and the costs of being the starting quarterback at Georgia have been greater than even he expected, but he still wouldn’t trade the job for anything.
“I definitely don’t want to have the plug pulled on me and not play any more for the rest of the year. I have another chance and I want to make the best of it.”
LEARNING ON THE FLY
Freshman Washaun Ealey got the starting nod at tailback for two straight weeks, but a missed block against Florida will likely cost him that role this week. While Ealey continues to run the ball well, offensive coordinator Mike Bobo said pass protection remains a concern that’s too big to ignore.
“It’s always a big concern with young backs,” Bobo said. “I do know he knows what to do, he just did not execute the proper techniques of how to block. It was costly in (the last) game … but I think he’ll improve. He’s just got to trust his technique and execute it properly.”
Bobo said Ealey has gotten plenty of advice this week from the Bulldogs’ expected starter, Caleb King.
Last year, King missed a key block against Florida as well and then-running backs coach Tony Ball benched him for the next few games. The punishment was tough, but the lesson was learned, and King improved dramatically during the offseason.
Ealey won’t be benched, he just won’t start. Unlike last season, Georgia’s need for a strong runner outweighs any benefit a stint on the sideline might offer. It’s in stark contrast to the decisions Richt made with another freshman tailback a few years ago.
“That's one of the main reasons why Knowshon (Moreno) ended up redshirting because when it got time to doing those kind of things, especially early on in camp, he was a freshman,” Richt said. “He was struggling at it, and we had three veteran guys, three very proven guys.”
Georgia didn’t have that luxury this season, but Richt doesn’t have any regrets about playing Ealey, who waited until the fifth game of the season before seeing action. It simply means that the Bulldogs will have to take the good with the bad as Ealey learns on the field.
“This time around,” Richt said, “we are playing the freshman and kind of taking some of the lumps."
WILLING TO WAIT
With four games remaining and the chances of an SEC East crown now gone, Richt said this week he plans to keep shooting for wins this season rather than giving additional playing time to some younger players as preparation for the future.
While the decision met with mixed reviews from fans, Georgia’s up-and-comers aren’t complaining about the veterans keeping their jobs.
“In every sport there’s always a person pushing for a starting spot, but I don’t believe there’s any jealousy amongst the players that would make a younger player think he wants to move an older player out,” said sophomore linebacker Marcus Dowtin, who has seen his role increase as the season has progressed. “We compete at practice every day, and the coaches will make the best decisions.”
Baccari Rambo has earned more playing time each week, too, but has so far been unable to push senior Bryan Evans from the starting lineup at safety. While Rambo said he would love the starting job, he said he respects his coaches for giving the veterans a chance to turn things around.
“I think by Coach Richt supporting the veterans, when I get my time, that’ll happen to me,” Rambo said. “When they make mistakes, I try to learn from them. I think it’s a great thing how Coach Richt supports the veterans and lets them try to get better and correct their mistakes.”
HOUSTON, WE HAVE A PROBLEM
Defensive end Justin Houston is doubtful for Saturday’s game after suffering a hyperextended elbow last week, and Richt said there will likely be a rotation of players filling the void.
Cornelius Washington, Montez Robinson and Kiante Tripp are likely to each see a bump in playing time against Tennessee Tech if Houston missed the game, Richt said. Tripp has been inactive for the past six games after seeing some early action, due mostly to a shoulder injury that has hindered his progress since moving from the offensive line in January.
“He was working his way into some playing time early on, and then the injuries set him back for a long time,” Richt said. “Being injured that long, it’s just hard to snap your fingers and be right back where you were. … But I’ve seen a lot of effort an energy out of him this week, that’s for sure.”
MORE BAD BLOOD?
Florida coach Urban Meyer announced Wednesday that linebacker Brandon Spikes would sit out all of the Gators' game against Vanderbilt this week as punishment for attempting to gouge the eyes of Georgia tailback Washaun Ealey. Meyer had originally only suspended Spikes for the first half.
But while Spikes' punishment was increased, Meyer also noted that Georgia linebacker Nick Williams had hit quarterback Tim Tebow late on a play and should have been flagged. Meyer brought the hit to the attention of the SEC head of officials this week but did not disclose the league's response. Richt said that after reviewing the film, Meyer's critique was correct.
For his part, Williams said he was unaware that Meyer had sent the tape to the SEC, but said the hit was just part of the game and was not intentional.
"I was just trying to make a play," Williams said. "Tebow is a great player, and it's obvious you better get him on the ground or he's going to spark something. I was just trying to make a play, and I didn't think anything of it. I wasn't trying to hurt him or anything, I was just out there playing."
Defensive end Neland Ball hasn't been a participant in practice since the preseason, and Wednesday we found out why.
Richt announced that Ball had been given a medical disqualification in September, but the news had not been officially released.
Ball, a redshirt sophomore, played in five games in 2008. He missed all of spring practice this year with a tendon injury in his knee, but it was a chronic back problem that brought about the medical DQ.
Left tackle Clint Boling suffered a knee injury against Florida last week, but Richt said the junior should be available this week.
"Boling is fine," Richt said. "He was able to go with no limitations (at practice) today."
Tuesday, October 27, 2009
The sideline might not be the most comfortable place for Mike Bobo to watch a game, but it’s hard to argue with success.
For the first time in his career as offensive coordinator, Bobo called plays from the sideline in Georgia’s last outing against Vanderbilt, and the result was the team’s easiest win of the year, highlighted by a season-high in rushing yards. While the view wasn’t quite as good as it was from the press box, Bobo said he liked the feel of being on the sideline and said he’ll be there again this week when the Bulldogs take on No. 1 Florida.
“In the box, it’s like you’re watching a TV screen except you can see the whole thing, so you can see if we executed, and you can see if we don’t,” Bobo said. “Down there, you can feel the passion and the excitement, the highs and lows of when things go well and when things don’t go well. That part I liked. It’s a little more intense down there for sure.”
While Bobo won’t have access to the bird’s-eye view the press box affords, he said the negative impact of watching from the sideline has been lessened by the efforts of receivers coach Tony Ball, who provides pictures and analysis from the box while Bobo is on the field.
“You’ve got to have guys up there that are capable of giving you a picture and Coach Ball does a good job of that,” Bobo said. “You’ve got to prepare well to where you can recognize their looks and make sure they’re playing the way we thought they were, and if they didn’t, we’ve got to be able to make adjustments.”
The upside to Bobo’s appearance on the sideline is mental, he said.
With so many first-year starters on offense, Bobo was concerned that the unit was lacking confidence. Players were talented enough to succeed, but he wanted to be on the field where he could remind them of that, even in the face of failure.
“We’ve got a lot of young guys that haven’t made a lot of plays in some games,” Bobo said. “We have guys we feel we have some ability, but for whatever reason, they’re not making the play or they had their head down at certain times. (I wanted to) have the ability to say, ‘Hey you’ve got the ability, let’s go and get it done,’ or just to look them in the eye and say, ‘We can do it.’”
MYSTERY SURROUNDS O LINE
During Georgia’s off week, Clint Boling said he had spent some time working at left tackle, moving over from the right side where he has played all season.
Josh Davis got his first start of the season against Vanderbilt, too, giving the Bulldogs yet another look on the offensive line – their fourth different starting lineup of the season.
But Tuesday, head coach Mark Richt said he isn’t expecting a major shake-up for this week’s contest against Florida.
“We really don’t have a lot of choices, so I don’t see a lot of change there,” he said. “The guys that have been playing will continue to play. We may move them around a little bit, but I’m not even sure of that.”
Richt said Davis, Boling, Vince Vance, Ben Jones, Chris Davis and Justin Anderson will all see action, but he wouldn’t commit to the specific roles for any of them.
So while the head coach isn’t predicting change, he isn’t exactly promising the status quo either. That has Bobo convinced that this week’s lineup may have a look fans haven’t seen yet this year.
“I’d say probably, but you’ll just have to wait and see,” Bobo said. “But it’s been different every single week.”
Georgia’s depleted linebacker corps figures to get an infusion of healthy bodies this week with both Akeem Dent and Marcus Dowtin expected to return to action after extended absences due to injuries.
“(Dent) looks like he’s going to be able to make the trip, but we’ll see how he progresses here during the week as we run a little bit more,” linebackers coach John Jancek said. “Dowtin has been cleared and is ready to go.”
Dowtin missed the past two games after suffering a ligament tear in his finger that required surgery following Georgia’s loss to LSU. Dowtin had earned regular work as a reserve linebacker and was third on the team in tackles at the time of the injury.
“We really missed Marcus not having him for the last two ballgames,” defensive coordinator Willie Martinez said. “Marcus has been one of our playmakers – a kid that can run, athletic, smart. He really was playing really well.”
Dent has missed nearly every practice since mid-August with a nagging hamstring injury, and his return brings a much needed veteran presence.
“I think he’s ready to go,” Martinez said. “We tried to get him to come back and maybe it was too soon. He re-aggravated that injury he had. … We haven’t had Akeem, his leadership and toughness. To get him back in the presence of the team is really huge.”
Temperatures in Jacksonville, Fla. for Saturday’s game are expected to be in the 80s with plenty of sunshine, which is a welcome change of pace for the Bulldogs.
Georgia hasn’t played a game in temperatures warmer than 80 degrees since its opener, and their last game against Vanderbilt began with temperatures in the mid-40s.
But while the warmer weather comes as a treat, it also means the Bulldogs might have to dig a bit deeper on their depth chart to rotate in fresh players as the heat takes its toll on the starters.
“I think we’re definitely going to have to have a lot of subs, especially in a warm game,” quarterback Joe Cox said. “But I’m just glad the weather is going to be good. We’ve had a lot of crazy weather situations this year. We might have to use some subs, but we’ll see how it goes.”
CHAPAS READY TO GO
Thanks to a stinger in his neck, fullback Shaun Chapas watched Georgia's last game against Vandy from the comfort of his own living room, but he hardly felt comfortable.
"It felt really weird," he said. "I'd never missed a game before, and right before kickoff I just had this overwhelming sense that I needed to be somewhere. That was kind of weird, but I really did enjoy watching the game from the sense that it looked like we got the running game going and we won, so that made it fun."
Chapas said the injury has healed fully already and he will be ready to play against Florida this week in a game that holds a bit of extra meaning for the Jacksonville native. While he hasn't gotten official word that he'll start over Fred Munzenmaier, he said he expects to.
"I would imagine," he said. "We haven't talked about it, but I would assume so."
-- Georgia had a 12-period indoor practice today due to significant rain in the area.
"It was a good day with good focus," Richt said. "We walked through things, which is important mental preparation and also helps get the sensation of what your body is supposed to do during the game. It really didn't hurt us in our physical preparation either because we had our typical Tuesday practice on Sunday and we'll get our regular Wednesday practice in tomorrow."
-- Bobo said he expected the team would still use a rotation at running back this week.
Tuesday, October 13, 2009
There have been plenty of problems on offense in the past three games for Georgia, but the biggest stumbling block has been the team’s inability to run the football.
Against Tennessee last week, the Bulldogs mustered just 89 yards rushing – more than half of which came in the fourth quarter after the Volunteers had the game well in hand – and for the season, their ground game ranks 104th in the country.
With those kinds of numbers, quarterback Joe Cox said, getting the rest of the offense to click can be a difficult task.
“It is tough just because a lot of people feel that they can just come at us when we’re in passing situations, especially once you get down,” Cox said. “It’s tough when you feel like you’ve become one-dimensional and we definitely need to pick up our running game.”
Turning around the moribund rushing attack has been a mystery to Georgia’s coaches so far. In six games, five different players have tallied the day’s longest run, and while Richard Samuel has started each game, Georgia has relied heavily on four different runners already.
“No one has really stood out. No one has really asserted himself to the point where he’s our guy,” head coach Mark Richt said. “No one really has made the offensive line look better than maybe they are blocking at times. We have pretty much been getting what we’ve been blocking for, which statistically hasn’t been a whole heck of a lot.”
Samuel will get another shot this week to prove he can handle the load, but Richt said he doesn’t expect anyone to get a bulk of the work. Still, of all the backs, Samuel has met with the most consistent success – even if that hasn’t been much.
“His deal is confidence,” offensive coordinator Mike Bobo said. “Coming into this year, he had a lot of expectations on him, and he kind of takes everything to heart sometimes when he doesn’t have success. But we think he’s a talented back, and we think he’s got to help us in the run game for us to be successful.”
For any of Georgia’s backs to be successful, however, the blocking up front needs to improve. While the Bulldogs’ offensive line has been reshuffled due to injuries since the start of the year, Bobo said the bottom line remains attitude.
“We need to play with more passion up front, we need to finish blocks and we need to have a sense of urgency when we’re running the football,” Bobo said. “That’s offensive linemen, that’s tight ends and that’s running backs. You’ve got to take pride in it, and you’ve got to play hard and physical.”
While there haven’t been many highlights, there have been glimpses of what the tailbacks and the line can do when everything clicks into place this season, highlighted by an 80-yard run for Samuel against Arkansas.
That’s what has been so maddening, Cox said, but it also offers some hope for improvement down the line.
“That’s probably been the most frustrating thing is that we know it’s there but it hasn’t been working,” Cox said. “It’s something that we got to just keep chipping away at. We know we have good backs, we know we have a good line and we just got to get it going so we know we can do it.”
FIGGINS TAKES REDSHIRT
Junior tight end Bruce Figgins missed the first six games of the season following a suspension for a violation of team rules, but he decided this week that he’ll instead sit out the entire season.
Figgins underwent offseason shoulder surgery, but he said the redshirt decision was based on more than health. Having already missed half the season, Figgins decided it was best to finish his rehabilitation and start with a clean slate in 2010.
“There’s pros and cons to either, but Coach Richt came to the conclusion that I should take a red shirt and we’re rolling with that, and I’m looking forward to next year,” Figgins said.
While the decision was ultimately Figgins’, he said he got input from family, friends and his coaches before signing off on the plan. He said the success of freshman Orson Charles and sophomore Aron White at tight end this season didn’t factor into his final decision.
“The coaches put in their input, but I was the last to decide,” Figgins said. “I was the last say so.”
KIDS TO SEE MORE ACTION
With Georgia’s hopes of a conference title nearly vanished, Richt said he isn’t giving up on the season, but he may give some of the younger players a chance to see a bit more action.
Richt said redshirt freshman Baccari Rambo will see an increase in his playing time at safety, establishing a three-man rotation with Bryan Evans and Reshad Jones.
Freshman Branden Smith should see more work at corner, too, spelling senior Prince Miller.
Richt said his two freshman receivers, Marlon Brown and Rantavious Wooten had earned more playing time, too, following Brown’s first significant action of the season last week.
“Marlon is smoothing out his game, I guess is the best way to put it,” Richt said. “He is a talent, he just needed to get more reps to become a smooth competitor, a smooth receiver. He has proved to be a pretty tenacious blocker. You can tell he wants it, you can tell he’s getting better. He has earned a right to play more snaps for us and hopefully he’ll get more opportunities to catch the ball because he has good hands.”
Tavarres King and Caleb King each returned to limited practice Tuesday after both missed last week’s game with concussions.
Caleb King figures to be in the mix at tailback, where Bobo said there will be an open competition for carries this week.
Tavarres King expects to step back into his role as the team’s starting receiver opposite A.J. Green. King’s absence last week left Georgia with just five healthy receivers, and watching his offense struggle without him was difficult, he said.
“It hurt really bad watching my teammates and wanting to be out there,” he said.
While neither player participated in contact drills Tuesday, Tavarres King said he’s on track to play against Vanderbilt.
“I did everything that I could, just limited contact,” he said. “I expect to play.”
Cornerback Vance Cuff saw limited action last week following a knee injury, but Richt said he should get in a full week of practice this week and is in line for an increased role on defense against the Commodores.
Linebackers Akeem Dent and Marcus Dowtin are both unlikely to play this week, Richt said. Both are expected back after the team’s off week.
DAWGS DON’T DO DOME
After some speculation earlier this month that Georgia could move its annual matchup against in-state rival Georgia Tech to the Georgia Dome for the 2011 season opener, athletics director Damon Evans said Tuesday that the school had decided against the plan.
“After careful consideration, we did not think in the final analysis it was in the best interest of our football program to play the game as a season opener in 2011,” Evans said. “I think the most significant factor was that we did not want to give up the home game that year and make a change in the current home game rotation with Georgia Tech.”
SHADES OF GRAY?
With Cox struggling in his past three games, Richt said there was a chance backup quarterback Logan Gray could see more work in the coming weeks.
Richt was quick to endorse Cox as his starter, but he wouldn’t rule out handing a series or two to Gray as a change of pace.
“He’s been practicing well the past two weeks, I know that,” Richt said. “I wouldn’t say that’s out of the question.”
Gray ran Georgia’s offense on its final two drives against Tennessee, completing just 1-of-4 passes for six yards. The Bulldogs did have their most success running the football when Gray was in the game, however.
“Logan’s done a nice job,” Bobo said. “He’s done an extremely good job getting better as a quarterback. I think he’s ready if he gets into the game. Obviously if we continue to struggle, he could be something that could spark our offense.”
Georgia doesn't have to look too far into the past to find a template for how the rest of its season could unfold.
The Bulldogs were 5-4 following four losses in five games 2006, but rebounded to beat three straight ranked teams, including a Chick-fil-A Bowl victory over Virginia Tech.
While a turnaround of that magnitude may still be a long way off, Cox said the team may actually be in better shape to accomplish the feat this season.
“I think our unity is better than 2006, and I think we could end up having a better season than 2006, but as far as hitting a tough stretch and how everything is around you, it’s about the same," Cox said. "People around here are used to winning. We’ve had some really successful teams the past nine years, and people expect us to win every game. We do, too. And when it doesn’t happen, everybody’s mad, including us. It’s something that does remind me of 2006, but it’s something we can definitely get turned around and have a successful season.”
The key to the improvement down the stretch in 2006 was tenacity, Richt said. While demands for immediate changes to the coaching staff and player personnel by fans followed the Bulldogs' most recent defeat at Tennssee, Richt said the dedication of his coaches and players will be the turning point in whether the Bulldogs can rebound this season.
“It’s hard to measure a team’s ability to withstand pressure," he said. "I think a lot of teams fold under that kind of pressure. A lot of coaching staffs fold under that kind of pressure and we never did. We were very resilient. We were very persistent. We stayed the course. We didn’t make a bunch of wholesale changes, whether it was players, coaches or anything like that. We just kept grinding, we kept banging away. You just never know how close you are to success until you live it out."
-- I know I said I'd have some commentary from Rennie Curran on the defensive effort, but it turned out to be a little more than a note. I'll have the full text tomorrow.
A few notes on the basketball teams from today's preseason news conference:
-- Travis Leslie is cleared to play this season, according to coach Mark Fox. Leslie missed the tail end of last season for academic reasons.
-- Albert Jackson is wearing a cast to protect an injured finger, but Fox said he'll be ready to practice when camp opens Friday.
-- Ricky McPhee was given a scholarship for his senior season, as was Tyler Whatley.
-- Dustin Ware on Trey Thompkins: "Trey is looking like he’s just ready to be a monster this year. He came back and I almost didn’t recognize him his body looked so good."
-- On the women's side, Angel Robinson had to have her knee scoped, but Andy Landers said she should be ready to practice fully before the season begins.
-- Landers also said he expects all seven of his freshmen to play significantly this season.
Tuesday, October 6, 2009
Caleb King’s return to the lineup for Georgia may have been short lived.
The tailback, who missed the first two games of the season with a hamstring injury, suffered broken jaw and a concussion following a hit in the fourth quarter of Georgia’s loss to LSU last week, and head coach Mark Richt said King was doubtful to play this week against Tennessee.
“There’s a concussion that he also had from the shot that he took, and that’s probably more of a concern right now,” Richt said. “He can’t do anything until the concussion symptoms clear. As soon as they clear, I think they would let him practice immediately with the no-contact and they might OK him to play as early as this week. I don’t think that’s out of the question, but it’s probably not likely.”
King had just seven yards on eight carries last week, but added 30 yards receiving and had been Georgia’s most successful runner in each of the previous two games.
The jaw injury will not require a wire, however, and Richt said there is hope the injury could heal quickly.
“There are different kinds of fractures,” Richt said. “This one the doctors don’t feel will need any type of surgery, and actually, they feel like relatively soon we can protect him to the point where he can play. So it’s not a season-ending thing by any stretch. It might be a stretch to say this week, but we’re not really counting that out.”
True freshman Washaun Ealey saw his first action of the season prior to King’s injury and was the only Bulldogs runner to meet with any type of success against a stout LSU defense.
Still, Richt said he expects Richard Samuel to be the starter this week, just as he has been in each of Georgia’s first five games.
That doesn’t mean Ealey won’t play often, regardless of King’s status, offensive coordinator Mike Bobo said, and while the freshman was off the field in most passing situations last week, he could see a far bigger role against Tennessee.
“We wanted his first time out of the box put him in a situation where he could be successful and not rattle him with something where he wasn’t successful and would lose confidence,” Bobo said. “But he’s very capable.”
DOWTIN GOES DOWN
Linebacker Marcus Dowtin underwent surgery on a torn ligament in his left ring finger Sunday and said he won’t be available for this week’s game.
Dowtin started two games this season and is third on the Bulldogs in tackles with 26. He sat out all of Tuesday’s practice, and said he’s unlikely to resume contact this week. Dowtin said he hopes to be available in time for Georgia’s Oct. 17 game against Vanderbilt.
“I’m just rehabbing, trying to take it easy on my hand so I can come back next week full go,” Dowtin said.
Christian Robinson and Marcus Washington have handled the majority of the second-team reps at middle linebacker in Dowtin’s absence.
TIME FOR A CHANGE
There were no hard feelings a day after SEC officials admitted a mistake in flagging receiver A.J. Green for an excessive celebration penalty that helped cost Georgia crucial field position in the loss to LSU, Richt said, but that doesn’t mean the issue will go away.
After three players – Green, Orson Charles and LSU’s Charles Scott – were flagged for celebration penalties in last week’s game, Richt said he thinks it’s time that the SEC considers changing the rule, which prohibits players from any gestures officials believe calls attention to themselves or is unsportsmanlike toward an opponent.
“I think it might be time to look at that and say we just have to be careful not to take the joy out of the game for the players and the ability to celebrate something good,” Richt said.
Green was flagged following a go-ahead touchdown with 1:09 left to play. He immediately celebrated with teammates and made no overt gestures following the play, but the referees still called an infraction.
Because the rule is so vague and can so easily be interpreted differently by different officials, quarterback Joe Cox said it essentially forces players to minimize their emotions during the game.
“I do think sometimes it takes away from the emotion that you play with,” Cox said. “Football is an emotional game, and it’s tough when you try to have emotion with your teammates and not try to disrespect the other team, but there’s people trying to get you to stop. I don’t think it’s something that should be penalized.”
STILL A BIG GAME
This week’s meeting between Georgia and Tennessee marks the first time the two teams have faced off while neither was ranked in the top 25 since 1937. But with the Bulldogs coming off an emotional loss to No. 4 LSU last week and the Volunteers still looking for their first SEC win, linebacker Rennie Curran said he has no doubt the players are still treating it as a big game.
“It’s a huge game every time out two teams meet up,” Curran said. “There is a lot of tradition involved, a lot of emotions and goals that can be achieved for whoever wins. It is going to be a big game for both teams.”
BIG CHANGES AREN'T LIKELY
A week after Georgia's porous kick coverage cost the Bulldogs a win over LSU, Richt said he isn't expecting any major changes to how Georgia prepares its special teams.
“It’s very, very difficult as far as time," Richt said. "We are crammed to the gill on this 20-hour rule. Every minute is accounted for and even if you add five minutes to that team, you are going to pull five from something else. Whoever is losing that five minutes is screaming and squawking and rightfully so because they feel like they don’t have enough time to get it just like they want it."
Richt said he believes Georgia already spends more time practicing and meeting with special teams units than most programs, but admits that the lack of experience -- particularly on the kickoff coverage unit -- has been costly.
"We are very, very immature on that team," Richt said. "We have too many young guys side-by-side on those teams, on the kickoff coverage team in particular it’s probably the youngest bunch we’ve ever had out there."
Richt pointed to injuries to special teams stalwarts like Chad Gloer, who missed last week with a hamstring injury, as one reason for the problems, but he said the biggest solution will simply be giving the younger players time to develop.
"You only get good at something through experience," Richt said. "You hate to have bad things happen to you in the process, but they have. … We have to continue to work on our consistency on the hang time and ball placement and guys’ abilities to basically execute what’s being coached.”
With so many young players forced into the special teams units, another option could be involving more of the veterans from Georgia's first- and second-team offense and defense. But that creates a new set of problems, Richt said, which makes the option unlikely.
"Some people think you can just throw a guy in there and all of a sudden he’s good," Richt said. "There is technique involved in that just like there is technique involved in playing linebacker or anyone else. It’s not that easy just to throw someone in there. All that stuff takes reps and time to get better at."
MORE TO COME
Redshirt freshman safety Baccari Rambo has seen his playing time increase each of the past two weeks, and that's a trend that Richt said will continue as the season progresses.
“Rambo is playing well, he’s tackling well, he’s gaining confidence on special teams and at the safety position," Richt said. "He’s got ball skills and he’s got a pick. He just deserves to play. I think it’s good for him, Reshad and Bryan if he gets more reps. You just don’t want those two safeties to get every single rep. I think we’ll see more of Baccari.”
After a career-best 16 tackles against LSU, linebacker Rennie Curran broadened his SEC lead in takedowns to 10 over Vanderbilt's Chris Marve.
The 16-tackle game was a nice highlight, he said, but it was hardly a personal best despite being the high-water mark since arriving at Georgia.
"Going back to high school, I made about 20 tackles a game, so that's something I always strive for," Curran said. "I don't even set limits for myself. I just try to get as many tackles as I can to help this team win. If I have to make 20 or 30, I'm going to do it."
Curran now has 56 tackles through five games after finishing last season with 115, the most by a Bulldogs defender since 1998.
While he said finishing the year as the SEC's top tackler is an honor he's shooting for, it's not his top priority.
“It would be a great accomplishment because when you work hard at something, you want to see results," he said. "It would be awesome. But at the same time, if our defense isn’t well respected in the league and well respected nationally, it wouldn’t mean much to me.”
CALEB'S HIT NOT UNCOMMON
Richt said he had not seen the video of the hit that injured tailback Caleb King but was made aware by several media members Tuesday that it appeared to be an illegal tackle.
Richt said he would investigate it further, but said that hits like the one on King happen often throughout the course of a game and are usually not made maliciously.
“If you watch film you see those kind of shots every single day, every single game," Richt said. "It’s not that unusual to have that. If you are tackling a runner, you have to stick your face at the guy and sometimes a runner at the last second drops his head. There are so many times helmets hit. But again I’ve not seen the shot, so I couldn’t tell you. From what I understand he played after the tackle.”
Tuesday, September 22, 2009
A few nuggets from today's early afternoon media session…
-- First off, two administrative things: Mark Richt apologized for hitting the Dawg Walk too early in the team's first home game. This week the Dawg Walk will be at 5 p.m. and Richt promises the team will not be there before then this time. Secondly, Richt followed up on the trash along North Campus. "When we have these home games, it's one of the most beautiful campuses in the country, and we want to keep it that way," Richt said. "I'm encouraging all the fans to put the trash where it belongs because we don't want it to look like the city dump after a ballgame."
-- A few notes of interest from the game notes: First, Arizona State is 0-4 all time against the SEC. Second, Marcus Dowtin is listed as the No. 1 middle linebacker this week. I spoke with Rennie Curran, who said the team missed Akeem Dent against Arkansas, but said he was hopeful Dent would be ready to play in time for this week's game against Arizona State.
-- Richt raved about A.J. Green, and Joe Cox said the Arkansas game was the starting point for the offense in having other guys start to take the pressure off A.J. Remember, Green had his best game last year against Arizona State.
-- Richt said both Caleb King and Richard Samuel would play this week, but he said he didn't know who would start. He said the coaches were extremely disappointed that Samuel fumbled twice and that Samuel is in danger of losing playing time because of it.
-- Richt also said that Vance Cuff would not practice today, but said he was optimistic that the cornerback could return in time for Saturday's game.
-- Willie Martinez and the other coaches haven't been paying much attention to the extensive criticism this week, Richt said. "I think people don't understand how busy we are," Richt said. "We're working our tails off -- somewhere around 80 hours a week. We're going, looking at the next opponent, looking at the next game and trying to correct mistakes. We're moving forward constantly, and we don't get too caught up in those kinds of things."
-- As expected, Richt mostly dodged questions about the defensive problems, mentioning a.) turnovers hurt, b.) penalties hurt, c.) both of the poor defensive games ended with wins, while the poor offensive game ended with a loss.
-- Joe Cox on A.J. Green: "He could end up being one of the best players to ever play here."
-- Cox on how much he fed off the criticism from fans and media: "Anybody who's a competitor, if you have people saying you're not good, you want to play good. That's something I say to myself before every game is that these people don't think I'm any good. It's been driving our offense, too, since Week 1. Everybody says we have a terrible offense, we don't have Knowshon and Matthew, it's the end of the world, we're not going to be able to score any points for the rest of the season. Obviously, we want to prove people wrong."
-- One last thing: I noted in my blog about the defense yesterday that I thought there was a distinct correlation between the success against the run and the lack of pressure and propensity toward giving up big plays. I asked Demarcus Dobbs and Rennie Curran about that today, and they agreed. Dobbs said Georgia's defensive line has been bad at getting off their blocks on passing plays because they were expecting run, and said the defense has been killed by play action. Rennie said it comes down to needing more film study and being better at reading pass formations, while Dobbs said the linemen have to improve on reading the blocks of the offensive line.
Thursday, September 17, 2009
Willie Martinez said the game plan last week was to avoid getting beat deep, and the result was an eight-catch, 96-yard performance for South Carolina tight end Weslye Saunders.
The game plan may have to change this week with Arkansas’ offense featuring All-SEC tight end D.J. Williams, but Martinez said the biggest key for Georgia’s defense will be execution.
“We didn’t tackle well in the last game, and that cost us,” Martinez said. “And we’ve got to do a better job of pressuring the quarterback, whether that’s through blitzing or the four-man rush. And we’ve got to do better in coverage.”
Martinez said Georgia was willing to give up some yards underneath against South Carolina, but linebackers coach John Jancek said Williams commands a bit more attention.
“It’s a different style in terms of what they do,” Jancek said. “I think Arkansas has some really good thoughts on how they want to get the ball to the tight end, and we need to be aware of where he’s at.”
The defensive effort should get a boost with the return of linebacker Nick Williams this week after the sophomore missed last week’s action with a sore hamstring. Georgia was without two of its top three Sam linebackers, who are usually tasked with covering the tight end.
“I’ve heard he’s a great player,” Nick Williams said of the Arkansas tight end. “I think I can help, even if it’s just with the depth so guys aren’t taking every snap at linebacker.”
Freshman Orson Charles was supposed to be eased into the offense, but he’s already proven he can be a weapon for Georgia.
Charles’ four catches and 84 yards receiving are both second-best on the team, and quarterback Joe Cox said the tight end is causing havoc for defenses already, despite his lack of experience.
“He’s definitely a great threat in the passing game,” Cox said. “He has really great speed, runs good routes, has good hands. You can tell that sometimes he’s having to think a lot about things, and that just comes with experience and just practicing. He’s learning a lot and it’s good that he’s getting plays early. You can see his confidence getting higher and higher with every ball he catches. He’s going to be a good one.”
While several of Georgia’s freshmen, including fellow tight end Arthur Lynch, have yet to secure the confidence of offensive coordinator Mike Bobo, Charles’ work ethic and reliability have stood out. That’s a good sign, Bobo said, and he expects Charles to see increased action in the coming weeks.
“He’s a conscientious kid who studies extremely hard and wants to be good and he has ability on top of that,” Bobo said. “He’ll continue to be more of the plan and the package because of his work ethic and his ability to make plays.”
BANKS OUT AGAIN
Safety Quintin Banks was cleared for action last week following a knee injury suffered during fall camp, but the problem flared up again during practice this week, and head coach Mark Richt said he won’t make the trip to Arkansas.
Richt said the knee problem was nothing more than swelling, however, and he expects Banks to return to practice next week.
“He’s coming off an injury that he’s on the front end of when he could come back and he looked good, but it puffed up on him and that’s typical,” Richt said. “You just kind of back down and get the swelling out and try again.”
Richt said that defensive end Kiante Tripp and linebacker Darius Dewberry will also miss the game at Arkansas, but Williams, tailback Caleb King and offensive lineman Josh Davis, each of whom missed last week’s game, will all be on the trip.
ANDERSON GETS THE START
Justin Anderson will start his second straight game at right guard Saturday, with Cordy Glenn working at left guard and Chris Davis coming off the bench.
Richt said Anderson looked sharp against South Carolina, and the coaches are anxious to allow the sophomore to continue to gain experience.
“He’s a good football player but he’s like any young guy, kind of up and down,” Richt said. “Sometimes you worry about how they’ll do in the course of a game, but as we always realize in the end, the more you play him the better he gets, the more comfortable he gets.”
Richt said the overall effort by the offensive line was strong a week ago, despite the offense totaling just 307 yards in the game.
“We pass protected pretty good, and we ran the ball well," Richt said. "I thought the line played pretty good, and some of the issues we had in total yards was just the number of plays we ran.”
Defensive end Cornelius Washington recorded the first sack of his career in the first half against South Carolina last week, and Richt said the play was a perfect example of why coaches are so high on the redshirt freshman.
“There’s another example of a freshman who’s getting to play and is just going to get better in a hurry,” Richt said. “I thought he improved a lot from Game 1 to Game 2.”
Richt said Washington engaged his blocker and pushed him back into the quarterback before breaking free for the sack – a technique the coaches teach in order to prevent the quarterback from knowing which way to scramble.
“That was really a clinic on that one particular play, and it just shows what he’s capable of,” Richt said. “Now he just needs to get consistent at it.”
MURRAY STARTS THROWING
Freshman quarterback Aaron Murray began light throwing again Wednesday after dealing with triceps tendonitis for the past week.
Richt said Murray will make the trip to Arkansas, but he isn’t sure when Murray will return to full practices.
“He threw a little bit (Wednesday), but not a lot, and it wasn’t in a competitive setting,” Richt said. “Trying to predict that would be like predicting when Caleb (King) was coming back. It’s hard to say.”
FIGURING IT ALL OUT
Two weeks into the season, and wide receiver Michael Moore admits, he’s still not quite sure what to make of Georgia’s offensive attack.
The Bulldogs struggled to post just 10 points in their opener, then rebounded with 41 against South Carolina a week later. That makes figuring out which version of the offense will emerge this weekend a tough call.
“I really don’t know,” Moore said. “There’s a lot more playmakers than there was in years past. There had always been one or two guys – this guy or that guy. Now I think we’re able to spread the ball out a little bit more and get more people involved.”
The biggest leap forward from the first game to the second, offensive coordinator Mike Bobo said, was the energy the team played with, but the task of finding an offensive identity is still an ongoing process.
“I still think we’re still honing in on what we are offensively,” Bobo said. “But if we’ll play hard and eliminate the mistakes, we’ll have a chance to move the ball and score points in games.”
MORE TO COME
Marlon Brown and Rantavious Wooten didn’t see the field at all in Georgia’s opener and managed just three plays combined a week later, but Richt isn’t writing them off. In fact, he thinks the pair could develop along a path similar to another accomplished Georgia receiver.
“I’m not going to predict it’ll happen like it did for Fred Gibson, but it wasn’t until Game 3 that Fred Gibson really started to come on and play,” Richt said. “We have every intention to keep playing them and getting them more and more comfortable. Some of it was just not feeling comfortable that they knew exactly what to do on every play without somebody behind them coaching them, but they’re getting better.”
ROAD TO RETURN
With Rod Battle out for the remainder of the season, the depth at defensive end will continue to be an issue, but Richt said two of Georgia’s youngsters could be closing in on a return.
Richt said sophomore Neland Ball is getting close to returning to practice, and redshirt freshman Jeremy Longo could return to work next week.
Longo had shoulder surgery during the offseason and Richt said he suffered a minor knee injury that hindered his return this fall.
“Not being able to move around as well on his knee was keeping him from progressing into combat with his shoulder,” Richt said, “but I think by next week we’ll begin to phase him into contact.”
NO DOUBTIN' DOWTIN
Sophomore linebacker Marcus Dowtin wasn't planning on getting a lot of playing time early this season, but when he got his opportunity in Week 1 against Oklahoma State, he made the most of it.
Dowtin was the team's leading tackler in that game, then followed it up with another strong performance a week later against South Carolina. He now ranks second on the team with 14 tackles, and he's garnered some confidence from Jancek, too.
“Marcus has earned more playing time," Jancek said. "He’s got still a number of things he needs to work on but he’s making progress and you’ve just got to keep moving forward.”
WAITING ON WOOD
Defensive tackle Brandon Wood has yet to practice this season while recovering from a labrum injury, but Richt said he hasn't completely counted Wood out yet. If the junior can return soon, Richt said, he could still avoid a medical redshirt.
“He could still play," Richt said. "He’s been trying to progress, and if he feels healthy enough and doctors say he can go, he’ll have a choice to make here.”
After two practices earlier this week that Richt described as lethargic, the Bulldogs' Thursday workouts were moved indoors thanks to rain.
Rather than lament the missed time on the field, Richt said he hoped the mental reps would sharpen the team's fundamentals against Arkansas and the lack of running would allow the players to be refreshed in time for Saturday's game.
“We’ve had enough practice outside in the weather. I didn’t feel like we needed to get soggy today, and we’ll get a chance to concentrate on the assignments and the mental aspect of the game, which is the great majority of what today’s about anyway. I think that’ll be good for us. To hold off on any kind of running today would probably be a good thing and help freshen the boys up a little.”
Thursday, September 10, 2009
Receivers Michael Moore and Marlon Brown both said their coach, Tony Ball, lost track of who had played during the game, leaving Brown and fellow freshman Rantavious Wooten on the sideline and Moore, A.J. Green and Tavarres King handling nearly every snap.
As it turned out, however, Ball said the decision not to play the freshmen was dictated by the game situations rather than an oversight.
“The timing, just the things that were happening and needing to make something happen and get something going, what better way to do that then to have your best players in there,” Ball said. “The intention was to play them, and the season is still young, so they’ll play. They just have to be patient. You’ve got to get A.J. and Mike and Tavarres flowing before you start subbing people.”
While neither Brown nor Wooten saw action against Oklahoma State, Ball said there’s every indication that both will play this week against South Carolina, but their rolls will likely be dictated once again by how the game unfolds.
“They’ll play, but if you were to ask me how many plays, I couldn’t tell you,” Ball said. “I think what you’re seeing this week is you’re seeing their legs come back and looking a lot more sudden and explosive, and that’s encouraging. Last week, you could still see the sluggishness in their performance.”
KING, DEWBERRY OUT
Richt said Tuesday he thought tailback Caleb King would be a near certainty for Georgia’s matchup against South Carolina, but after the sophomore failed to make it through any of this week’s practice sessions without soreness in his injured hamstring, Richt downgraded his assessment to “doubtful.”
Multiple additional sources confirmed to the Telegraph that King would not be available for the game, leaving sophomore Richard Samuel as the Bulldogs’ primary ball carrier. Samuel had 87 yards on 20 carries in Georgia’s opener.
King said Wednesday he wasn’t sure when he would return to action, but Richt said the primary obstacle for the tailback now is simply rebuilding the strength in his hamtring.
“We don’t really have any set limitation on him other than how far can he go before it fatigues and the last couple days he hasn’t been able to go too far into practice,” Richt said.
Linebacker Darius Dewberry was Georgia’s starting Sam linebacker for its opener against Oklahoma State, but the senior from Peach County tweaked a muscle and Richt said he’ll miss Saturday’s contest.
Georgia’s defense didn’t record a single sack against Oklahoma State, but senior tackle Jeff Owens said it wasn’t for a lack of trying.
The Cowboys’ spread offense made getting to the quarterback a difficult task, as Zac Robinson ran few five- or seven-step drops, but that shouldn’t be as much of an issue against South Carolina and quarterback Stephen Garcia this week – and that’s news that has Georgia’s defense excited.
“That’s something you look forward to being a defensive lineman and they won’t be in shotgun the whole time, so hopefully we can apply some pressure and get some sacks,” senior defensive end Rod Battle said.
Saturday’s game will also be the last for Georgia before sophomore defensive end Justin Houston returns from a two-game suspension, and while Battle said he thought the back-up pass rushers handled themselves nicely last week, he’s eager to take the field with a full compliment of defensive ends.
“I don’t think anybody got too tired due to depth problems, and I think they’re continuing to get better, but we’ll be glad when Houston gets back,” Battle said.
Defensive tackle Geno Atkins saw action at defensive end throughout Georgia’s opener against Oklahoma State, and line coach Rodney Garner said there were plans to use tackle Jeff Owens in a similar role, but the game plan may not look the same this week against South Carolina.
“Part of that had to do with a particular play that they like to run that the bigger, more physical, meaner the defensive end, the better for the couple things we do,” Richt said of the unique alignment against Oklahoma State. “It wasn’t so much that we’re short of D ends as it was a schematic thing we thought would help us.”
Georgia plays its last game without suspended defensive end Justin Houston this week, but Garner said the coaching staff hasn’t ruled out using Atkins, Owens or fellow tackle Kade Weston as pass rushers in the future.
“We feel like Geno and Jeff and Kade and all those guys are some of our better players and we feel like we need to keep them on the field,” Garner said.
ANOTHER PIECE TO THE PUZZLE
Georgia will have one more option at defensive end this year than it did against the Cowboys.
After missing the Bulldogs’ opener with a shoulder injury, Kiante Tripp returned to practice this week and is cleared to play in Saturday’s game. How many snaps he’ll see, however, is still undetermined.
“He’s able to play, but how much he’ll play, if he plays, I don’t know that answer,” Richt said.
Freshman defensive lineman Kwame Geathers said he hadn’t even graduated high school yet before he started talking trash to his older brother about this week’s Georgia-South Carolina game.
Clifton Geathers, Kwame’s brother, is a defensive end for South Carolina, and Saturday’s game marks the first time the two brothers will face off against one another.
“I was talking smack to him and he was talking smack to me, but it’s going to be very exciting to see him on the other side,” Kwame Geathers said. “I don’t say anything about the game plan, just about who’s going to win and how good he’s going to do.”
Geathers said he’ll have plenty of family members in attendance for the game, but he’s still not sure which team they’ll be rooting for.
“Hopefully when they come here and see our fans, they’ll switch their minds over to Georgia,” Geathers said. “Or go half-and-half at least”
WHAT CONDITION THEIR CONDITION IS IN
Rennie Curran was as surprised as anyone when he had to take a seat on the sideline during last Saturday’s game and get IV fluids. He was one of several Bulldogs to need fluids after suffering from dehydration and cramping under the Oklahoma sun, and the physical limitations were an unexpected twist, Curran said, following an offseason of particularly grueling conditioning.
“I really don’t know what it was because the whole entire offseason we trained in the heat in the hottest time of the day,” Curran said. “I felt like we had put in our work, we had trained well and I don’t know if it was the turf or the atmosphere, but we got IVs, came back out and finished strong.”
LIVING THE DREAM
When Georgia’s team bus pulled up next to the plane the team was taking to Oklahoma last week, freshman quarterback Aaron Murray knew he’d finally made the big time.
“Getting on the plane and the bus actually drove to the plane, it was pretty cool, all that stuff,” Murray said. “From the hotel to the meetings, the whole experience, I loved every minute of it.”
Well, everything but the final score, he said.
Despite the loss and the lack of playing time – Murray remains third on Georgia’s quarterback depth chart – he said the experience was invaluable, not to mention pretty entertaining.
“It was pretty crazy, especially being so close to the fans,” Murray said. “There was some crazy stuff being said. But it was entertaining just standing on the sideline listening to them.”
Of course, things will be a bit different this week as Murray gets his first taste of the home crowd and life in the SEC. It’s an experience he’s excited about, however. After soaking in the crowd of just more than 57,000 in Stillwater, Okla. last week, he can’t wait to see what game days in the SEC will be like.
“When they announced it right after halftime, like 50-some thousand, I was like, we have 90,000. Tennessee has 100,000,” Murray said. “It’s going to be crazy in those games and I’m excited for this weekend.”
UP ON DOWTIN
Marcus Dowtin didn’t figure to get a ton of playing time against Oklahoma State, but after the sophomore linebacker saw increased action while several other players required IVs during the game, Curran said he’s gained confidence in his young teammate to get the job done on a more routine basis.
“It’s definitely impressive,” Curran said. “We always want to have young guys step in and he did a great job of keeping his poise. He did a great job on the goal line of just staying focused and making plays.”
To those of you wonder, no, Richt wasn't thrilled about the report that Logan Gray would start Saturday, but he took it well for the most part. Still, when a reporter inquired as to how open practice might be today, Richt made sure he underscored where his frustration with the media rumors has taken the program.
"Even some of the people that might be out there on an earlier weekday, we try to shut it completely down," Richt said of practice. "But if one of the coaches' kids wanted to be there or my dad wanted to watch it, we're not going to say nobody. We try to close it down. We've told the players, usually parents are allowed, but there's so much going on to tell writers, stories and stuff like that. For some reason, they feel good when they see a little something they can tell the world. It makes them feel important, I guess. And the more of that that happens, the harder it makes it to say, 'Come on out and enjoy the day.' There are some things you could see that are very obvious to even my mother that we're doing this or that, and she might tell her girlfriend and she tells her son and then it's on the Net. I don't think you can stop it, but we try to control it a little bit. Maybe."
I guess this is as good a time as any to admit it: Richt's mom has been my source all along.
I'm kidding, of course, but there may be a silver lining to all this.
As Seth Emerson at The State reports via Twitter, South Carolina defensive coach Ellis Johnson is now a believer that he's going to see Logan Gray this weekend.
Saturday, August 22, 2009
It has been three weeks since Georgia started fall camp, and the grueling pace of practice is starting to wear on the players.
It's not that the Bulldogs are easing up, it's just that they're getting tired of tackling each other.
"I think we're just ready to play somebody else," quarterback Joe Cox said. "You come out of camp and it's kind of a relief, but you're really still in it, you just have school to go along with it."
A year ago, Georgia was already into the game-planning phase for its opener, but this August, the team has an additional week to prepare for its first game of the season against Oklahoma State.
On the positive side, it's an extra week to get ready for what promises to be one of Georgia's toughest opening-week opponents in years. The downside, however, is that all the reps in practice are starting to get a little dull.
"We're ready to hit that phase where we're game planning and worrying about other teams and going other places rather than just coming out and doing the same things every day," Cox said.
After three weeks of the most grueling preseason senior Jeff Owens can remember, however, the extra week of practice time isn't so much about preparation as it is about rejuvenation.
"This extra week will help guys get their legs back up under them," Owens said. "I think we can just go out and work on our fundamentals and get better, make sure everyone knows the scheme of the defense."
THE SUM OF THEIR PARTS
Richt offered a ringing endorsement to sophomore Richard Samuel on Friday, saying the tailback was firmly atop Georgia's depth chart. But while Samuel hopes to approach the 1,400 rushing yards compiled by Knowshon Moreno a year ago, the plan for replacing the 33 receptions and nearly 400 receiving yards Moreno added is still likely to be a committee approach.
"I think we're kind of going to pull from everybody to get certain aspects of what Knowshon did," Cox said. "Richard's a hard runner, kind of a bruiser and he gets open, but it's not like he has incredible ball skills."
Samuel caught just two passes for 11 yards as a freshman, numbers likely to increase with additional playing time this season. Still, fellow tailbacks Caleb King and Carlton Thomas are better known for their abilities as receivers and are likely to see plenty of action in that role.
"A guy like Caleb or Carlton, they have really smooth hands," Cox said. "I'm not saying we're not going to throw the ball to Richard, but I definitely think we'll be using them rather than expecting Richard to run every down and catch every ball we throw to the backs."
Senior defensive end Marcus Washington returned to the practice field Saturday after missing two days due to illness. Sophomore linebacker Marcus Dowtin worked out with the team, too, but in a green, non-contact jersey. Dowtin had missed nearly a week with strep throat.
"He's been in the bed," Richt said of Dowtin. "He hasn't even been going to class. But he's coming out of it now and he's made enough progress for us to believe he'll be back Monday."
The two illnesses were enough to warrant quick medical attention for both players, but it's a scenario Richt said his training staff has been preparing for since the spring.
With the outbreak of the H1N1 virus – better known as the swine flu – Richt said trainer Ron Courson and his staff have been quick to diagnose flu symptoms and isolate players who may be ill.
"We had a few guys over the summer that we moved them out of their dorms or we moved a roommate out of the dorm when we thought a guy might have some flu symptoms," Richt said. "Even Dowtin, we kept him away from everybody even though we knew it was more of a strep throat thing. Ron always does a great job, but on this we were pretty proactive."
DON'T BELIEVE THE HYPE
Last season, Georgia entered the year with its best-ever preseason ranking, players on the cover of Sports Illustrated and a ton of hype surrounding the team. The result was a disappointing 10-3 campaign in which the Bulldogs never came close to meeting lofty expectations.
This year, the shoe is on the other foot as Oklahoma State features the Sports Illustrated cover boys and national attention. While Cox isn't ready to call that an advantage for his side, he said he's well aware of the perils of too much publicity before a team even hits the field.
"I don't know how much of an advantage it will be," Cox said. "They might feed off of it. I just know it wasn't the best thing for us, or at least it didn't turn out to be last year. I like the way we're ranked. I like being in an underdog situation. I think it made us work harder this offseason, and we'll see how it affected them when we play them."
(NOTE: Cox may not know if it's an advantage, but I highly recommend reading this story from The Oklahoman and forming your own opinion.)
SCOUTING THE COW POKES
Georgia began scout team work for Oklahoma State on Friday -- doing about 20 minutes of preparations, head coach Mark Richt said. The scout team work will increase gradually this week, culminating with Georgia's final preseason scrimmage Wednesday in which the No. 1 units will play a simulated game against the scout team's version of Oklahoma State.
"We're in good shape," Richt said. "We're ready to move into our scout team units. By Wednesday we want them to have enough work so that when we have that game, they've give us a pretty good look."
After Wednesday's practice game, the Bulldogs will take Thursday off, then return to full practices Friday and Saturday. Next Sunday is a regularly scheduled off day and Georgia then begins its normal preparations the following Monday with a practice in full pads.
"It'll be good to be moving toward the game plan, but I think it will also be good to get their bodies refreshed," Richt said.
IT'S A MYSTERY
As to what Georgia might expect from Oklahoma State, Richt has some good news and some bad news.
When it comes to the defensive side of the football, Richt said the Cowboys offer some familiar looks.
"Defensively, as far as schematically, they're a lot like Arizona State," Richt said. "Their base is a 4-3 and they play quarters coverage. Their fire zones are similar to most everybody else. We're very close to them schematically in the secondary."
The problem, however, is on offense. Oklahoma State features three talented playmakers in quarterback Zac Robinson, wideout Dez Bryant and tailback Kendall Hunter and usually employ spread formations. The problem is, the Cowboys' spread isn't much like the others Georgia has played in the past.
"Offensively, I can't really say there's anybody that would closely relate to them," Richt said.
Finding a suitable replacement for departed wide receiver Mohamed Massaquoi wasn't a difficult chore Cox said. Senior Michael Moore is expected to earn the bulk of the throws that went to Massaquoi a year ago, and that's a role Cox said Moore was ready for even before this season.
"He's a guy who works hard every day, knows what to do, and he's dependable," Cox said. "Any time you have a guy like that you want to get him the ball because you know he's going to be in the right place at the right time."
FITTING RIGHT IN
The attention has focused on the new faces fighting for the starting tailback job this offseason, but head coach Mark Richt said the new man coaching the tailbacks has done a pretty impressive job so far, too.
Bryan McClendon has only been on the job for about eight months, but Richt said the players have enjoyed his coaching style and the rest of the staff has been a strong support system.
"He's got great support with (last year's running backs coach) Tony (Ball) being right there, and of course, Mike (Bobo) and really Coach (Stacy) Searels," Richt said. "So he's surrounded by a really good support and everybody believes in him. And the players, they believe in him and are responding real well."
-- Demarcus Dobbs and Nick Williams had both been in green jerseys following minor neck sprains last week, but both were back on the field and full participants in Saturday's practice.
-- Caleb King is looking better, but he may not practice fully for a few more days. "I will say he'll start doing some drill work, doing some ball handling, maybe doing some pass skeleton, but I don't know," Richt said. "He's getting close though."
-- A handful of players with hamstring injuries could be back as full participants in Georgia's next practice Monday. "By Monday, hopefully a lot of these guys that haven't been working will work," Richt said. "I think Reshad (Jones) is real close, Aron White's real close. (Bryan) Evans, I'm not sure if he'll go full speed Monday, but they're all getting work."
-- Add Darius Dewberry to the "getting close" list, with a little extra praise coming his way. "Dewberry's very close. I would say this week coming up and maybe Monday," Richt said. "He really had a great summer. He's in tremendous shape, he's strong, and he knows what he's doing and has become very good at it."
-- One player lagging in his recovery is linebacker Akeem Dent, whose timetable for a return remains unclear. "Dent is actually a little further behind some of these other guys," Richt said. "He's not responding as quickly. I'm hoping by the end of the week Dent will be able to go but I'm more optimistic about the other hamstrings."
-- Just in case you haven't cruised over to Macon.com yet, be sure to check out my story on tailback Carlton Thomas, who has kept his name in the conversation for significant playing time this offseason despite the constant concerns about his size.
-- Matthew Stafford is getting the start for the Detroit Lions tonight, in case you were wondering.
-- Got an email from Sean F. asking: "Do you know when Jeff will begin his blog again? And has it not been updated lately due to NCAA rules or just the time constraints of football?"
There are no problems with NCAA or team rules. Quite the opposite, actually. Jeff's biggest issue, he said, has been finding good topics to write about, but the school is actually planning to give him a hand with that, and he'll be back to blogging soon.
"I've got a lot of stuff coming up," Owens said. "I'm supposed to get hooked up with sports communication to put it on GeorgiaDogs.com and they're going to have different people talking about what they want to hear, what they want to read and stuff, so that'll give me help."