One thing to keep in mind when parsing the comments of college football players about their program in the offseason is that you can nearly always expect to hear that everyone’s working harder than they did last year and the whole team is more focused.
Keeping that in mind, there still were nuggets coming out of Thursday’s interview session by several players worth noting — some that are encouraging, even taking the Everything’s Better This Offseason Syndrome into account, and even a couple of comments that were downright revealing.
On the encouraging side, you have to admire the attitude of current wide receiver and possible future wide receiver/cornerback/kick returner Malcolm Mitchell, who, when asked about former UGA iron man Champ Bailey playing 100 snaps in a game, replied: “I want 101.”
“I don’t want to come off the field,” Mitchell said about possibly going three ways in games. “I will put in the work to make sure I can physically withstand it all. If I get the opportunity, I would definitely take advantage of it.”
On the other hand, the main knock on running back Isaiah Crowell last season was that, at times, he didn’t seem to want to stay on the field. Now, that doesn’t mean fan obsession with and criticism of Crowell wasn’t over the top, because it was. He was, after all, named SEC freshman of the year. And his team mentor, Artie Lynch, was eloquent in defending Crowell over his inability to get past an ankle injury late last season — though that’s sort of what you’d expect Lynch to say.
But in talking about how much harder Crowell is working this offseason compared with last, Lynch pretty much confirmed last summer’s rumors about the then-incoming freshman tailback. “I have seen him mature from the day he’s got here, when we had to drag him to workouts, to now, when he’s the leader of his group during workouts,” Lynch said. “Just to see him working out in the sprints and mat drills, you can see he wants to get better and that he’s finally getting it.” (The italics for emphasis are mine.)
Richard Samuel had a similarly telling comment about Crowell when he said, “He’s grown and learned from things that happened. … He’s working toward a goal instead of going through the motions.” (Again, my italics.)
So, Crowell wasn’t the hardest working back in show business last year, but he is working hard this year. Well, good. Because he’ll need to work hard if he wants to hold off Keith Marshall and Todd Gurley.
Meanwhile, back on the positive side, I really liked this from Samuel: “I tried to get on special teams last year but the coaches wouldn’t let me because we had short numbers on backs. But I’m real interested in playing special teams. Freshman and sophomore years I played special teams all the time. I really like it.”
Let’s hope there are more veterans on the team with that mind-set. Sure, that might mean a few walk-ons don’t get quite as much playing time, but the team will be better off for it.
And there also was a tantalizing tidbit from Bacarri Rambo, who believes the Dogs finally will be able to dazzle us with the deluxe version of Defense a la Todd Grantham. With all the returning starters, Rambo said, “We can get deeper in the playbook because we’ve all got another year under our belts under Coach Grantham’s scheme. I know he’s going to have fun with us now because we all know what we’re doing.”
Grantham having fun … that’s definitely something Sanford Stadium crowds will enjoy.
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— Bill King, Junkyard Blawg