GEORGIA FOOTBALL NOTEBOOK
ATHENS – Georgia freshman place-kicker Marshall Morgan made a rookie mistake after Thursday’s practice.
Rather than enter the interview area at Butts-Mehre Hertitage Hall in the company of one or more teammates, he came to the second floor alone. He also came up first, which meant he got the undivided attention of dozen or so reporters there to get first shot at first-year freshman interviews. To date, they’ve been off-limits to media.
But Morgan just smiled when he realized he was completely surrounded with the entire lot. “It’s pretty great,” Morgan said of all the attention. “I like it.”
Might as well get used to it. The kicking tradition at Georgia is one that bears some weight of responsibility as it is. Add the fact that the a highly-touted recruit out of Fort Lauderdale is having to take over as a true freshman and it’s clear that a lot of eyes will be on Morgan this fall.
While Morgan hasn’t exactly lit up camp so far — he missed a 35-yard field goal attempt in Wednesday’s scrimmage — he seems cool and calm and at peace with whatever fate awaits him this year.
“I feel really comfortable with the team,” Morgan said. “The snapper, the line, the whole operation is going really well. We still have a lot of room to improve these next three weeks, but I think we can do it.”
Georgia coach Mark Richt gave Morgan his endorsement on Thursday, but it wasn’t what one would describe as a ringing one.
“Right now, I would say that Marshall Morgan is our extra point/field goal guy,” he said without elaboration.
To be sure, Morgan said he knows the job is not being handed to him. But as a scholarshipped-signee and the No. 6-ranked place-kicker prospect nationally, he’s certainly the leader in the clubhouse.
“I knew it wasn’t going to be easy just coming in here to start,” Morgan said. “[Jamie] Lindley is a great kicker, and Adam Erickson and [punter] Collin Barber, they can also kick, too. It’s just one big competition. I’m not taking anything for granted and trying my hardest.
“I know I’ve got to be consistent. It’s SEC football. So I can’t mess up, pretty much.”
Freshmen on the record
First-year defensive players were also made available Thursday while offensive rookies will be available Friday. Among the newbies to meet the press on Thursday were defensive back Sheldon Dawson, and outside linebackers Josh Dawson, James DeLoach and Jordan Jenkins.
Jenkins shared the sentiments of his colleagues when he talked about being somewhat overwhelmed mentally and physically nine practices into the fall camp.
“The first day in full pads and the scrimmage kind of shocked me,” said Jenkins, a five-star prospect out of Harris County who was considered the state’s No. 1 recruit. “I wasn’t used to getting cut in SEC football or college football. So I realized pretty quickly I needed to learn to play the cut and learn to get my pad level down a little bit more. I need to learn to use my hands a little bit more. I’m still not where I want to be.”
Jenkins is currently working behind All-American Jarvis Jones at weakside outside linebacker. But his most likely contributions early will come on special teams.
“I think I’m on every special teams we have out there,” Jenkins said with a laugh. “I’ve been getting reps at punt, punt return, kickoff and kickoff return. I don’t know who’s going to get the spots in the end but hopefully I’ll get one or two of them. I’d really like to be on kickoff.”
Richt’s ’shout-out’ for Branden Smith
Richt opened his post-practice remarks Thursday by saying he wanted to give a “shout-out to Branden Smith.” He said the senior cornerback has stood out throughout preseason camp and impressed him and the coaching staff both with his play and with his attitude.
“He has been making plays every day,” Richt said. “He’s playing with a lot of intensity every rep; he looks like a senior trying to lead out there. He doesn’t say much. He just plays hard and makes plays. I’ve been really happy with what he’s been doing. He’s stood out.”
Smith found out last week he would not miss playing time despite his March arrest for marijuana possession. Smith accepted pretrial intervention in that case and passed UGA and court-ordered drug tests. Richt waived the usual 10 percent competition suspension for marijuana-use violations.
He’s known for a little while that he was going to play,” Richt said. “But I think to have it come out in the public probably was a boost for him and his family. But, you know, he had a great spring, too. He’s just practicing really hard. And he had his best summer by far from what the boys were commenting on. His stamina has been better throughout practice, and hopefully it will be throughout the season as well.”
Richt sticking with facial hair
Georgia has been known for its anti-facial hair policy, but the Bulldogs may have to waive it for their head coach.
Richt did not shave for the first week of camp and, when he finally did, he left himself a goatee. Every day he has joked with reporters that he would soon be cutting. Thursday he indicated he might stick with it a while.
“I shaved again last night, everything but this,” Richt said, rubbing the all-gray patch on his chin. “My wife texted me yesterday and said she really liked it. So I might keep it for a while.”
This and that . . .
Quarterback Aaron Murray was featured Thursday on ESPN’s “Inside the Program” with former Bulldog All-American defensive end David Pollack. Taped on the UGA campus Wednesday, Pollack and Murray discussed the intricacies of the quarterback position. The piece is supposed to run all week on ESPN’s SportsCenter. . . . Freshman John Theus continued to work with the No. 1 offense at right tackle on Thursday. . . . Branden Smith was in a green, non-contact jersey due to a shoulder contusion but was participating in practice. . . . Fellow DB Damian Swann (neck) also remains in green. . . . Players who remain sidelined include DE Ray Drew (concussion), safety Marc Deas (hamstring), outside linebacker Dexter Morant (shoulder) and tight end Hugh Williams (hand).
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