ATHENS – Saturday’s game in Sanford Stadium will be Arkansas coach Bobby Petrino’s first in the state of Georgia since he abruptly resigned as the Falcons’ coach with three games left in the 2007 season.
“I haven’t even thought about it,” Petrino said Wednesday of his return to Georgia. “This game is all about our players.”
Petrino, who bolted the Falcons for Arkansas, is 15-12 (5-11 SEC) as the Razorbacks’ coach.
Georgia offensive tackle Trinton Sturdivant, who missed almost all of the past two seasons because of knee injuries, played just one series — three snaps — against South Carolina last week. It was his first action of the season after missing the opener with a stomach ailment.
Offensive coordinator Mike Bobo thinks Sturdivant will play more as he gains confidence in his surgically repaired knees.
“He’s healthy,” Bobo said. “Anytime a kid goes through two major knee surgeries, it’s something that is hard for anybody to understand what he might be thinking. But he’s out there practicing, he’s out there getting better every day, and I think it’s going to click sooner or later that, ‘Hey, I’m ready to go, I’m full speed.’”
Georgia beat Arkansas 52-41 last year in a game in which Bulldogs quarterback Joe Cox threw five touchdown passes and earned a national player-of-the-week award. So Richt was asked if Cox’s successor, redshirt freshman quarterback Aaron Murray, has progressed to the point that he is ready for a similar shootout.
“We have to let him shoot a little bit more than we have lately,” said Richt, referring to Georgia’s conservative game plan the past two weeks.
Richt said he generally finds it impossible to predict whether a game will be high-scoring or low-scoring.
“Of course, Joe Cox had a heck of a game [against Arkansas] last year,” Richt said, “and no one would have predicted that, especially after we played Oklahoma State [two weeks earlier] and didn’t have much offensive production. Then it kind of flooded.”
Richt and Bobo made it clear after last week’s game that it’s time to open up the game plan for Murray. Bobo, of course, isn’t eager to disclose exactly what that means going into Saturday’s game against Arkansas. “Just allowing him to make some more plays, I guess, would be the answer,” he said in his weekly chat with reporters Tuesday night.
After the debacle of poor tackling against South Carolina, Georgia has made its practices more physical this week.
“It got ramped up a little bit more,” Richt said Wednesday night. “Our practices have been good [previously this season] but apparently not good enough in regard to simulating tackling without tackling, which is what we call ‘thud.’ So we tried [this week] to make something a little bit more intense than thud but still a little bit less than grabbing guys and throwing them to the ground. When you tackle to the ground all day long in practice, you tend to get people hurt. … I’ll just say it got intensified a little bit.”
A couple of freshmen who are impressing Richt on the practice field: safety Alec Ogletree and inside linebacker Demetre Baker.
On Ogletree: “He’s one guy that will strike you, there’s no doubt about that. He loves to hit. … Because of that, I’m anxious for him to learn what to do and continue to get work and hopefully get some scrimmage downs.”
On Baker: “I don’t know if it’ll turn into any kind of playing time right now, but one guy on the scout team that has really kind of ramped things up has been Demetre Baker. He is showing signs of being able to really run and strike. He’s been playing with a lot of energy, so when you watch him, you’re like, ‘That guy’s going to be pretty good one day.’”