GEORGIA FOOTBALL NOTEBOOK
ATHENS — Whether or not they’ll start anytime soon is uncertain, but freshman tailbacks Todd Gurley and Keith Marshall will definitely play extensively this season. Georgia coach Mark Richt made that clear after Friday’s practice, Georgia’s 10th of the preseason.
“I’m not afraid to play them,” Richt said. “We’re definitely going to play them. It’s just a matter of how much.”
Gurley said he’s not surprised to be in position to play his first season. He was one of seven freshmen who play offense who were available for interviews for the first time on Friday.
“They told me to be ready to play,” Gurley said. “But, you know, it depended on me, how well I picked up the system and how I came out whether I was redshirted. . . . I’ve just kept doing what I’ve been doing and I’ve picked up the system pretty good.”
Gurley is currently running third team, though Richt said Georgia has “co-No. 1s” in Ken Malcome, Richard Samuel, Gurley and Marshall. Gurley led all the running backs with 58 yards on six carries and a 40-yard touchdown in the Bulldogs’ first scrimmage.
“I had a good scrimmage but I made a lot of mistakes and I know could have done a lot better,” Gurley said. “But the line went out there and opened some holes for me and I found some space.”
While Gurley had a breakout performance in the scrimmage, Marshall has shown consistency and big-play capability. He also has been with the Bulldogs since January and therefore has a strong understanding of the playbook and how things work in general.
“I think it helped me a lot,” Marshall said of going through the spring. “Academically it helped me a lot to get ahead of everybody else. I’ll probably be able to graduate after my junior year. So it’s definitely helped me.”
Marshall and Gurley were both highly-touted recruiting prospects from North Carolina and surprised many when they decided to attend the same college. But Marshall said that was their intention all along.
“We wanted to go to the same school. That’s part of the reason we both ended up here,” said Marshall, who shares a room with Gurley, Faton Bauta and John Theus. “It’s been great so far. We’ve been together a couple of months now and everything’s been great.”
Both players expected Isaiah Crowell to be in the fold this fall, so they’re not bothered by the crowded depth chart.
“We can really make each other better,” Marshall said. “Especially in the SEC, rarely does one guy carry the load. Trent Richardson had Mark Ingram and Eddie Lacy. Everybody needs more than one back to get the job done, so that’s not something we’re worried about.”
Theus in position to start
Of Georgia’s 17 signees in the class of 2012, John Theus appears to be the only one virtually assured of starting in the season opener at this point. The 6-foot-6, 309-pound freshman from Jacksonville, Fla., a former 5-star recruit, has been working with the No. 1 offense at right tackle since the first week of preseason camp.
“I don’t know if I’d name him the starter right now, but he’s definitely lining up No. 1 at right tackle,” Richt said Friday. “He’s getting better every day. He’s got a ways to go but John’s getting there.”
Theus was one of seven offensive freshmen made available for interviews for the first time on Friday. Theus was humble and unassuming when asked about the prospect of starting.
“Me and Watts [Dantzler] are alternating at right tackle and we’re both busting our butts out there,” Theus said. “Xzavier [Ward] as well. This is my first camp, so it’s a grind. It’s my first time out here with the big boys, so I’m learning each day and just trying to get better.”
Dantzler, a 6-foot-7, 310-pound sophomore from Dalton, opened the camp as the starter at right tackle. In the spring, that spot belonged to Kolton Houston, but he remains ineligible due to the presence of an NCAA banned substance in his system.
Now Theus appears solidly entrenched with the No. 1 offense. He has taken the first snaps at right tackle every day this week.
“I come into film and I see a lot that I need to work on every day,” said Theus, who played at The Bolles School in Jacksonville. “It’s a different level out here. It’s just a lot of work and I’m just giving my best like everybody else.”
O-line coming together
The rest of the lineup on the offensive front seems settled, with Kenarious Gates at left tackle, Dallas Lee at left guard, David Andrews at center and Chris Burnette at right guard.
“They’re beginning to jell and play well,” Richt said. “I think Watts certainly has a still chance to compete for a starting position. He could play tackle or guard, which is good. Overall, those guys are improving.”
OL Hunter Long out for 6-8 weeks
Sophomore offensive lineman Hunter Long became the first serious injury casualty of preseason camp when he suffered a broken foot Friday morning. According to trainer Ron Courson, surgery will be required to repair the fracture and Long will be sidelined six to eight weeks. Long was working as a backup at both center and guard for the Bulldogs.
Drew misses 6th practice
Defensive end Ray Drew remains sidelined with a concussion and when he might return remains unknown. The sophomore from Thomasville has now missed six practices.
“When a guy has a concussion he has to get where he has no symptoms and then we begin to exert him away from practice to see if that causes any issues,” Richt said. “If he can do that without any more issues it won’t be long before he gets back to having contact situation in practice. I’m not sure if [he’s] even asymptomatic right now.”
This and that . . .
Marshall is in the competition to return kickoffs, along with Branden Smith, Malcolm Mitchell, Justin Scott-Wesley and Richard Samuel. . . .Freshman fullback Quayvon Hicks said he’s now down to 260 pounds after reporting to camp at 270. He said he weighed 245 when he enrolled in school in June. . . . Of Georgia’s 17 incoming players, only quarterback Faton Bauta appears assured of a redshirt year. Offensive lineman Greg Pyke, defensive lineman Jonathan Taylor and wide receiver Blake Tibbs could possibly redshirt due to depth at their respective positions. . . . After eight days of camp, Richt’s goatee remains intact.
MORE GEORGIA COVERAGE