(Updated 9 p.m.)
ATHENS – Georgia coach Mark Richt has assigned special-teams coaching duties on the Bulldogs’ reconfigured staff, and defensive coordinator Todd Grantham has assigned new positions to numerous defensive players.
– Coaches first: Richt said that Warren Belin will coach the kickoff-coverage team, Bryan McClendon will handle the punt return and block units, and John Lilly will coordinate special-teams meeting and practice schedules. All of those roles previously were handled by Jon Fabris, fired in December. Richt said Lilly will continue to coach the punt team and Tony Ball the kickoff-return team, as they did last season.
Georgia’s approach to kickoff coverage, as you know, has drawn much criticism the past couple of years. Richt said Belin coached the unit for eight years at Vanderbilt. The Commodores ranked No. 2 in the SEC and No. 29 in the nation in kickoff coverage last season, while Georgia ranked No. 12 in the SEC and No. 117 in the nation. In 2008, Georgia ranked 73rd nationally and Vandy 87th.
– Players next: Grantham disclosed some position changes as the Bulldogs transition from a 4-3 defense to a 3-4.
On the defensive line, he said DeAngelo Tyson and Kwame Geathers will primarily play the new nose position, with Demarcus Dobbs, Abry Jones and Brandon Wood, among others, playing end. Grantham added that Wood and other ends also can play nose. (FYI: The position is referred to simply as “nose,” not nose tackle or nose guard, in the vernacular of Grantham’s defense.)
Grantham said Justin Houston, Cornelius Washington and Montez Robinson — all defensive ends last season — and Richard Samuel, a tailback last season, will play outside linebacker. Akeem Dent, Darryl Gamble, Marcus Dowtin and Christian Robinson will be inside linebackers.
Grantham stressed that many players will work at more than one position and that there will be ongoing position changes.
“I think it’s important that players are flexible, that they can adjust and that they can play more than one position,” Grantham said. “I believe it’s real critical for guys to learn more than one spot to allow you to get your best players on the field.”
Said Richt: “One of the things we want the players to understand is that they shouldn’t get too worked up about the depth chart . . . because our new coaches are still learning those guys and there probably will be some moving around. . . . Just prove you’re a football player and we’ll get you in the right spot.”
Richt said Nick Williams, who moved from safety to linebacker early last season, will return to safety.