Too often in recent years, Georgia’s special teams, especially on kickoff coverage, have been, well, not special enough. Too many walk-ons, not enough truly special athletes on the field. And that tendency was exacerbated last year by the rash of injuries that reduced the pool of available players.
This year, Mark Richt is taking a step in the right direction. He told the Greater Atlanta Bulldog Club last night that he doesn’t plan on redshirting any incoming freshman skill players, with the exception of quarterback, and that he plans on giving those freshmen early playing experience on special teams.
The idea is that this will have a twofold benefit: The special teams get the “runners” and “hitters” that they need, and the freshmen learn what they’re supposed to do. “They’ll help us on special teams, and they will grow as players at their positions, too,” Richt said.
Putting more Grade A talent, even if it’s green talent, into our kickoff coverage sounds like a great idea. And as Richt said in the Athens Banner-Herald, some of these kids have the potential to be starters before the season is over. “Sometimes you’re two weeks in and you’re like, ‘They’re not ready, they’re not ready.’ Two more weeks, he probably is ready. Two more weeks after that, he may be your starter.”
This freshmen-will-play edict also means Washaun Ealey will get a crack at tailback. And Richt said it includes defensive backs and linebackers, though the need in those areas is not as pressing. I still think Branden Smith is unlikely to get much playing time in the secondary, though he could be a big contributor on special teams (possibly returning kicks) and probably will get a look at receiver in special packages, since he wants to play both ways. But the Dogs are so loaded at linebacker that, barring injuries, you wouldn’t expect to see freshmen Mike Gilliard and Chase Vasser in the mix.
BULLDOG BITES: Richt told the Banner-Herald that he signed junior college kicker Brandon Bogotay on the basis of film study alone and said, “Even if he doesn’t become the kickoff guy, I think he’ll create the competition to make us better.” … Richt also told the ABH he hopes offensive lineman Josh Davis, recovering from surgery on both shoulders, will be able to play by midseason. … The Macon Telegraph takes a detailed look at how the injury problem spurred Richt to lessen the intensity of practices last year and how he says that hurt the Dogs, particularly on defense. … ESPN.com’s Chris Low, noting that the SEC has renewed its deal with the Georgia Dome for another five years, wonders why the conference doesn’t just make Atlanta the game’s permanent home. “Few events in college football have been as successful or have generated the electric atmosphere that the SEC Championship Game has in Atlanta,” Low says. “Anybody who has been to the game knows what an event it is every December in the Georgia Dome. It’s the closest thing to the BCS Championship Game that I’ve witnessed, and the Georgia Dome is the perfect venue.”