GEORGIA FOOTBALL NOTEBOOK
ATHENS – Georgia coach Mark Richt paid Watts Dantzler a compliment after Friday’s practice. He said that the sophomore offensive lineman has “an edge to him” and has “definitely made improvement since the spring.”
But then Richt added, “Having a guy like [John] Theus behind you probably is good motivation.”
In a nutshell, that is now the Bulldogs’ competition at right tackle. With Thursday’s news that projected starter Kolton Houston remains ineligible indefinitely, Georgia has turned to the Dantzler and Theus to battle for the spot.
Theus is, of course, a 6-foot-6, 309-pound five-star recruit out of Jacksonville. The 6-foot-7, 320-pound Dantzler was nearly as big of a deal when he signed with the Bulldogs out of Dalton in 2011.
But, of course, Dantzler has a year’s head start. He laughed when he heard Richt’s theory on his marked improvement.
“I don’t think that’s made me sharper, John being here,” said Dantzler, who played in three games as a freshman. “It’s a great addition that he’s here; he’s someone to battle against. But this year I’m more confident. I know the playbook in and out. I’m very confident going out there and making calls, whereas last year I was hoping the guard knew what to do.
“I studied a lot this summer, worked really hard on the playbook and I’m very confident out here. I think that’s where the sharpness is coming from.”
Richt said Dantzler and Theus are splitting repetitions with the No. 1 offense almost evenly through the first two days of preseason camp. At the moment, Houston almost no reps with the first two units.
Houston is being tested once a week until banned substance that has been in his body for two years is reduced enough for his eligibility to be restored.
“I love Kolton,” Dantzler said. “He’s a good player and one of our best linemen. It definitely hurts us a little bit, but it gives me an opportunity to step up and play. Hopefully it will get resolved and he’ll come back.”
The rest of the line appears fairly well squared away. Neither Dantzler nor Theus are getting any work at left tackle. Left tackle Kenarious Gates, left guard Dallas Lee, center David Andrews and right guard Chris Burnette seem set at the other positions.
“The two things are to get the starting lineup [set] as soon as we possibly can and let them work together,” Richt said. “They need to be a cohesive unit that works together in tandem. . . . We’re going to find a starting five, then we’re hoping to find two or three or four more we think can play.”
Malcome misses Crowell
Ken Malcome is excited about opening the 2012 camp as Georgia’s starting tailback. But his voice turns decidedly somber when the subject turns to his former backfield mate Isaiah Crowell. The two players are close friends and remain so now that Crowell has transferred to Alabama State following his dismissal from UGA.
“I talked to him just this morning; I talk to him every day,” Malcome said. “I tell him to stay humble, change is for the better, always do the right thing. I try to keep him levelheaded. He sent me a picture over there. He’s doing well now. He’s knows what he had, but things happen to keep us humble.”
Malcome definitely remains humble. He wasn’t crowing about his current status as the top player at Georgia’s marquee position.
“I still think he would’ve been our best back,” Malcome said. “Coming into the season all we were thinking about was what a great combo we were going to be. But things went differently. Now he’s going to bring Alabama State a championship and I’m going to try to bring one here.”
Malcome said the Bulldogs remain confident in their running ability with him and senior Richard Samuel leading the way. And he likes what he has seen from freshman Todd Gurley and Keith Marshall, whom they are working overtime to get ready.
“They’re learning faster than I did, a lot faster,” said Malcome, a redshirt sophomore who played in six games last season, starting two. “They came in levelheaded and ready to play. They mess up like we all mess up but, overall, they’ve done a good job.”
Harvey-Clemons at safety
Richt said freshman Josh Harvey-Clemons will work exclusively at safety during camp. The 5-star prospect was signed as an outside linebacker but, at 6-5, 207, hasn’t gained the size to play that position.
“I don’t think he’s really thick enough at this moment or strong enough to play the outside linebacker position,” Richt said. “He could do it athletically, without question, he could play safety without question. I think he could play the nickel; I think he could probably play the corner; he could probably play receiver, too. He’s just very athletic, has very good ball skills, has got a lot of quickness and burst.”
The Georgia football team held its second practice of preseason camp Friday afternoon, working out for approximately two and a half hours in shorts and helmets. The Bulldogs will practice in shoulder pads on Saturday and Sunday before donning full pads for the first time Monday.
“Yesterday I thought everybody was really willing to put in a hard day’s work and started off well, and right at the very end I think the heat got to them a little bit,” Richt said. “We didn’t finish as strong as we should. Today was much better all the way around. We did get some cloud cover that helped, but I thought we had tremendous energy all the way around and it was a good second day. Everything went like clockwork.”
Richt noted that he and his staff have been able to get a feel for the Bulldogs’ true freshmen after two practices.
“We are pleased with the talent base and the attitude and willingness to be learned and coached,” Richt said of the freshmen. “Their skill sets are outstanding, and the athleticism is outstanding. I heard a lot of coaches talk about the explosive ability of the defensive players that play on or near the line of scrimmage.
“I think we did a good job of bringing in some outstanding freshmen. We felt like every one of them have a very good chance of contributing this season. Time will tell if all of them will play, but we feel like they are all in the running to help us win this year.”
Beginning Saturday, Georgia will practice in the mornings until classes start on Monday, Aug. 13. The Bulldogs are slated to practice 10 straight days to start camp before an off day Aug. 12.