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 attack “so prolific the defense doesn’t have to stop opponents cold, just hold them off a little better than it did last year.”
Meanwhile, SI’s preview issue ranks Georgia No. 15.
The magazine is scheduled to reach newsstands today, although the Oklahoma State regional cover presumably won’t reach Georgia (except, perhaps, for the UGA locker room).
The Bulldogs play at Oklahoma State on Sept. 5.
Georgia coaches have been saying there are five candidates to start at tailback and three to serve as backup quarterback. Those numbers figure to be reduced soon after today’s late-afternoon scrimmage in Sanford Stadium. (Update: Because of weather, the scrimmage has been moved up to morning. In progress now. It is closed to media except for warmups, but will post update after CMR holds post-scrimmage briefing.)
Running backs coach Bryan McClendon said Tuesday that he has been giving all five tailback contenders roughly equal reps with the Nos. 1 and 2 offenses in practice and will do the same in today’s scrimmage. But after today, he indicated the field will separate and the parity will dissipate. “I was really hanging off until the scrimmage to give me some sort of pecking order,” he said. And by the way, McClendon said Caleb King, currently No. 1 on the tailback depth chart, “came in in much better shape” and is “working his tail off.”
Although the logical assumption is that Logan Gray will start the season as the No. 2 quarterback, coaches have said Gray is competing with freshmen Aaron Murray and Zach Mettenberger for the job. Asked Tuesday when that will be further sorted out, offensive coordinator Mike Bobo said it might be today or it might be the middle of next week. In any case, soon.
Beyond specific depth-chart battles, the coaches are eager to see generally how the team performs in the first scrimmage of preseason camp.
“I’m interested to see how guys compete when they get hit , playing in the stadium and playing without their coaches behind them telling them what’s going on,” Bobo said. “I’m just excited to see who’s going to step up [and to] try to get an idea of what our identity is going to be, based on who can make plays and who will move the football.”
Every word gets parsed in Bulldog Nation, so when Mark Richt commented after several practices that defensive players were doing a good job of coming up with interceptions, concern understandably surfaced about whether the quarterbacks were doing a bad job of throwing the ball.
Richt said on Monday that most of the picks have come with the No. 2 offense playing against the No. 1 defense. And on Tuesday, Bobo said: “I think the defense has done a nice job of making plays . . . catching some balls and intercepting them. But when you’ve got two freshmen quarterbacks out there, you’re going to have turnovers. That’s just how it goes.”
Last thing. Wil Walton asked here yesterday for an update on Branden Smith, the speedy freshman cornerback.
The coaches have said they’re open to occasionally using Smith on offense at wide receiver. But so far, Smith said, he has worked only on defense and special teams (punt return, kickoff return and punt block).
Asked his expectations for his freshman season, Smith said: “Take it game by game, day by day. Try to get better. Play with my team. Learn from the vets. Win a national championship.”
That last sentence from Smith is your prize for reading to the end. Thanks.