A year ago, Georgia’s football team was preseason No. 1. A year later, that seems like a long time ago.
So, minus Matthew Stafford and Knowshon Moreno, what is the general feeling about where the Bulldog program is today?
Coach Mark Richt tackled that question this week (and you’re welcome to do so below).
“I think in our building [the feeling] is very good,” Richt said. “We know we have a lot of guys who have been in our program for a while, you know, preparing for their opportunity.
“I think fans really know your starters pretty good and know your signing class pretty good, and they tend to forget about everybody in between that’s working their tail off for their opportunity. I think we as coaches know we’ve got a lot of guys in that category.”
Ask about any of the question-mark positions, and Richt mentions someone he sees as eminently capable of providing the answer.
Defensive end? Richt thinks Rod Battle is capable of a big senior season, ”and I think [Demarcus] Dobbs was really having a fantastic spring before he got hurt. I think Dobbs has matured a lot. He’s become a good leader for us and got to the point he has really bought into the Georgia way.” (Dobbs broke a bone in his foot during spring practice but is expected to be 100 percent come August.) Richt also reiterated the plan to use linebacker Darryl Gamble as a pass rusher in nickel situations. “We’re excited about him helping us in that department.”
Tailback? Richt doesn’t know who’ll be the starter, but he spoke highly this week of Caleb King’s progress as a pass protector and in understanding the system. Plus, “he’s an outstanding runner.” Still, the coaches are looking forward to seeing Richard Samuel, Dontavius Jackson and incoming freshman Washaun Ealey compete in preseason practice, too. “We’re just all going to observe and try to decide who deserves to start and who deserves the most amount of carries,” Richt said. “The big thing for all of them — Washaun especially — is to really get serious about pass protection.” Richt added: “I do think our running backs and quarterbacks will benefit from a strong, more veteran offensive line than Stafford and Moreno had the last couple of years. So I think that will help whoever plays that running back spot.” Richt has said it doesn’t matter to him whether one back gets the bulk of the carries or whether it’s tailback-by-committee.
The defense in general? “Jeffrey Owens, I know, is going to be huge for us to get back,” Richt said. “He’s an outstanding player, but he’s also a very spirited player — a guy who can rally people around him. And I think Rennie [Curran] has grown into his position now where he has the ultimate respect of his teammates. And you get that strong leadership right up the gut, it helps very much. And Reshad Jones and Bryan Evans. Right up the heart of our defense, there are a lot of veterans everybody respects and who are outstanding leaders for us. If we stay healthy and play with the type of spirit I know we can, we’ll be much improved on defense.”
Now, changing the subject to a couple of non-football topics:
– The baseball draft: The 11 UGA players picked in the MLB draft were the most from any school this year. Florida and Ole Miss had 10 each. And Georgia’s 11 were by far its most ever. Previously, the most Bulldogs chosen in one draft was six, most recently last year. Of this year’s 11 drafted Dogs, eight are juniors, meaning they could opt to return for one more season in Athens. Slugging 1B Rich Poythress has made it clear in a couple of recent conversations that he intends to sign with Seattle and get his pro career started. He points out he’ll be 22 by the end of the summer and figures this is his time. It’s also expected that closer Dean Weaver (seventh-round pick) and OF Matt Cerione (13th round) will sign pro contracts. But it’ll be interesting to see what the other five juniors, drafted in the 17th through 47th rounds, do –- stay or go? (I’d guess stay, in most cases.) Georgia also had six signees drafted. Here are the lists of drafted Dogs (with overall selection number):
51. Rich Poythress (Seattle Mariners, 2nd round)
81. Trevor Holder (Washington Nationals, 3rd round)
202. Dean Weaver (Washington Nationals, 7th round)
383. Matt Cerione (Seattle Mariners, 13th round)
506. Jeff Walters (Baltimore Orioles, 17th round)
771. Michael Demperio (Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, 25th round)
787. Alex McRee (Los Angeles Dodgers, 26th round)
901. Bryce Massanari (Colorado Rockies, 30th round)
966. Will Harvil (Arizona Diamondbacks, 32nd round)
1232. Joey Lewis (Kansas City Royals, 41st round)
1405. Justin Earls (Pittsburgh Pirates, 47th round)
404. Zach Dotson (New York Mets, 13th round)
798. Miles Head (Boston Red Sox, 26th round)
838. Eric Swegman (Atlanta Braves, 28th round)
925. Zach Taylor (Pittsburgh Pirates, 31st round)
958. Jake Montgomery (Atlanta Braves, 32nd round)
1016. Malcolm Clappsaddle (Baltimore Orioles, 34th round)
– NCAA track and field: The only person in the history of the UGA men’s track and field program to win the NCAA championship in the javelin, Chris Hill, will try to do it again tonight. (Here’s a story on Georgia’s unknown national champ.) Hill, who won the event last year, needed just one throw to qualify for this year’s finals at the NCAA Track and Field Championships in Fayetteville, Ark. His opening throw of 234 feet, 4 inches was the second longest of the qualifying round Wednesday night. USC’s Corey White had the longest qualifying throw (254-10). Hill’s longest throw this season is 265-10. Six UGA athletes have won NCAA individual championships during the 2008-09 school year, led by gymnast Courtney Kupets, who won four. Four swimmers and one equestrian rider won NCAA titles in their events. A swimming relay team also won a title. Hill tries to add to the impressive list tonight.
(And with that, I’m off to vacation. Back on June 22.)