It’s good to have the football Dawgs back from spring break and in full pads in Athens.
On offense, the week off from school allowed running backs Keith Marshall and Brandon Harton to return to the field having only missed three practices, and already some spring superlatives are being thrown around on the young defense, with Josh Harvey-Clemons, Tray Matthews and Sterling Bailey drawing favorable mention.
And Mike Bobo sounded confident and comfortable talking with reporters (though I hope he isn’t really giving his children the idea that a sausage biscuit and a Yoo-hoo is the breakfast of champions).
As usual, spring practice is a time when optimism among the fan base runs pretty high, but even taking that into account I’m pretty pumped about a couple of Mark Richt’s likely playmakers and the way they’re approaching the coming season: Aaron Murray and Jordan Jenkins.
Let’s face it, when it comes to work ethic, Murray is something of a freak. The kid’s already got his undergrad degree and is working in a joint master’s-doctoral program. He’s likely to leave UGA owning most school and conference records as a passer. But despite already being the only quarterback in SEC history to throw for 3,000 yards in three consecutive seasons, Murray still doesn’t have an SEC championship ring. So he passed up having fun at the beach on spring break and instead went to Norman, Okla., to work on polishing his game with private quarterbacking coach George Whitfield, who’s worked with the likes of Ben Roethlisberger, Cam Newton and Johnny Manziel.
Murray talked with CBSSports.com about working on things like his consistency and pocket presence and tweaking his upper body rotation in his throwing motion to create more velocity in his passes.
“It was a great week,” Murray said. “I’ve really learned a lot.”
Dedication like that not only offers the promise of a top-notch quarterback getting even better in his senior year, but provides the kind of example that younger players hopefully will emulate: the desire to do whatever is necessary to improve on what you’ve already done.
One of those younger players who’s embracing the challenges of the upcoming season is Jenkins, who many college football observers expect to pick up where Jarvis Jones left off.
That’s a pretty tall order for any player, but from what Jenkins told Chris Low of ESPN.com recently, he’s eager to take it on.
“I know my role is going to have to expand and that this defense is going to need me to do a lot of the great things that Jarvis did and some of the previous pass-rushers in this defense did,” Jenkins said. “If you’re going to play this spot in this defense, you have to be a playmaker and you have to make the kind of plays that take the air out of the other team. … It’s up to me to take the lead now that Jarvis, Alec [Ogletree] and all those other guys are gone, but that’s what I came here to do.”
To do that, Jenkins said he’s working on getting off the ball quicker. “I waited too much this past season for the lineman to come off and would then react to that. I can already tell in our first few practices that I’ve gotten quicker with my first step and am not waiting for the lineman to come off the ball to react. I feel like I’m the one that’s dictating things instead of waiting.”
Opening at Clemson might seem kind of daunting for a defense that’s replacing most of its starters, but Jenkins doesn’t sound intimidated at all. “We’ve all got to have it rolling going into the season, and I cannot wait to get to Death Valley and get this season started,” he told ESPN.
I like the sound of that.
Speaking of spring break, as I mentioned last week my wife and I spent part of the week visiting our UGA grad son, who’s getting another master’s degree, this time at the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill.
During a walking tour of the lovely campus conducted by my son Bill (sporting a red UGA cap), we went into Kenan Memorial Stadium, which sort of has the feel of the Sanford Stadium of my younger days. It even sports hedges, though they don’t go all the way around the field like in Athens. The similarity isn’t really surprising when you consider that the stadiums both date from the 1920s and the original layouts of both Kenan and Sanford were designed by the same man: T.C. Atwood.
One thing I particularly liked about Kenan was its liberal use of Carolina blue. I wish there was more red in Sanford — I miss the days when the seats were red (except for a black “G” in the center sections).
I also was a bit surprised to see that at UNC, a school that prides itself on its academic reputation, there’s actually a campus statue of a football player, Charlie “Choo Choo” Justice. Meanwhile, UGA, which has a much greater football history than North Carolina, has no statue of the likes of Frankie Sinkwich, Charley Trippi or Herschel Walker.
Something for campus planners in Athens to ponder …
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— Bill King, Junkyard Blawg