GEORGIA PRACTICE NOTEBOOK
ATHENS – Georgia on Monday complete its third of five straight full-pads, full-contact practices. Yet the injury report that the Bulldogs circulate at the end of every workout was shorter than it has been since the first week of camp.
The list included only five names. One of them was wide receiver Tavarres King, who was labeled as “limited” with a lower leg strain but appeared to run every drill and pass route at full speed without a noticeable problems. Another was starting center David Andrews with an illness from which he’s expected to make a quick return. Backup guard Hunter Long (broken foot) was the only player who will be sidelined multiple weeks. The other three were walkons.
Georgia coach Mark Richt, perhaps knocking on wood underneath the table at which he sat, acknowledged that the this year’s injured numbers have been “very low.” Asked for theories why, he proceeded to laundry-list them:
Whatever the case, with Georgia’s scholarship numbers as low as they are this season – 72 before seven walkons were granted aid last week – the Bulldogs have managed to tip-toe past trouble so far. It hasn’t been without an occasional scare.
Freshman tailback Keith Marshall was shaken up after a particularly hard hit against the scout team early in Monday’s practice. It happened during a portion of practice in which media was observing and Richt was annoyed by the subsequent reports via Twitter
“We’re going to reduce the amount of periods [media] is out there, by the way,” Richt said after the practice. “No big deal. We’ve been [allowing] 20 minutes instead of 15, but that’s five too many, I guess.”
Marshall, who was not listed on Monday’s report, returned later and finished the practice, according to teammates.
Merritt Hall holding strong
Based on reps during 7-on-7 work during practice Monday, former walkon Merritt Hall appears firmly entrenched as the No. 1 fullback. That jibes with what running backs coach Bryan McClendon said about the position over the weekend.
“Right now it’s pretty much status quo,” McClendon said. “Merritt’s still a solid No. 1 with Quayvon [Hicks] and Richard [Samuel] both rolling in there as well. You’ve got to play more than one of those guys as well with the amount of pounding that they do in games week in and week out. So you’ve got to make sure that those guys are ready and able to be functional when they’re in there.”
Conspicuously absent from the rotation during the preseason has been Zander Ogletree. The junior played in all 14 games last season with one start but has gotten little if any work with the first two units during camp.
“He’s been working in there,” McClendon said. “The thing is, some of those guys just came in and worked ahead of them a little bit.”
‘B-Smith’ most likely punt returner
McClendon, who coaches the punt return team, said he’s been giving a lot of the different players looks at the primary return position manned mainly by Brandon Boykin last season. Among them are sophomores Malcolm Mitchell and Damian Swann and true freshman defensive back Sheldon Dawson. But the odds are heavily in the favor of senior Branden Smith, who had nine of the Bulldogs’ 26 returns a year ago.
“Obviously Branden Smith is the most seasoned guy we have back there and he’s probably the most comfortable being back there,” McClendon said.
Smith has 19 punt returns in his career for an 11.3 average. That would have ranked him fifth in the SEC this past season.
Sheldon Dawson turning heads
Speaking of Sheldon Dawson, Richt was lauding the cornerback after practice and tabbed him as yet another true freshman who is going to play this fall.
“Sheldon has made a bunch of plays out there,” Richt said. “He’s already proved to me that physically he has the tools to play [cornerback]. He’s still learning and he’ll get better at what he does. But the bottom line is you have to have the physical ability to play that position and stick with the receivers and that type of thing and he has that. He plays the ball very well. And he’s got a history of having the ability to play offense, too, so a lot of times that equates into being a corner. And he’s got some toughness about him, too.”
The Bulldogs practiced for two hours in full pads on Monday. It was their 19th practice out of what is expected to be 28 opportunities in the preseason. They’re now implementing the game plan for Buffalo in their Sept. 1 opener.
“It was another fundamentals practice,” Richt said. “I thought we got down most of what we needed to get down. [Tuesday] will be mostly on scout team work getting prepared for Buffalo and getting the scouts ready to give us a good look.”
The Bulldogs will hold a practice game on Wednesday at Sanford Stadium, then a situational scrimmage on Thursday. Their next day off won’t come until Sunday.
This & that
Richt said he will meet with offensive coordinator Mike Bobo this week to discuss how much Mitchell should be represented in the Buffalo gameplan. The sophomore cornerback, who had more than 600 yards receiving as a freshman last year, has worked exclusively on defense so far in camp. However, he has been working with receivers coach Tony Ball and catching passes from the quarterbacks after practices the last week or so. . . . ESPN reports that Kellogg’s has struck a deal with Georgia and four other schools to to make Pop Tarts with the schools’ logos on them. Georgia’s brand is called “Bulldog Berry.” Arkansas, North Carolina, Florida and Michigan are the others. . . .
Buffalo, Georgia’s opponent in the opener, settled on a starting quarterback over the weekend. Alex Zordich, a 6-foot-3, 222-pound junior, got the nod over Joe Licata, a 6-2, 217-pound redshirt freshman Zordich, the son of former Penn State star and NFL player Mike Zordich, started as a true freshman before an injury sidelined him for the season. He’s considering a run-pass, dual-threat quarterback.
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