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 veteran players on this team. This strong comment from Richt late last week underscored the point: “This year, maybe more than any year that I can remember, if the young guys watch the old guys and say that’s the way to do it, we’ll continue to have a great culture on this team.”
3. While Richard Samuel is the No. 1 tailback, Bobo seems to like the idea of mixing the 6-foot-2, 224-pound Samuel and the 5-foot-7, 180-pound Carlton Thomas in the game plan. “You see a lot of good teams across the country — college and pro — and a lot of them have two backs,” Bobo said. “One’s a changeup guy, and one’s more a powerful, move-the-chains guy. I think it’s a great asset for us to have those two guys who are a little bit different styles.” It’ll be interesting to see how this combo plays out Saturday and beyond.
4. Interesting comment from Samuel, a cerebral player, on how he was able to use spring practice, when he was sidelined with an injured wrist, to his advantage: “I was able to sit back and watch practice, watch why our offense does certain things, read the defense, learn more about the game. Just because I wasn’t able to get out there and play and perform, I used that as basically learning time — [time to] learn all the fundamentals of the whole offense, not just being a running back.”
5. Another week went by without tailback Caleb King on the practice field, raising the question of whether he’ll even be on the plane to Oklahoma. King has been sidelined since suffering a hamstring injury 19 days ago and probably will need to practice Monday or Tuesday at the latest, Bobo said, to figure in this week’s game plan. Said Richt: “We’re not taking anybody on the plane unless we think they can play that game and help us win. If we don’t think he has any chance of playing, he won’t go. If we think he’s got a chance of playing, he’ll be on the plane, and if we need him we’ll put him in.”
6. Richt wasn’t thrilled with a mid-week scrimmage, particularly on offense, but otherwise seemed pleased with how things went in practice last week. In fact, with the exception of three or four days, he has seemed pleased with a month’s worth of practices.
7. Sounds like freshman Branden Smith is going to get some immediate playing time at cornerback, as well as remaining in the running to return kickoffs.
8. Georgia’s need for offensive playmakers means that freshmen wide receivers Marlon Brown and Rantavious Wooten and freshman tight end Orson Charles likely will be called on right away, even if they’re not fully ready. “I’m not going to lie to you and say I am 100 percent comfortable they are going to be able to go out and execute everything we want to do, but they are going to have to play because of the need offensively at those positions,” Bobo said Friday night. “Will we be at full potential Game 1? Probably not. But I think they’ve got talent that will help them survive early on, and hopefully [they'll] keep getting better mentally and understand what we’re trying to do throughout the season.”
9. Coaches named captains for the first game: Joe Cox on offense, Rennie Curran and Jeff Owens on defense and Demarcus Dobbs on special teams. Richt said so many players have emerged as leaders that there were numerous other deserving candidates
10. Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy spent about 15 minutes on the phone with Georgia-based reporters Friday. He made it clear he’s “not really buying” talk of Georgia rebuilding and said he thinks the Cowboys’ defense will be improved. “How much better, I don’t know,” he said. “We’ll find out. We’ve got a tough test in the first game.”