ATHENS – Everybody in Boise, Idaho, is excited about playing Georgia in the Georgia Dome on Sept. 3, but no one is more excited than Tommy Smith.
Smith is a junior inside linebacker for the Broncos and, thanks to quarterback Michael Tamburo’s transfer to UGA, the only Boise State player from Atlanta, or Georgia, for that matter. As such, he has been the No. 1 thorn-in-the-side of his teammates the past few weeks.
Players get just two tickets apiece for away games. Smith said he needs 27 — at least.
“I’ve got 17 right now,” Smith said in a telephone interview this week. “I thought this would be an easy game to get tickets for but it’s been pretty hard. Hopefully I can get 10 more.”
It’s a problem Smith is happy to have. Playing Georgia in the Chick-Fil-A Kickoff Game – playing Georgia anywhere, in fact — is something Smith never dreamed of when he signed with the Broncos out of North Atlanta High.
“Definitely not in the Georgia Dome,” Smith said. “I’m really excited about getting back home and playing in the Georgia Dome in front of my friends and family. I found out when it was released to the newspaper. I started thinking then about how many tickets I could get.”
Smith said he and his family used to attend Atlanta Falcons’ games regularly at the Dome. But he’s never had the pleasure of playing in it. His North Atlanta teams never made it that far in the high school playoffs.
Smith is currently a backup linebacker to Byron Hout, a senior who’s best known for being knocked out by Oregon’s LaGarrett Blount in 2009. Smith plays regularly, though, and filled in last season when Hout was out with a broken foot. He has had 49 tackles the last two seasons and was named to the All-WAC academic team both years.
So how did this Atlantan end up all the way out in Boise?
“It was all about how recruiting played out,” said Smith, a two-star rated recruit. “I wasn’t that highly recruited out of high school. I had a couple of offers but nothing major. Somehow I found myself all the way out Boise on a recruiting visit and I liked it. It was in the winter, like a couple of days before the Super Bowl. There was snow everywhere. I thought it was pretty cool.”
There were conflicting reports after practice Thursday as to how much tailback Richard Samuel was able to participate. Running backs coach Bryan McClendon said the big junior was able to do everything, including 11-on-11 work. Offensive coordinator Mike Bobo insisted he did not have Samuel for 11-on-11.
Suffice it to say, Samuel is back and is involved in preparations for the Boise State game. The 6-2, 238-pound running back has been out for nearly two weeks with a strained quadriceps.
Nevertheless, McClendon indicated that, barring further injury setbacks, Samuel will likely be the starter against Boise State.
“If they’re healthy it’d be Richard and Isaiah right now,” he said when asked the order of appearance. But he said Crowell will play a significant role against Boise State and may eventually start this season.
“You definitely want to see him just keep improving,” McClendon said. “He’s put himself in great position to get a lot of work in that first ballgame. He’s a guy we’re going to have to depend on a lot.
McClendon also listed Brandon Harton ahead of Ken Malcome for the third and fourth spots.
Asked to comment on the play of nose guard John Jenkins, defensive line coach Rodney Garner groused. “If you want to know about him you have to ask Ron Courson,” he said.
Courson is, of course, Georgia’s director of sports medicine. Unfortunately for the Bulldogs, Jenkins remains in Courson’s charge. He has now been out a week with a pulled hamstring.
Harton was also out Thursday with an undisclosed leg injury suffered in Wednesday’s scrimmage. McClendon indicated it was not serious. Fullback Bruce Figgins (hamstring) and wide receivers Marlon Brown (ankle) and Malcolm Mitchell (hamstring) also sat out.
Etc. . . .
Georgia practiced for 90 minutes Thursday in a workout that focused mainly on special teams. . . Offensive line coach Will Friend said sophomore Dallas Lee will be the “first guy in” off the bench for the Bulldogs at either guard position or center. He’d be followed by David Andrews, then Austin Long. However, Kenarious Gates would shift from guard to either left or right tackle if one has to come out of the game. Lee would actually be . . . Outside linebacker Ray Drew has recovered enough from the separated shoulder he suffered in a scooter crash to be counted on to play against Boise State. “He’ll play and he’ll give us some depth,” defensive coordinator Todd Grantham said. “I think he’ll be a guy that will continue to rise as the season goes.” . . . Safety Corey Moore and cornerback Damian Swann are freshmen currently playing on the second-team defense.