ATHENS — Kenarious Gates vividly remembers the night in February 2010 when Stacy Searels, then Georgia’s offensive line coach, called with a belated scholarship offer.
“Like, I’d say, two days before signing day … 10 o’clock at night, a Monday night,” said Gates, who at the time was committed to Kentucky. “No matter how late the opportunity came … sometimes things don’t come on time.
“I felt like it was a great opportunity to go for it, and I took it. … I was so happy that night. Actually, I couldn’t sleep that night because I was so happy. I went to school the next day and told everybody I’m going to Georgia.”
Fast-forward 2 ½ years. Gates, the last-minute recruit, will open the season as Georgia’s starting left tackle, a crucial position that carries responsibility for protecting quarterback Aaron Murray’s blind side.
“I feel like to protect my quarterback I’ve got to do my job every play,” Gates said.
The 6-foot-5, 328-pound junior takes over at the position from Cordy Glenn, a second-round pick in this year’s NFL draft.
Left tackle “feels like a natural position for me,” said Gates, who started nine games last season at left guard and three as a freshman at right guard. “… I’m thankful for the opportunity.”
Ranking Jones’ teams
Jarvis Jones has played for two of the programs ranked in the top six of the Associated Press preseason poll — his current team (No. 6 Georgia) and former team (No. 1 USC).
He was asked if he ever dreams of the Bulldogs meeting USC in, say, the BCS title game.
“I think it would be great,” Jones said. “But for us to be in the championship, I don’t care who we play. … If it happened to be USC, it’d make it that much better.”
Jones signed with USC out of Carver (Columbus) in 2009 and played in eight games before a neck injury cut short his freshman season. His USC career ended when team doctors wouldn’t clear him for 2010 spring practice. Then, after being cleared by other doctors, including UGA’s, he transferred, sat out the 2010 season and emerged last year as an All-America outside linebacker.
“They can see what I’m doing,” Jones said of USC. “But I think things happen for a reason … I don’t want to throw it up in their face and then, you know, knock on wood, I get hurt and they’re, like, ‘I told you so.’”
Jones said he hears occasionally from former USC teammates and a few Trojans fans “who write me on Facebook and still love me.”
The Bulldogs held a two-hour, closed practice Saturday, one week from the season opener against Buffalo. … Georgia announced opening-game captains: Murray, defensive end Abry Jones, safety Shawn Williams and snapper Ty Frix. … Richard Samuel, splitting time between tailback and fullback, has an affinity for the latter. “I like the physical contact of it,” he said. “It’s like linebacker when you’re blitzing.” … Richt on the progress of tailback Ken Malcome, who briefly quit the team last year and now is likely to start the opener: “One of the big things is he just would refuse to miss a practice [or] to miss a rep in practice. When you play tailback, you do get stung and you can easily take yourself out for 5-10 minutes. But he was determined, no matter what happened, he was going back in the huddle.” … Richt on improvement in backup offensive lineman Austin Long’s practices: “Maybe he saw the ship leaving without him, and he was, like, ‘Man, if I’m going to make it, I’d better get it done every day.’”
– Tim Tucker, AJC
LOTS MORE UGA FOOTBALL COVERAGE: