On display at G-Day: A pack of hungrier holdover Bulldogs

Branden Smith isn't about to cede his position without a fight. (AJC photo by Brant Sanderlin)

Branden Smith isn't about to cede his position without a fight. (AJC photo by Brant Sanderlin)

Athens – Technically, most of the members of Georgia’s Dream Team didn’t partake in G-Day. But this isn’t to say the incoming freshmen didn’t have an effect on the intra-squad doings at Sanford Stadium.

Case study: Kwame Geathers was the best defender on the field. (He made four tackles, two for losses, and induced a fumble.) It’s believed that Geathers, a sophomore defensive tackle, will play behind John Jenkins, a JUCO transfer, this fall. That belief isn’t shared by Geathers.

“I’m ready for him to come in,” Geathers said. “It motivates me.”

Mark Richt didn’t just oversee the compilation of a stellar recruiting class; the coach is using the imminent arrival of his Dream Team as a goad for those who already were Bulldogs. “One thing we’ve done this spring is establish competition,” Richt said. “There’s been a winner and a loser in everything we’ve done.”

Then: “These guys know there’s a pack of dogs coming.”

The weirdest part of Georgia football the past two seasons was the failure to hold high its nickname. Georgia’s players stopped playing like Bulldogs. They sought to rely on talent, only to discover that a Mississippi State or even a Central Florida could trump talent with effort.

The dynamics of Georgia football changed. It’s Richt’s job to change them back, and he has made a bright start. Even on a benign April afternoon, there was a sense of purpose unseen on some recent autumn Saturdays. Everyone involved realizes the season ahead isn’t just another season: It’s the time these Bulldogs regain their proud pedigree or whimper off and allow swifter dogs to scurry past.

The Dream Team might well become the class that changes the course of this program. Said Richt: “They’ll make a big impact … I don’t think any of them is coming in here thinking, ‘I’m going to wait my turn.’ ”

That said: No group of freshmen is going to steamroll the SEC. For Georgia to win its division, the holdovers must play bigger and better than they’ve played. Nobody doubts that Aaron Murray and Orson Charles and Branden Smith and Washaun Ealey are major talents, but they haven’t yet yielded major results.

Difference is, there are new major talents — Isaiah Crowell, Ray Drew, Jay Rome, Damian Swann — about to arrive, and nothing focuses a football player’s mind like the threat of playing less (or not at all). Said Richt: “Every veteran is going to have to hold his job or win his job.”

Back to Geathers: Last season he played behind DeAngelo Tyson, who has since moved to end. Geathers always looked to be a prototypical 3-4 nose man — he’s listed as 6-foot-6, 350 pounds — but was never seen as the nose man of coordinator Todd Grantham’s dream. This spring Geathers shed 10 pounds and learned, in football argot, to lower his “pad level.” (Meaning: Get lower.) He was named the defensive MVP of spring practice.

Two months ago, Jenkins was thought to be the interior lineman who might do for Georgia as Terrence Cody and Nick Fairley — both JUCO transfers, by the way — did for programs based in Alabama. After G-Day, Grantham said: “We’re always going to play the best players. We’re always going to find a way to get the best players on the field.”

Meaning: Jenkins and Geathers could wind up playing together. Said Grantham, smiling: “Nothing says one of them couldn’t play end.”

Over time, we’ve witnessed the softening of Georgia football. Guys kept being given second and third chances because there was nobody nearly as gifted waiting to dislodge them. The Dream Team has changed that. Last year’s starter, even last week’s starter, won’t be guaranteed anything longer. There’s a greater depth of skill, and also of drive.

“These guys coming in are talented,” Richt said, “and there’s a bunch of them. They believe they’re good, and I want guys to come in with a swagger.”

Playing for Georgia under Richt had gotten too easy. It’s about to get tougher, and not because the nice-guy coach has turned into Nick Saban. With rookies looking to make a mark and veterans desperate to hold their ground,  the Bulldogs are about to get hungry again.

By Mark Bradley

200 comments Add your comment

todd grantham

April 16th, 2011
5:25 pm

a double header for the ole coach

Michael

April 16th, 2011
5:26 pm

Mark,

Sure hope you’re right. But almost every season under Richt, the team just loses more games than they year before. Richt doesn’t do a good job of fixing stuff.

Mark Bradley

April 16th, 2011
5:26 pm

TG on a BR. (Big roll.) Kudos.

todd grantham

April 16th, 2011
5:27 pm

I have to agree Mark. Nothing pushes a vet like a youngster about to take his job.

Senator Blutarsky

April 16th, 2011
5:29 pm

Murray looked incredible today!!!! Threw 24 td’s!!!!!! #1 most efficient player on the field!!!!!

todd grantham

April 16th, 2011
5:29 pm

it DID get too easy to play for Richt. One problem, I think he overreacted on the Mettenburger incident.

Senator Blutarsky

April 16th, 2011
5:30 pm

Mason & Lemay are TERRIBLE!!!!

Senator Blutarsky

April 16th, 2011
5:31 pm

No one can challenge Aaron Murray, he’s the #1 most talented player in college football. He showed it today.

1eyedJack

April 16th, 2011
5:33 pm

Easy on the Jack Daniels Bluto.

42-34 - Dawgs STILL Run This State!

April 16th, 2011
5:34 pm

Good to see Geathers dominate and Smith use his speed on offense more!

St. Clarkston

April 16th, 2011
5:37 pm

Frankly, I hope branden smith doesn’t play a down of offense this year. He is sorely needed on defense.

1eyedJack

April 16th, 2011
5:42 pm

Mark, I hope you don’t find this inappropriate, given the nature of your literary foray, but I wish to thank you for allowing me the honor of commenting, given the behavior of those misanthrope colleagues of yours, meaning misters Tower and Tucker, who have blackballed my home IP address so that I may not expound upon their writing skills, but merely peruse them.

In closing let me just say….Go Dawgs!!!

Summit Dawg

April 16th, 2011
5:44 pm

I feel pretty confident that the Bulldogs can and will play…..Just how will BooBoo call the
offensive plays??

51WTGW50

April 16th, 2011
5:47 pm

Richt knows he is on his way out if he doesn’t do something. Maybe Richt should wear a Top Hat and a Cape because he is acting like a magician trying to pull a rabbit out of his hat.

Cigar Guy

April 16th, 2011
5:47 pm

Watching such a fine sporting event across the pond, it was nice to see Penn Wagers on this lovely day.

4Dawgs

April 16th, 2011
5:49 pm

Not mentioned, Jarvis Jones looked good. He was in the backfield a lot. Richard Samuel also did pretty good. Ogletree is going to be a beast!

51WTGW50

April 16th, 2011
5:51 pm

We know that wasn’t the UGA Dawgs. There was not a single 15 yrd personal foul penalty. That was somebody else. Wait there were still fumbles stopping scoring drives.

It Ain't Rocket Science

April 16th, 2011
5:56 pm

Believe you are right Mark. The incoming class and the hype surrounding them has made some of the players already on the team, stand up and take notice. Hope it does something for the running backs especially. That to me is the biggest concern UGA has right now. Somebody has to stand up and out at that position. I hope the O line steps up some also.

todd grantham

April 16th, 2011
5:56 pm

I really kind of like the sound of “epic roll”

Senator Blutarsky

April 16th, 2011
6:10 pm

Murray’s the greatest of all time!!!!!!

Tim Dawg

April 16th, 2011
6:14 pm

CMR usually gets on to players that come in with swagger that’s what Fl,Ala,Aub,and LSU all have that the Bulldogs don’t have. When Aaron Murray ran the ball in for a TD last year in a game CMR chewed him out for it. Let the team play hard and all out period.

dawg4u

April 16th, 2011
6:16 pm

We are always undefeated every spring but must honestly say that I am more hopeful and confident this year than I was the last two.

Not Impressed With G DAY

April 16th, 2011
6:20 pm

I was not impressed and I was there up close with the action. The front 7 looked alright and I understand we didnt have the recruiting class. But Mr. Bradley I gotta tell you bud it was a pretty muted crowd at Sanford. The only real highlight came with the former QB’s competing and my buddy and Stafford winning that Skills Challenge. Other than that. I didn’t see a whole lot to impress me. It looked like a lot of to do about nothing…..

waste of time

April 16th, 2011
6:22 pm

here we go again…

Remember the last 5 underachieving years?

DITTO!

guru

April 16th, 2011
6:22 pm

So Bradley,
How bout an early prediction……
How will the dawgs finish in the
SEC EAST?
SEC OVERALL?
NCAA?

Bill Goldberg

April 16th, 2011
6:23 pm

I’m sure some defensive plays were made. Hell, they were playing the UGA offense!

Skeptic but Optimistic

April 16th, 2011
6:25 pm

Mark Bradley is such a homer, I would never base my opinion on the success of a local sports team based on his latest lightbulb ideas. Not saying Mark is not a good writer, but a little more honest analysis and not “feelings” would be great.

Skeptic but Optimistic

April 16th, 2011
6:26 pm

guru – thank you for pointing out MB’s sheer homerism

Ender

April 16th, 2011
6:32 pm

I know G-Day is virtually meaningless, but I couldn’t help but get a little bit excited seeing Kwame disrupting through the middle and Ogletree laying the wood multiple times at or behind the line of scrimmage. Good to see some attacking play from our defense.

Too bad that means our offensive line is porous and terrible. ;)

Ender

April 16th, 2011
6:35 pm

@dawg4u Pretty sure we’re always 1-1 at the end of every spring. And if by undefeated you are only counting the regular season, then you’re being far too optimistic for a Dawg fan. The proper outlook is that we’re winless every spring.

Stinger

April 16th, 2011
6:39 pm

They may look hungry now, but it’s simply because they are playing each other and believe that they actually have a chance. Wait until they play someone with talent.

Alabama Jack

April 16th, 2011
6:39 pm

still the least of the east….

Red Head Joe

April 16th, 2011
6:41 pm

Do you miss me now??? Murray can’t throw worth a lick.

1EyedJacksGhost

April 16th, 2011
6:44 pm

Use a proxy. Then post all you would like on the malcontent tech loving blogs by Tower and Tucker.

Chuck Allison

April 16th, 2011
6:44 pm

Players are anxious to get UGA football program “back on track”. I consider that last year the UGA football program was on track. A 6-7 season is about what I would like to see from the Bulldogs each year with an occasional dip to 3-10 or 4-9. They are much nicer people when they lose consistently.

The Reaper

April 16th, 2011
6:46 pm

CMR beginning to think like Saban is not a bad thing. This is the attitude that the program should have never lost. You have to stay hungry and in the hunt to win the NC at all times. There is never a time for a program like UGA to be lax. UGA should be in the hunt for the NC every season. We should never have to rebuild, only reload. Now let this attitude carry into the summer and into the regular season and the reward will be great. We have to get back to being a nationally recognized program and not just a southern program.

dp

April 16th, 2011
6:48 pm

Bradley…are you saying that Richt has finally seen the light and started pushing his players and coaches into moving with a sense of urgency. Jeez, I sure hope so.

Senator Blutarski

April 16th, 2011
6:49 pm

–what the?–there’s another “Senator B___” on the ajc blogs…hope no one thinks it’s me spouting that nonsense.

Senator Blutarsky

April 16th, 2011
6:54 pm

Murray was 10 for 17, give him the Heisman today!!!!!!

trupert

April 16th, 2011
6:54 pm

I like the attitude and the work ethic of this team and they do look hungry. Starting out with Boise St and then SC should also be a motivating factor, get passed those two undefeated and they can start to feel good about themselves.

The Reaper

April 16th, 2011
6:55 pm

I see we didn’t do enough to garner any verbals on this last day of spring practices.

It Ain't Rocket Science

April 16th, 2011
6:55 pm

Chuck,

You must be a tech. fan. We know how much valuable insight you offer into any meaningful discussion. When AJC does any articles about tech. You always see the Tech. people complaining about the fact that a few UGA fans are being negative on that blog, but it is perfectly OK to do the same for you folks on a UGA blog. Immaturity reins it would appear. And stinger, the bee’s haven’t had a lot of sting for years and yet you critisize the DAWGS. Jealousy is a sad thing to witness from a man, if you are indeed a man, and not some young SNERT.

Senator Blutarsky

April 16th, 2011
6:56 pm

According to my stats here at the firm, Murray had a 198 pass effic rating, why play out the season, that’s 14-0 folks.

douglasville dawg

April 16th, 2011
7:00 pm

Enter your comments here

douglasville dawg

April 16th, 2011
7:01 pm

just got home from G-day. Defense looks good.. Offense is …well offensive

trupert

April 16th, 2011
7:04 pm

Having all these negative comments from all these Alabama fans and all these Auburn fans and most likely a couple of Tech fans just shows that they too think UGA is on the rise.

Yes, Auburn fans be fair warned, UGA is about to start another winning streak against the cheating tigers and after the NCAA gets through with your cheating program, y’all will be lucky to win one out of the next five and Saban better keep on oversigning and whatever else he can do to gain an advantage because UGA is on their way back and if he can’t do a better job than he did in 2010 he might be the next one on the hot seat.

Bg

April 16th, 2011
7:07 pm

Let the big Dawg eat!

trupert

April 16th, 2011
7:09 pm

Brandon Smith looks like he’s ready to make some noise.

destin dawg

April 16th, 2011
7:11 pm

Good to see MR… ” no seniority system ” they all can play… stay hungry.. Junkyard Dawgs are back !!!

tide roll

April 16th, 2011
7:20 pm

Mark, you have to look at this on a position by position basis. How can you have a ” Dream Team ” based on bringing in the 9th rated offensive line class in the conference (per Rivals). Last year, Georgia lost Boling, Davis (Josh), and Davis (Chris), In addition, three guys listed on last year’s two deep have quit: Kevin Perez, Jonathan Owens, and Tanner Strickland. Sturdivant’s gone, and Benedict’s knee injury included nerve damage. Over the past two years Alabama (James Carpenter), South Carolina (Rokevious Watkins), and Arkansas (Jason Peacock), have addressed their lack of depth on their offensive lines by signing these JUCO’S. and the thing is, all these kids are from Georgia! This is what kills me about Richt and Bobo. They don’t see the train coming until it hits them. Your article is encouraging and holds true for most positions but the most important: the offensive line. There is no “Deam Team” here. There is no threat to a starter because there are no quality back ups to compete for a starting position! There’s really no excuse for a program the status of Georgia’s to be in this shape. Richt/Bobo and their lack of foresight will cost the Dawgs yet again.