UGA FOOTBALL NOTEBOOK
ATHENS – To date, most of the conversation regarding Georgia’s game against Georgia Southern on Saturday has been about the Eagles’ triple-option offense. That hasn’t gone unnoticed by the Bulldogs’ offensive players, who would like it to be known they can advance the football a little themselves.
Wide receiver Tavarres King’s eyes lit up like he was wide open on a go-route when asked if he thought Georgia might have some big-play opportunities against their FCS visitors this Saturday.
“Well, I think so,” he said, grinning wide. “We’re pretty strong out wide and at the quarterback position. We should have a good time out there on Saturday.”
The reality is, Georgia’s needs its offense to have a big day. Again, because of the ball-hogging style of offense that Georgia Southern runs, they tend to hold onto the football for the majority of games. On average the Eagles run 15.6 more plays than their opponents. For the season, they’ve held the ball 55 minutes longer. In the case of last week’s 69-26 win over Howard, they ran 40 more offensive plays in the game, 85 total.
“When you play this kind of team you’re not going to get a lot of offensive possessions,” Georgia quarterback Aaron Murray. “When we do get the ball, we have to make sure we do a great job of giving our defense a break, first off, and having some great drives; and, two, we’ve got to put points on the board. Because you really don’t know how many possessions you’re going to have in this type of game, so you have to make the most of them.”
Southern’s defense is not bad. It comes in allowing just 18.9 points per game. But the Eagles have allowed 88 points in their last three games, including 31 both to Chattanooga and Appalachian State. And they haven’t seen anything approaching the high-powered, balanced attack the Bulldogs are approaching this season.
Georgia comes in averaging 471 yards and 36.9 points per game and is fifth nationally in pass efficiency.
“Anytime you step on that field and go against somebody who has some pride about them, it’s a challenge,” said King, who leads the Bulldogs with 624 receiving yards and 7 TD catches. “They want to beat you and you want to beat them and they want to do everything they can to not get beat. So it’ll be a challenge for us out wide, but hopefully we’ll be able to handle our business.”
Vasser out for year
Chase Vasser became the fourth starter for the Bulldogs to be lost for the season due to an injury Wednesday when it was decided Wednesday he should undergo surgery next week. The junior outside linebacker from Gainesville suffered a torn labrum in his left shoulder in the seventh week of the season and hasn’t played since.
“Overall, all through camp and the beginning of the season it seemed like we were doing really good when it came to this type of thing,” Richt said. “I guess this will be the fourth guy now.”
The Bulldogs have lost wide receivers Marlon Brown and Michael Bennett to season-ending knee injuries and defensive end Abry Jones for the last three games due to ankle surgery. Richt said “there’s a good shot” Jones will be able to play in the bowl game.
Vasser finishes his junior season having played in five games with two starts with 19 tackles, four tackles for loss and six quarterback pressures. He is ineligible for a redshirt.
Bulldogs forging on with full contact
The Bulldogs had their third consecutive full contact practice on Wednesday and they’ll don full gear again on Thursday, a day normally reserved for non-contact, walk-through workouts.
“I don’t know if we’ll have them on the whole time, but I think we need some more work still,” head coach Mark Richt said. “(Defensive coordinator) Coach (Todd) Grantham believes we need more work in full pads, so we’re going to do that. Hopefully we’ll get as close to game speed as we can. We know it’s not the same but we’re getting there.”
Working every day in full pads is something Georgia actually started last season in preparation for Georgia Tech’s triple-option offense and the cut-blocking scheme that comes with it. The Bulldogs face that same system against Georgia Southern on Saturday, then again in the regular-season finale on Nov. 24. In a normal week Georgia would conduct full-contact practices only on Tuesday.
“You can’t hardly practice against it without putting pads on,” Richt said. “We just feel like the best thing we can do is teach our scout team to go full speed and try to do it just the way they do it the best they can. Normally we’re not interested in cut-blocking our teammates. But if we don’t do it and just try to act like we’re doing it or do anything less than full speed, we’re just going to be in really big trouble. We might still be in trouble. We’ll just have to wait and see.”
Richt said Georgia might get a break from full-contact on Monday depending on “how well we do” against Georgia Southern.
Harvey-Clemons excited to be in mix
Richt emphasized Wednesday that Josh Harvey-Clemons’ move to outside linebacker this week is not permanent and “has 100 percent to do with what we’re trying to defend.” And that’s just fine with the freshman from Valdosta.
Harvey-Clemons said he’s just glad to be in the mix on defense. Primarily a nickelback and safety in Georgia’s defensive scheme, almost all of Harvey-Clemons’ game action this season has come on special teams.
“It’s nice because I’m really still playing safety,” Harvey-Clemons said Wednesday. “I’m just rotating in (at outside linebacker) a couple of plays and it’s not too hard. It’s simple stuff really, so it’s really not like a new position.”
Harvey-Clemons came to Georgia as a five-star prospect who projected as an outside linebacker. But he wasn’t able to pack on the pounds over the summer like his roommate Jordan Jenkins, who is now starting at strongside outside linebacker. But once the Bulldogs got an everyday look at Harvey-Clemons’ speed in camp, they decided to keep the 6-foot-5, 215-pound athlete in the secondary.
“I’m just excited about getting the opportunity to play,” Harvey-Clemons said. “I knew we weren’t going to run nickel against (Georgia Southern), so I didn’t think I was going to get in. But they put this in and I’ve just been trying to learn that the best I can because I want to be out there.”
Richt said he isn’t sure what future holds for Harvey-Clemons. “Hard to say exactly where he’ll end up right now,” he said.
King unsure on jersey number
King is not sure what jersey number he’ll be donning against Georgia Southern. Last week, he honored fallen teammate Marlon Brown by wearing his No. 15 jersey. He never got a chance to the same with Michael Bennett’s No. 82 earlier in this season and said this week that’s still a possibility. And then there is a lot to be said for wearing his own No. 12. After all, King is fourth in UGA history with 19 career TD catches and sixth in receiving yards (2,276) wearing “uno-dos,” as he likes to say.
“I’m not sure,” King said slyly. “We’ll see.”
King caught three passes for 73 yards and a nifty 17-yard touchdown wearing the jersey of Brown, who was lost for the season to a knee injury against Ole Miss on Nov. 3.
“I went and saw him Monday and chilled with him a couple hours,” King said. “He was pleased.”
But Brown did bust on his buddy a little. “He said I looked a little small (in his jersey),” King said. “I was, like, ‘man, that thing was huge.’ I might not be able to wear that again.”
Etc. . . .
The Bulldogs will be aiming to secure their 10th win on Saturday. If they get it, that would mark the 20th time in school history they’ve won 10 or more games. Eight of those have occurred during Richt’s 12-year tenure. . . . Senior fullback Richard Samuel did not practice due to an abdominal strain. Redshirted wide receiver Blake Tibbs (ankle) was also out Wednesday. . . . Equipment manager John Meshad and his wife Nichole had a baby boy, Michael Clayton, on Wednesday. The Meshads were the second members of Richt’s staff to add to the Bulldog Nation this season. Video coordinator Brett Greene and his wife Meghan had a little boy, Hudson Christopher, about two weeks ago.
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