(Hey. Just a note that this is my last post for a while. I’m on vacation until July 14. By then, we’ll be only about a week away from SEC football media days, to be soon followed by the start of preseason practice . . . and, before you know it, the trip to Stillwater. For now, here are a couple of stories I did on the impact of Georgia’s ultra-lucrative new marketing and media deals — this one about how some of the new money will be spent and this one about the effect on the fans.)
Athens — About once a week in the quiet months between spring ball and preseason practice, a number of Georgia football players meet with beat reporters covering the team at the Butts-Mehre building. Honestly, these sessions don’t generate much news. But here are a few things I picked up in this week’s availability:
– Another voice expressed the view that the defense is motivated to redeem itself after last year’s debacles. “I feel we don’t get as much respect as we need to, but that comes in due time,” linebacker Marcus Dowtin said. “Based on some of the things that happened over last year, I think we kind of got looked down upon. I mean, we have a lot to improve on, and that’s what we’re working hard to do this year.” Asked if he’s approaching the season with a chip on his shoulder, Dowtin said: “The whole defense is . . . preparing like that, working hard. I feel personally that I’m definitely working harder preparing with a chip on my shoulder because I have a lot to prove.”
– As you know, there’s lots of need –- and opportunity –- at the receiver position, where the Dogs will be looking for guys to step up beyond sophomore star A.J. Green and productive senior Michael Moore. In his second season in the program, Tavarres King thinks he’s ready to play a big role. “I’ve got a long way to go, but I’m feeling more comfortable,” King said. “The speed of the game has kind of slowed down to me.” He’s put on eight pounds since the end of spring practice, to 184.
– King said the reality is that Green “is going to get double-teamed. He got double-teamed a lot last year. But it’s very important to find that guy [to take some pressure off]. It could be Marlon Brown, could be Rantavious Wooten, could be Mike Moore, Israel Troupe, myself.” King said the receivers, as a group, are “viewing it as an opportunity. Eveybody’s eyes are wide open for this thing.”
– Like others, King thinks freshman tight end Orson Charles and freshman cornerback Branden Smith will contribute at WR. On Charles: “Orson is awesome. . . He’s always ready to go. You can tell he’s got his head on his shouders. He’s always focused, excited. He’s a smooth cat.” On Smith: “Branden can run like a gazelle.”
— Richard Samuel, the sophomore tailback who missed spring practice after wrist surgery, said he’s not quite 100 percent yet. “I can’t do as much weight” as before the injury, he said. But he reiterated he’ll be a full participant in the battle for the tailback job come August.
– Samuel agreed the tailback battle will be decided by much more than ball carrying. “Basically what the coach looks for [is] someone who can still get the job done without the ball –- running your routes, making the right blocks, making the right reads,” Samuel said. “So having those components is essential . . to be the starting running back or the running back who gets the most touches.”
– I missed the visit with tackle Trinton Sturdivant while working on another story elsewhere, but he told my esteemed colleagues on the beat that the versatile offensive line is working out this summer with a stable No. 1 unit: LT Sturdivant, LG Vince Vance, C Ben Jones, RG Cordy Glenn and RT Clint Boling. Of course, no one will be surprised if that changes a bit by Sept. 5. Sturdivant, who missed all of last season after knee surgery, is 100 percent.
– And finally, Samuel weighed in on the team’s attitude and approach: “Everybody is working harder, pushing themselves harder. Everybody is just striving, striving for the best. . . . Basically, the team is leading the team. We are not allowing anybody to slack off.”