Archive for August, 2009

10 Things to Know from Preseason Week 4

Athens — Game week! Finally!

Georgia essentially wrapped up preseason practice on Saturday and now moves into a regular week of game prep for the opener at Oklahoma State.

In keeping with our Monday-morning habit this month, let’s rewind last week to find 10 Things Worth Noticing and Noting from Preseason Week 4:

1. The week ended with two starting offensive linemen out with sprained ankles — No. 1 left guard Chris Davis joining No. 1 center Ben Jones on the sidelines. “It’s a concern,” offensive coordinator Mike Bobo said. “. . . Getting those guys healthy and ready to play the first game is definitely a concern.”  Having both Davis and Jones sidelined is particularly problematic, because Davis had been taking reps at center in Jones’ absence. Head coach Mark Richt said he expects both to be back at practice early this week and to be ready to play Saturday in Stillwater.

2. Much has made made — and rightfully so, it appears — about the improved leadership from the …

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Would Gundy rant again? Will Caleb make trip?

Athens — Mike Gundy is quick to discount the notion that Georgia’s running game is uncertain.

“When we played down there last time,” the Oklahoma State coach said by phone Friday, referring to the Cowboys’ 2007 trip to Athens, “they were talking about difficulty in the running game and that they didn’t know who was going to carry the ball.  And that was the first run-in we had with Knowshon Moreno.  So we’re not really buying that Georgia is doing this rebuilding.”

When the Bulldogs open the season at Oklahoma State next Saturday, they will have a new starter at tailback — sophomore Richard Samuel.

“They say they have a back there that is better than the King kid,” Gundy said, referring to the injured Georgia tailback Caleb King. “I saw the King kid play in high school, so [if Samuel is better] that concerns me somewhat.”

Moreno, the 12th pick of this year’s NFL draft, made his college debut in Georgia’s 2007 victory over Oklahoma State with 70 yards rushing and 51 yards …

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Georgia-Florida A&M game discussed

Georgia continues to seek an opponent to fill out its 2010 home football schedule and has had discussions with Florida A&M, as well as other schools,  UGA associate athletics director Arthur Johnson said today.

“But [there's] nothing firm,” he said.

Johnson said Florida A&M remains a possibility for the final spot on the Bulldogs’ 2010 schedule, but he said a deal could be struck with someone else first.

Aside from the annual game against Georgia Tech, the Dogs have non-conference games next year against Louisiana (Lafayette) in Athens and against Colorado in Boulder.

Meanwhile, if you’re looking for more on the Dogs’ preparation for this year’s opener at Oklahoma State, here’s the blog from earlier today.

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Not yet ready for prime time

Athens –  Sounds as if the Bulldogs have more work to do before they’re ready for the trip to Stillwater.

“Overall, my feeling was we weren’t quite ready to beat Oklahoma State,” Mark Richt said after a practice game Wednesday in Sanford Stadium. “I’m glad we have 10 more days to prepare.”

Georgia played its scout team, which was emulating Oklahoma State, and Richt found some faults:

– “A few too many penalties.”  Two key infractions by the offense — holding and illegal formation — stopped one drive and forced a field goal (rather than a possible touchdown) on another. (While unhappy about the penalties, Richt cited a mitigating factor: liberal substitutions that put a lot of young players on the field.)

– “Just an erratic day offensively.” While the offense put up 27 points in one half of football against the scout team, Richt said it sputtered at times. “It just was not sharp,” he said. “It was not awful, but when you have almost your entire first and second team vs. …

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Counting down to Oklahoma State … and watching out for swine flu

Athens — Like the rest of you, Mark Richt is counting down.

“OK,” he said after practice Tuesday. “It’s getting closer. Down to 10 days after today. Seven practices to go.”

Georgia is immersed now in preparation for Oklahoma State, the opening opponent Sept. 5 in Stillwater.

All of Georgia’s practice Tuesday was closed to the media –- usually, the first three or so periods are open -– because the Bulldogs began working on stuff for the Oklahoma State game right away. Usually the first few periods are devoted to fundamental work, so coaches don’t worry about prying eyes on the field for that. Tuesday, “we were right into all our schemes right away,” Richt said after practice.

Late this afternoon, the Bulldogs will hold a practice game –- also closed –- in Sanford Stadium, with the scout team emulating Oklahoma State.

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With at least 20 cases of swine flu reported on the UGA campus, Richt was asked if he’s worried about it reaching the football team.

“Oh …

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Samuel discovers life as top Dog tailback

Athens — Welcome, Richard Samuel, to life as Georgia’s top tailback.

Named “a solid No. 1″ at the high-profile position by coach Mark Richt late last week, Samuel found himself surrounded by eight reporters after practice Monday evening.

Around campus, too, Samuel has noticed an increase in attention since word got out of his rise to the top of the depth chart at Knowshon Moreno’s old position.

“I’d say people are a little more excited,” Samuel said, “but I just go on with my day.”

The celebrity of the position holds no appeal for Samuel.

“It just doesn’t really matter to me,” he said. “I can go without it.”

The sophomore from Cartersville did admit to some personal excitement about being named No. 1, especially, he said, considering that he missed spring practice after wrist surgery. But he seems to be taking a business-like approach to the whole deal.

“I’d say it probably makes my game go up to another level, to where I have to be able to execute better,” Samuel said. …

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Ten things noted and noticed in Week 3

Athens — As we’ve done the past two Mondays, let’s rewind another week of preseason practice. Here are 10 things worth noticing and noting from Week 3 of the Bulldogs’ preseason:

1. So there’s finally an official leader in the tailback derby, Mark Richt declaring Friday night that Richard Samuel is now “a solid No. 1.”

2. Pretty good endorsement of Samuel by linebacker Rennie Curran, too: “I remember tackling him one time, and I got a headache. . . . He’s definitely the type of back that we need in terms of running that ball in the SEC and playing that hard-nosed football.”

3. Even if Samuel is -– and remains –- No. 1, there still can be prominent roles in the tailback equation for 5-foot-7 Carlton Thomas and, once healthy, former Gwinnett County prep star Caleb King. No one tailback is going to replace all of Knowshon Moreno’s 2008 production: the 1,400 rushing yards (on 250 carries) and the 392 receiving yards (on 33 catches). As Joe Cox reminded reporters Saturday, …

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On furloughs, hoops and an injured center

Athens – Another interesting day on the Dogs beat.

I went to the Tate Student Center – great building, by the way – to hear Michael Adams present his “campus budget update” to faculty, staff and students. The UGA president outlined the state’s and school’s dire budgetary challenges, revealed the six dates UGA employees will take unpaid furlough days (Oct. 30, Nov. 25, Dec. 24, Jan. 4, March 8 and April 30), and said afterward the Athletic Association will be a full participant in the furloughs. Details here.

From an athletics perspective – this is, after all, a sports blog – the bottom line is:

– Six unpaid days off for all Athletic Association employees, including coaches.

– Some flexibility on when those days are taken, so the coaches can coach and the necessary support staff can provide support  when the teams are playing or practicing, then take alternative days off within the same calendar month.

– Six days in which the Athletic Association offices will …

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The word on Ben Jones

Athens – Concern swirled around Bulldog Nation for a couple of hours last night about center Ben Jones‘ practice-field injury. But before worst-case fears got out of control, associate AD Claude Felton walked into the media workroom around 9:45 p.m. to inform three weary scribes of the diagnosis and prognosis:

Sprained left ankle.

X-rays negative.

Day-to-day.

And as soon as word got out, Bulldog Nation exhaled.

As you know, Georgia needs its offensive line, enhanced by the experience gained last year and the return of left tackle Trinton Sturdivant, to be a pillar of the team. A more serious injury to Jones would have been a big blow.

A couple of other things:

– Might surprise you that Georgia, according to Mark Richt, still plans to use apparent No. 2 quarterback Logan Gray as punt returner on kicks  inside the 10-yard line.  Well, punt returner is a misnomer, because those punts aren’t generally returned. Gray’s job is to fair-catch them or let them roll.

“It’s …

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On hamstrings, quarterbacks and more

Athens — So what’s with all these hamstring injuries, anyway?

Georgia had a half dozen significant players sidelined with them on Tuesday — safeties Bryan Evans and Reshad Jones, linebackers Akeem Dent and Darius Dewberry, tailback Caleb King and tight end Aron White.  And while the Bulldogs still expect all of the hamstrings to be healed well before the season opener, Jones has missed almost two weeks of practice and King’s absence has at least temporarily derailed his bid to be the starting tailback.

So, what gives?

Mark Richt said after practice Tuesday that he thinks strained hamstrings are just an inevitable part of preseason “in every single camp.” Always have been and perhaps always will be, he figures.

Rex Bradberry, [a member of Georgia's strength and conditioning staff] who’s  working on getting his Ph.D. [in kinesiology] — I think his final work is about the hamstring injuries,” Richt said.  “He’s gone back 20 years, and he’s, like, you would think with more …

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10 Things to Know from Preseason Week 2

With Georgia’s football team taking a brief break from the practice field  -– off Sunday and Monday -– let’s rewind Week 2 of preseason camp. Here are 10 things worth noticing and noting:

1. Richard Samuel moved to the forefront, at least for now, of the race for the starting tailback job Sept. 5 at Oklahoma State.

2. But Carlton Thomas –- 5-foot-7, 178 pounds — continued to serve notice that he will not be overlooked in the tailback mix.

3. Mark Richt on Thomas: “He is tough. He has really got good hands. I think he has a good feel for our blocking schemes. He’s got great balance. He understands our pass protections and will throw that 100-and-however-many-pound-pound body at these guys the best he can. We know he’ll compete. We like him a lot.”

4. After a 2008 season wrecked by injuries, Rod Battle is happy and healthy. His six sacks in the week’s two scrimmages, albeit against the No. 2 offensive line, suggest he could make a difference.

5. Marcus Washington has …

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The kickoff ‘race’ and other practice morsels

Athens –  When Georgia signed strong-legged Brandon Bogotay, a junior-college kicker from California, in the spring, the general assumption was that he would win the kickoff job for this season.

And he still might.

But at this moment,  incumbent Blair Walsh holds a slight lead over the newcomer.

“Right now, I would say Walsh has got an edge in that race, but in my opinion it is a very tight race,” Mark Richt said last night. “. . . I feel like Walsh right this minute would be the guy.”

Richt said Bogotay “is driving the ball good, is getting a lot of distance.” But: “His hang time has been a little bit erratic. He needs to get a little more hang time on some of his kicks.”

Walsh, Richt said, “has been more consistent with his hang time, really. Both of them have kicked very well, very well.”

As a freshman last season, Walsh handled field goals, extra points and kickoffs. He struggled enough in the latter role that Richt brought in Bogotay. Richt said more than …

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More from the scrimmage . . .

Athens — I tried to hit the highlights of  Wednesday’s full scrimmage, the first of Georgia’s preseason camp,  in  this story. But if you want more, here goes:

– The scrimmage marked another significant marker on the comeback trail for OT Trinton Sturdivant and DT Jeff Owens, both returning from devastating knee injuries.  Both got through the scrimmage in good shape, coach Mark Richt said,  continuing setback-free preseasons.  Quarterback Joe Cox was talking appreciatively about Sturdivant a couple of days ago: “You can tell he’s got all his strength back.  . . .  He’s definitely one of those special linemen  that have feet like a skill guy. Anytime you have a guy like that, especially on your blind side, it  makes you pretty confident when you’re back there.”

–  Richt’s overview of the scrimmage, which matched the No. 1 offense vs. the No. 2 defense (and the No. 1 defense vs. the No. 2 offense): “Our No. 1 offense did extremely well, and our No. 1 defense did …

Continue reading More from the scrimmage . . . »

Bulldogs open against SI coverboys

Athens — Already embracing the role of underdawg this season, Georgia’s football team is gonna love this: Its season-opening opponent is  on the cover of Sports Illustrated.

Oklahoma State is featured on a regional cover of the SI college football preview issue – the first time current OSU student-athletes have appeared on a SI cover, the school announced.

On the cover: senior quarterback Zac Robinson and senior center Andrew Lewis.

Oklahoma State trumpets the coverage:

“OSU is one of three resurgent programs profiled in Austin Murphy’s cover story as a potential BCS spoiler and national title contender. The magazine tabbed the Cowboys as the No. 7 team in the country.

“SI also predicts the Cowboys to finish 10-2 overall, 6-2 in conference play and meet LSU in the Cotton Bowl. The magazine also picked senior cornerback Perrish Cox and junior wide receiver Dez Bryant as preseason All-Americans.”

SI  says Oklahoma State has “an offense full of game-breakers” and an …

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Washaun’s back, and more from two-a-days

AthensWashaun Ealey may or may not earn immediate playing time at tailback for Georgia. But the highly regarded freshman apparently isn’t going to let a little elbow injury get in the way.

So there he was Monday afternoon, back as a full participant in practice two days after being sidelined with a hyper-extended right elbow.

“It’s a little sore, a little tender, but he wants to compete, and that’s good,” Mark Richt said. “And he got hit a couple of times, and it didn’t look like he came back crying or anything like that. So that was good.”

Ealey missed most of Saturday’s and Monday morning’s practices, but he shed the green non-contact jersey for Monday afternoon’s session. He practiced while wearing a small elbow brace designed to prevent another hyper-extension.

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As I’ve mentioned before, all but the first three or four periods of practice – out of 19 periods in each of Monday’s sessions, for example –  are closed to the media. So Richt typically provides …

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Ten things to know from preseason Week 1

Athens – Before moving on to Week 2 of Georgia’s preseason camp, let’s quickly rewind Week 1. Here are 10 things worth noting and noticing:

1. Chris Davis, who started camp on the second-team offensive line after off-season hip surgery, wasted no time reclaiming a spot on the first unit. By the end of the very first practice, he was there, supplanting Vince Vance at left guard.

2. Finally, Kwame Geathers was cleared academically by the NCAA. But now, he has a long way to go physically to catch up with his teammates who were working out on campus all summer.

3. It’s fun to see how much fun Jeff Owens is having, how much he appreciates being back from knee surgery.

4. In a sign of the times, freshman tailback Washaun Ealey broke the news of his elbow injury on his Facebook page, and Owens tweeted frequent updates on Twitter.

5. Linebacker Darryl Gamble is making a lot of plays — two interceptions and two fumble recoveries in one practice alone.

6. “I’m probably gonna cry!” …

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The coach and the grandmother

Athens – Pretty entertaining exchange between Mark Richt and reporters at his post-practice press conference Thursday. Thought you might enjoy. . . .

Richt was talking about freshman receiver Marlon Brown’s grandmother, who strongly influenced his decision to come to Georgia (much, you’ll recall, to Tennessee coach Lane Kiffin’s chagrin).

Richt: “Well, she just is a wonderful lady. When grandmothers are raising their grandchildren as the main caretaker, that in itself is a wonderful thing, and you’ve got to give her a lot of credit. But she is a very tough woman, very intelligent. She is a disciplinarian. Marlon is the way he is because of her. And he has the utmost respect for her, and he should. And even in the very end of the recruiting process, when she didn’t like the way things were handled, she jumped right in and took care of business. She is a no-nonsense gal, I’d say.”

Reporter: She didn’t like the way what was handled?

Richt: “Just at the very end, …

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Freshmen receivers catching on

Athens — Mark Richt really likes his freshmen receivers. The Bulldogs are really serious about reducing penalties. And the radio broadcast team is really large.

Those were my take-aways from Day 2 in Georgia’s preseason camp.

Only a small portion -– about 20 minutes -– of a two-hour practice was open to the media Wednesday, but Richt was pretty animated afterward in discussing his very, very early impressions of the incoming freshmen.

On WR Marlon Brown: “I saw him going up strong on a catch and guys were trying to rake the ball out of there and couldn’t do it because he’s got such strong hands.”

On WR Rantavious Wooten: “I saw [him] running routes, looking like he had been doing it for quite a while. Got outstanding hands.”

On TE Orson Charles: “He made some nice catches. He needs much more precision in his route-running, of course, but . . . he’s getting a pretty good feel for what to do.”

On TB Washaun Ealey: “I like how Washaun looks. He runs with a great center of …

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Former UGA stars Greene, Butler join broadcast team

ATHENS – Two former Georgia football stars, Kevin Butler and David Greene, will join the Bulldogs’ radio broadcast team this season.

Butler, an All-America placekicker in the 1980s, and Greene, an All-SEC quarterback earlier this decade, will have roles on the pregame and postgame shows. Butler will work home games and Greene road games.

They complete an expanded cast that will provide nine hours of radio programming each game day.

Georgia associate athletics director Alan Thomas said today that Butler and Greene will add valuable perspective to the broadcasts –- Butler as a College Football Hall of Famer and Greene as a recent player.

“Getting someone who played under [current coach] Mark Richt was important,” Thomas said. “[Greene's] perspective will be one we haven’t had.”

Greene and Butler will be on the air for the first hour of an expanded four-hour pregame show and for the two-hour postgame call-in show. They will join co-host and veteran Georgia broadcaster …

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Interesting start to preseason camp

Athens — One down, 28 practices to go before the Dogs play at Oklahoma State.

It was a long, hot, interesting first day of preseason camp. Among the things I found most interesting:

– In interviews a few hours before the first practice, numerous players passionately expressed their feelings that this team will be sounder fundamentally and more disciplined than last year’s. I know you’ve heard it before during the off-season, but I’ve got to say, it seems clear there is conviction and sincerity behind the words. Geno Atkins, for example, said: “This season we’ve got a focus, because we know the mistakes we made last year were fundamentals, not doing the little things, not being disciplined, not wrapping up. So we are focused on those things this year.” And Rennie Curran said: “Everybody is hungry. Everybody wants to get into practice and show people what we are about. Everybody is ready to go. I know I am. . . . We’re a real focused team right now. We feel like we are on a …

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A hot start for the Dogs

Good morning from Athens, where the temperature is well into the 80s on the way to the predicted high of 96 by the time the Bulldogs take the practice field this afternoon.

Today’s the day, the long-awaited start of preseason camp.  Thirty-two days ’til Stillwater.

I noticed that  Jeff Owens, the defensive tackle, eager to get back to full-fledged football after missing all but the first eight plays of last season with a knee injury, tweeted this on Twitter last night: “I am signing off, got early wake up in the morning. . . . Practice will be great!!!!”  Four exclamation points.

Practice begins at 3:35 p.m., with 104 players taking the field.  There would be 105, but as you probably know by now, defensive tackle signee Kwame Geathers‘ eligibility hasn’t been certified  by the NCAA Clearinghouse yet and thus he isn’t here.  But everyone else is, including 19 incoming freshmen.

The Dogs will practice in helmets and shorts today and Wednesday, then add shoulder pads …

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The pressing issues of preseason camp

Georgia’s preseason practice starts Tuesday. The season opens 32 days later. I’ll have a story in Tuesday’s paper (on-line Monday PM)  about the biggest issues that need to be resolved on the practice field in the interim. (For Tech fans here: My colleague Doug Roberson has a similar piece today on the Jackets, who open practice one day ahead of the Dogs.)

Some of the issues for Georgia are obvious. Who’ll win the tailback job? Who, if anyone, will step up  at defensive end? Who’ll complement A.J. Green at receiver?

But there are lots of other issues, too, from who’ll win the kickoff job (Blair Walsh or Brandon Bogotay?) to who’ll be the backup quarterback (Logan Gray or Aaron Murray/Zach Mettenberger?). From how many of last year’s injured players will prove to be as good as new to how many of the incoming freshmen will be ready to contribute immediately. And some issues are more generalized, such as improving tackling and reducing penalties.

All in all, I’m looking …

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