By Ryan Black
Special to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution
ATHENS – Chris Burnette was 99 percent sure his girlfriend would accept his marriage proposal on Sunday.
That wasn’t good enough for Georgia offensive line coach Will Friend. He needed 1 percent more certainty from his right guard.
“He was like, ‘Well, you better mark sure she is going to say yes before you invite all of these people,’” Burnette said.
Not to worry, though, as Arielle Haynes indeed said “yes” when Burnette popped the question. The proposal took place Sunday at Athens Church, where Burnette and Haynes are regular attendees. Luckily, the weekly Sunday service begins at noon, which meant many of Burnette’s Bulldog teammates who go to earlier services at other churches could make it.
News spread quickly, especially after video of the event was posted online. When asked what made him do a video, Burnette couldn’t explain it.
“I just knew that I wanted it to have something that was Christ-centered, because He has been at the center of our relationship from the get-go,” he said. “And I wanted to do something public, because that’s how she is. I knew she would appreciate it, so it only fit for me to do it at church.”
Burnette said there has been no firm date set for the wedding, but they are planning to have it sometime next summer. Six months into their relationship, Burnette knew he would eventually ask Haynes to be his wife. There was just one thing holding him up.
“I was just trying to save up money and be financially stable,” he said. “It really helped me mature a lot during that time.”
At 21, he is the younger partner in the relationship by three years. But with the advice he has received from his father, Haynes’ father and his pastor, Burnette feels he is ready to take on the challenges inherent to making a marriage work.
“They’ve all been saying that marriage is a sacrifice,” he said. “It’s not about you. I think that’s something I’m prepared for.”
Vols’ Dooley hopes for better showing in Athens
Tennessee coach Derek Dooley didn’t have to be asked for his thoughts about Georgia. Instead, he addressed it in his opening statement during his weekly media session on Monday.
“There’s no sense in me talking about how good they are,” he said. “They’re probably playing as good as I’ve seen them in a long time.”
Dooley went on to list the Bulldogs’ impressive stats on offense and defense, and the talent they have at myriad positions on the field before finally saying, “We’ve got our work cut out for us.”
“Hopefully we can take a lot of the lessons that we’ve learned in the first four games and try to go play in Athens and see how it turns out,” he said.
The Volunteers hope it will turn out better than it did last time they traveled to Athens. Two seasons ago, Georgia cruised to an easy 41-14 victory after jumping out to a 17-0 lead in the first quarter. Dooley is confident his team has improved immensely since then, and won’t be intimidated by playing a true road game for the first time this season.
But to find a better result than 2010, the Volunteers will have to slow down the Southeastern Conference’s leading rusher, Bulldog true freshman Todd Gurley, who enters Saturday averaging 101.5 rushing yards per game.
“We’ve got to win the line of scrimmage first, have good scheme discipline and then bring a lot of hats to the football, because one guy ain’t gonna bring him down,” Dooley said.
Of course, Gurley isn’t Georgia’s sole threat. Dooley couldn’t say enough good things about the play of the Bulldogs’ junior signal-caller, Aaron Murray.
“He’s playing with a lot of confidence,” Dooley said. “He’s got a very strong arm, he’s got a lot of snaps under his belt. They don’t change a lot offensively in what they do. He’s had a lot of work at getting good at what they do and you can just see him triggering the ball a lot quicker than he ever has, he’s a lot more accurate than he has been, and that just comes with experience.”
As for his own quarterback, Dooley was pleased with the strides Tyler Bray has made the past two weeks. With his frustrations boiling over during the Volunteers’ loss to the Florida Gators two weeks ago, Dooley said he sat down with his starting quarterback on multiple occasions to explain how to better control his emotions.
“There were a lot of conversations about how you manage what goes wrong in a game, and how your body language and your thoughts and words can affect other people, especially guys on the team,” Dooley said. “He made some bad throws early [in last week's game against Akron], bad decisions early and he was frustrated wanting to get something to happen, but he really kept a nice calm about him. He worked his way through the game and he got better and better and better as the game went on. That was a good step for Tyler.”
Lee, O-line tough it out
The moment left guard Dallas Lee injured his ankle against Florida Atlantic two weeks ago, he made up his mind that he wasn’t going to miss playing against Vanderbilt.
Lee’s status heading into Saturday’s game was murky, though — at least to the public. He knew well ahead of time he would be in the starting lineup when the first-team offense took the field on its opening drive.
“Coach [Friend] told me on Thursday after practice,” he said. “My ankle held up good that day, so afterwards he let me know.”
Lee said it is normally up to players whether they feel healthy enough to go all-out in practice. Getting the starting nod is up to the coaches, though. And for an offensive line that has trotted out the same starting five every game this season, playing through minor injuries is just a way of life. No one is more aware of the line’s lack of depth than the players themselves, Lee explained.
“That’s definitely on everybody’s mind. We know who we have in the room,” he said. “As far as the starting five, it’s going to take something pretty serious for us to not play. We want to keep playing with each other and give us the best chance to win on Saturday.”
S. Carolina game set for 7 p.m. on ESPN
Georgia’s Oct. 6 football game at South Carolina will kick off at 7 p.m. and will be televised on ESPN, the SEC announced today.
Georgia is ranked No. 5 and South Carolina No. 6 in this week’s Associated Press media and USA Today coaches’ polls. Both teams are 4-0.
Georgia’s injury report on Monday was a short one, listing only four players. One was defensive end Abry Jones, who was held out of practice due to an ankle sprain he suffered in Saturday’s win over Vanderbilt. Offensive lineman Watts Dantzler was battling an ankle sprain of his own, which precluded him from taking part in contact drills. The other two Bulldogs listed have had long stays on the injury report: offensive lineman Hunter Long (left foot fracture) and tight end Cole Trolinger (concussion).