ATHENS – Let the hype begin.
Georgia coach Mark Richt tried to downplay the performance of tailback Todd Gurley in Wednesday’s scrimmage. The freshman from Tarboro, N.C, led the Bulldogs in rushing for the second time in as many scrimmages this preseason. This time with 87 yards on 7 carries, two touchdowns — including a 66-yarder – and two receptions for another 22 yards.
But Richt was unable to dampen the excitement of Georgia’s players, who are making up their own mind about what they’re seeing from the young back.
“Special,” senior safety Shawn Williams said. “When I’m standing on the sideline and watching, all I can say is, ‘Wow!’ I don’t want to say too much, but when I saw that [number] 3 running down through there today, I was like, ‘that’s going to be a Trent Richardson right there.’ That’s what I can say. Big and fast, that’s all I can see.”
Said wide receiver Chris Conley, who had a pretty good day himself with 4 catches for 114 yards and a score: “I’m seeing a lot of great things out of Todd. He’s definitely maturing fast. He’s definitely picking up the plays very fast. He’s finding the running lanes, he’s got great vision and he’s actually got a lot of speed for a guy who’s that big. He has a knack for staying on his feet when he gets hit and he’ll just keep moving. It gets me very excited whenever you see a running back who can create plays like that when there’s really nothing there.”
Gurley also led all Georgia backs in the first scrimmage of the preseason last week. He had 6 carries for 58 yards and a 40-yard TD run in that one
Richt was excited about what he saw, too. He was just a little more measured in his assessment of Gurley in what he otherwise described as a “pretty good” scrimmage.
“Well, he had one big run,” Richt said. “I forget the situation but the one that broke out I think was a short-yardage run. A lot of times that happens. . . . But, yes, he’s done well and I’m impressed with him. I was impressed with the running backs today. They all ran well.”
Keith Marshall also averaged 12.4 yards per carry (5 for 62) and busted a 52-yard run. Richard Samuel had 6 for 40 with a TD and Ken Malcome added a TD and 35 yards on 5 carries.
“So it was nice to see that for the offense,” Richt said. “Not for the defense.”
Overall, Richt was had a negative view of the Bulldogs’ 90-minute scrimmage, which featured eight turnovers, including a fumble and an interception from each quarterback. There were highs such as the No. 1 offense scoring on its first three drives; and lows, such as the No. 2 offense driving the length of the field to score on the No. 1 defense.
“I thought we looked like a pretty good team,” Richt said. “But pretty good is about 8-4, maybe 9-3 if you’re lucky. We’d like to do better than 8-4, but that’s about how we played today. It wasn’t just awful but it wasn’t great. . . . I didn’t see a team that was ready to be great. I saw a team that was still pretty good. So I wasn’t that thrilled about it.”
Other notable stats from the scrimmage:
Probably the best news: Richt said there were no significant injuries that will knock anybody out of any upcoming practices.
The scrimmage was closed to media but here’s the “unofficial official stats” offered by Richt afterward:
About those turnovers
Richt was clearly aggravated by all the turnovers, which included fumbles by four different quarterbacks and three interceptions.
“I saw a lot of bad things,” Richt said. “I saw three bad interceptions, just bad throws. Every time a quarterback got touched, they fumbled the ball. They’re not supposed to get tackled but sometimes they’ll get touched. Everytime they got hit a little bit, they fumbled the ball.”
Murray struggled with ball-security a year ago, throwing 14 interceptions and losing five fumbles. It marred an otherwise productive season in which he passed for 3,149 yards and 35 touchdowns.
“We’ve got to take care of the ball; we can’t be careless with the ball,” Murray said. “I think we’ve done a great job all of camp of not having many interceptions or fumbles. . . . Today we weren’t as sharp as we need to be. We had a couple of fumbles in the pocket where we weren’t keeping two hands on the ball at all times. We’ve just got to be more careful.”
Richt said some of the carelessness could be explained because the quarterbacks don’t get hit during the preseason.
“Sometimes they’ll relax because they know they’re not going to get hit and they can make that an excuse if they want to,” he said. “But the bottom line is, just like we tell the running backs, when we run a play, you better bring that ball back to the manager. I don’t care if the whistle blew and they ripped it out. The ball came out [four] times between our quarterbacks on what wasn’t even a vicious tackle or anything like that. So we better get better at that.”
Williams said the defense deserves some credit for so many balls hitting the ground.
“We were real aggressive,” he said. “We were trying to force the issue. We forced a lot of turnovers. Rambo forced a fumble, I had an interception, Corey Moore had a nice interception and B-Smith had a couple of pass-breakups. So we did our job.”
Conley goes deep
Conley, a sophomore flanker from Paulding County, had one of the biggest plays of the scrimmage when he hauled in a pass from Murray for a 70-yard score. It was one of four catches he had to lead the Bulldogs receivers on Wednesday.
“We were doing a great job with play-action today,” said Conley, who 288 yards as a backup last season. “The defense bit on a fake and Aaron made a great throw. It was a play-action boot(leg) and the cornerback bit. Great pass.”
Drew plays big in return
Sophomore Ray Drew was unable to practice for a week due to a concussion. But not only did he return to live action on Wednesday, he was one of the defensive standouts in the Bulldogs scrimmage with four tackles.
“I believe this was a big-statement scrimmage here,” said Drew, who moved to defensive end from outside linebacker. “This was the last scrimmage we’ll have as a team before we start actually preparing for Buffalo. So this was a chance to show coaches that I’m ready and that I can actually play. . . . Being able to get out there and show them I know what I’m doing and can go full speed and make plays helped me out.”
SI tabs Dogs No. 9
Georgia was picked No. 9 in the Sports Illustrated preseason rankings released on Thursday. The Bulldogs were picked No. 6 in the USA today/Coaches poll released earlier this month. The Associated Press poll comes out on Saturday.
Picture Day on Saturday
Fans’ Picture Day will be held Saturday in the Reed Plaza area of Sanford Stadium. Tickets are required for access to the area where Richt and the bulldog mascot “Russ” will be located. Those tickets will be distributed at 8 a.m. Saturday to the first 150 fans east end ticket window on East Campus Road.
The Georgia cheerleaders will be available from 1-5 p.m, Russ and other UGA sports teams from 1-3 p.m. and football players and Richt from 3-5 p.m.