ATHENS – The secret is out. Safety Shawn Williams is going to play some linebacker for the Bulldogs. But he didn’t realize that was a known when he was first asked by reporters on Wednesday. So he tried to deny it.
“I’m still a safety,” he said. “I don’t know anything about that position.”
Williams didn’t realize head coach Mark Richt and defensive coordinator Todd Grantham had already ‘fessed up after Williams was observed working with the inside linebackers in practices Tuesday and Wednesday.
“Yeah, he’s doing a little work there,” Richt said after Wednesday’s workouts at Woodruff Practice Fields. “It’s so often that a safety does spin down inside the box to play the run in a certain gap, so he is a big enough body and a guy who has played that responsibility. But I don’t think it’ll be an every-down thing.”
Then Richt added: “I’d also like to say to Coach Grantham, ‘they already knew, Coach, so don’t get mad at me.’”
Grantham had already grudgingly admitted as much on Tuesday.
Georgia is having to shuffle players around to fill the void left from the foot injuries of starting inside linebackers Alec Ogletree and Christian Robinson. Each is expected to be out at least a couple more weeks.
Cornerback Brandon Boykin said Wednesday that Williams is working at Ogletree’s “Mo” linebacker position and junior Michael Gilliard is manning Robinson’s “Mike” position, which makes the defensive calls.
Williams is a perfect candidate. The 6-foot-1, 220-pound strong safety is one of the Bulldogs’ best tacklers and often rolls down into the second level to man gaps on run downs. Starting the first two, he’s fifth on the team with 10 stops.
“I think I’m an athlete,” said Williams, who played some linebacker at Early County High. “I feel like I can play any position they put me at right now. If they want me at D-end I feel like I can go out there and do it if I put my mind to it.”
With Williams at linebacker, Sanders Commings shifts back to strong safety from cornerback.
TE Aron White sidelined
Georgia tight end Aron White missed his second day of practice this week with a sprained right knee and is considered “questionable at best” for Saturday’s game, Richt said.
White, a senior who has already graduated, was injured during last Saturday’s game. He is the second-team tight end behind junior Orson Charles. Sophomore Arthur Lynch will absorb White’s snaps.
Figgins among captains this week
Fullback Bruce Figgins was among four Georgia players designated as captains for Saturday’s game. The others are Boykin, tight end Orson Charles and center Ben Jones.
Richt felt especially good about the designation for Figgins. The senior from Columbus was switched from tight end after last season and has overcome suspensions, injuries and a late-career redshirt season.
“I haven’t seen Bruce this happy in a while,” Richt said. “It’s been tough. He’s had some tough bumps in the road, but this kid has overcome it. He’s become a leader. He’s become an excellent fullback. He’s still a very good tight end. I’m so thankful that this experiment worked out as well as it did.”
Branden Smith ‘good to go’
Boykin has been a national sensation with his ability to play offense, defense and return kicks. He leads the SEC and is sixth nationally with 194 all-purpose yards per game.
Ninety-four yards have come on runs on offense. That’s a role usually reserved for defensive teammate Branden Smith. But Smith hasn’t gotten an offensive carry so far this year. Georgia coaches say it’s because of a foot injury suffered late in preseason camp.
But Smith says he’s fine now and can take some offensive snaps if needed.
“I’m just waiting on my name to get called,” said the junior from Atlanta. “Right now they’re calling Brandon’s name and he’s on fire, so I’m not mad. . . . It’s the coach’s call. If he thinks I’m healthy enough to play offense, then he’ll put me in there. Like I say, I’m 100 percent ready. I can return punts, play defense, play offense, whatever, so I’m here to help the team win.”
Like Boykin, Smith also returns kicks and plays defense for the Bulldogs. He has returned three punts for 37 yards.
Etc. . . .
Left guard Kenarious Gates, out since the first half of the opener with an ankle injury, is listed as probable to play on Saturday. Sophomore Dallas Lee has played well in Gates’ absence is is unlikely to be replaced. Gates has also been working at left tackle. The players at all four other positions on the line have played every snap the first two games. . . . Georgia practiced for two hours Wednesday in “shells.” Today they’ll have a “dress rehearsal” scrimmage at Sanford Stadium.