ATHENS – About the time Georgia’s football players were scheduled to trek onto the practice field Friday afternoon, a loud cheer erupted from the team meeting room, easily heard a floor away in Butts-Mehre Heritage Hall.
It could have been mistaken for the celebration of a big victory over an arch-rival.
Actually, the uproar was in reaction to coach Mark Richt’s announcement that the planned two-hour physical practice would be canceled and replaced by a trip to the pool inside the Ramsey Student Center.
“We’ve been grinding,” tailback-fullback Richard Samuel said. “So being able to get your mind off practice and your mind off football, guys were excited about that.”
It’s something of a preseason tradition for Richt to surprise his team by exchanging one practice for a pool trip, although last year he deferred the treat until the bye week in October.
“It’s team-building. It’s fun. It’s making memories,” Richt said.
On Friday’s excursion, a large group of players — including 350-pound junior nose guard Kwame Geathers and apparently all of the freshmen — plunged into the pool from the 10-meter (almost 33-feet) diving platform.
“The highlight was the freshmen having to jump off for the first time and just seeing it in their face,” offensive tackle Kenarious Gates said. “I remember my freshman year when I had to jump off. I was so scared.”
Freshman defensive lineman Jonathan Taylor donned a life jacket for his turn Friday.
“He jumped off the 10 meter before he learned how to swim,” Richt said. “Four guys had to swim out there and drag him in.”
As he does each year, Richt did a back flip off the high dive.
“The older you get, the higher it gets,” said Richt, 52. “And I know if I land wrong something is going to get hurt. … Thankfully, I hit it pretty good again. So one more year.”
Freshmen ‘still in lead’
Freshmen Marshall Morgan and Collin Barber “are still in the lead” for the placekicking and punting jobs, respectively, Richt said. But they still have competition from walk-on players.
“I like what Adam Erickson has been doing as a punter, and I like what [Jamie] Lindley has been doing as a kicker,” Richt said. “They’re still competing. I don’t know if anybody can separate themselves until they start doing it in a ballgame.”
Richt left open the possibility of using more than one kicker and punter in the Sept. 1 opener against Buffalo.
Lynch ‘solid No. 1’ TE
Junior tight end Arthur Lynch is “a very solid No. 1 starter right now,” Richt said.
Redshirt freshman Jay Rome has been limited in the past few practices by a strained right hamstring, although Lynch was ahead of Rome before the injury.
“The bottom line is both of those guys are going to play,” Richt said. “They both have to play; we usually play two or three tight ends.”
The Bulldogs will return to the practice field Saturday morning. … Georgia’s injury report lists wide receiver Michael Bennett as limited because of a left quadriceps contusion. … Junior Hutson Mason remains well ahead of redshirt freshman Christian LeMay as the No. 2 quarterback behind starter Aaron Murray. “Christian is trying to get ready to play if called upon,” offensive coordinator Mike Bobo said. “LeMay has done a good job, but we feel really good about the top two guys.” The tentative plan remains to redshirt Mason if Murray stays healthy through the season. … Backup offensive lineman Austin Long has performed well in practice the past couple of weeks, Bobo said, and improved his chances for playing time at guard and tackle.
UGA COVERAGE FROM THE PAST WEEK: