ATHENS -- The first of Georgia’s two practices Tuesday was devoted to special teams, where the Bulldogs’ kicking game is in transition with freshmen Marshall Morgan and Collin Barber seeking to establish themselves as the placekicker and punter, respectively.
“They’re good. They’ve got leg strength. They’ve got everything you could want in a freshman kicker and punter,” said Ty Frix, Georgia’s senior long snapper, who worked with Morgan and Barber three or four days a week all summer. “But with everything, they’re freshmen; we’ve still got to keep working and maximize the next three weeks to get where we need to be.”
Blair Walsh was Georgia’s placekicker the past four seasons and Drew Butler its punter the past three. Walsh and Butler now are in NFL training camps with the Vikings and Steelers, respectively.
Freshmen “are not going to come in and fill those shoes right away, but they’re darn good, both of them,” Frix said of Morgan, who is from Fort Lauderdale, and Barber, from Cartersville.
At Tuesday morning’s closed practice, Morgan made about 75 percent of his field-goal attempts, according to Richt, who noted “in a drill like that, you always want to hit them all.”
“I thought our extra points and field goals were not where they need to be yet,” Richt said. “… There was a little inconsistency there, not as deadly accurate as you’d want. A lot of it is just getting used to going full speed with live pressure and a new holder and just being in Sanford Stadium.”
It was the Bulldogs’ first practice held in the stadium this preseason.
Senior Jamie Lindley, a walk-on who has been in the program for four years, also kicked, Richt said.
Barber showed “some outstanding hang time” on his punts, Richt said.
Jarvis Jones tests Theus
Highly regarded freshman offensive tackle John Theus has been going up against Jarvis Jones, the All-American linebacker, in practice.
“I’m trying to make it my business to have him ready from Day 1,” Jones said. “… He’s doing great. He’s young, but he’s definitely learning.”
(Note: Between practices Tuesday, Jones also had some interesting comments about his decision not to enter this year’s NFL draft and about the future. Click here for that.)
Richt said Theus “is right there in that battle” for a starting job.
“John has not gotten to the point where we’re going to name him the starter yet, but I don’t think there’s any doubt he’s going to play,” Richt said. “And he knows that.”
Scrimmage on Wednesday
Georgia will hold its first scrimmage of the preseason Wednesday morning in Sanford Stadium. The scrimmage will be closed to the public and, except for the warmup portion, closed to the media.
The competition at tailback among veterans Richard Samuel and Ken Malcome and freshmen Keith Marshall and Todd Gurley will continue to play out.
“I’m not too worried about the depth chart at tailback after the scrimmage. I’m really mostly just concerned how many of these guys can get ready to play SEC football,” Richt said. “I know Richard can. I know Ken can.
“The other two, we’ve got to just see how ready they’ll be. I’m already convinced they both can run the ball. They seem to have outstanding habits as far as their ball security. But they’re still learning how to pass-protect. No matter how many drills you put them in … the scrimmages are the best gauge of how ready they are.”
Veterans on special teams
Jones said he is currently working on the punt-coverage team, and senior safety Shawn Williams said he wants to play on “all” of the special teams.
This is a reflection of Richt’s plan, declared in the spring, to use more veteran players on special teams.
“In the past, you’d say, ‘Hey, if your heart is not in it, don’t get on the [special] team.’ You want guys whose heart is in it,” Richt said Tuesday. “But this year, we’re saying, ‘If you don’t want to be on a special team, you change your heart to get where you want to be on a special team.’”
Cornerback Damian Swann was in a green non-contact jersey at Tuesday afternoon’s practice because of a neck sprain. . . . . Offensive lineman Chris Burnette returned to practice after missing two days (illness). . . . Defensive end Abry Jones (knee contusion) resumed practice, while DE Ray Drew (concussion) remained sidelined. . . . Outside linebacker Dexter Morant was out with a right shoulder sprain. . . . Safety Shawn Williams has high goals for his senior season. “I want to be an All-American,” he said, adding that his goals include leading the SEC in interceptions… . Richt said coaches are looking at “a bunch” of potential punt returners, including Malcolm Mitchell, Branden Smith, Bacarri Rambo, Swann and Rhett McGowan. On kickoff returns, coaches are looking at Smith, Mitchell, Justin Scott-Wesley, Marshall and Gurley, according to Richt.
RECENT REPORTS FROM UGA FOOTBALL PRACTICES: