ORLANDO, Fla. — Early in the year, as tailbacks Todd Gurley and Keith Marshall were ripping off long runs right and left, Georgia coaches were careful to mention what a good job Merritt Hall was doing paving the way for them. But the Bulldogs lost their starting fullback to a severe ankle injury on the first play of the Florida game and the redshirt freshman has played very little since.
But after playing only on the kickoff return ream in the SEC Championship game, Hall now appears set to get back in the rotation in the backfield. He said his ankle is “80 to 90 percent” healthy, but that’s enough for him to help.
“I feel great out there on the practice field,” Hall said. “I feel like I’m getting people out of the hole and I’m able to drive off my ankle well enough to be able to get the job done.”
Hall said he has been rotating with junior Zander Ogletree in practice and expects to do the same in Tuesday’s game.
Outlook poor for Abry Jones
Just a couple of days ago Abry Jones and the Bulldogs talked optimistically about the senior defensive end playing in Tuesday’s game. Sunday, the outlook was decidedly more negative.
“I don’t know how much he’ll go,” Richt said before Sunday’s practice. “I wouldn’t say he’s just flying around right now. He’s been working really hard to get back to where he can play. But what kind of condition is he in? How quickly can he move? I mean, I don’t want to put him out there if he’s not ready to play full speed Georgia football. So I’m not 100 percent sure how much he will play.”
Jones was a starter before undergoing ankle surgery in October. Richt said he will be monitored closely over the next two days and a determination would likely be made during pregame warmups.
Richt on Ray Drew
One of the players who will be counted on to step up in Jones’ absence is sophomore Ray Drew. Drew was a 5-star signee and one of the top-rated players in the nation coming out of Thomas Central High. Richt didn’t mince words when asked Sunday if Drew was going to live up to expectations.
“He needs to,” Richt said. “It’s time for him to step up and be a great player for us. He’s in the same boat as those (defensive backs). All of them are. No one has a job nailed down. There are some guys that have played enough where we know they’re going to play. We understand that. But Ray needs to be a guy who is highly productive for us.”
Drew is currently the first defensive end in the game after starters Garrison Smith and Cornelius Washington.
Rambo and the kids
One of the best pictures by UGA’s sports communication staff features Bacarri Rambo intensely competing against a young boy on a video game on Sunday. The Bulldogs participated in “A Day for Kids Disney World” and Rambo ended up being paired with a 13-year old boy named Malcolm.
“I like to compete and he kept beating me in every game,” Rambo said later. “I was just trying to get the best of him in one game. He was talking trash and bragging about it.
“We played Madden; he beat me. I couldn’t do anything on defense. He was just throwing the ball all over me. We played the NASCAR game and he beat me in that. I wanted to run him off the road but I couldn’t catch him. And we played the little bumper car thing and they beat us in that, too. I was a little angry there for a moment.”
Rambo, Aaron Murray, Chris Burnette, Christian Robinson and Garrison Smith were among the Bulldogs to participate in the activities, rising at 6 a.m. Sunday morning to do so.
“I really enjoy being out there with kids; I love kids,” Rambo said. “I have a lot of nieces and nephews I like to spend time with when I’m back home. Spending times with those kids and just being around them, it just gives you a great feeling.”
High marks for JSW
Redshirt freshman receiver Justin Scott-Wesley received effusive praise from Richt when he was asked to identify some back-up players who have stood out while awaiting their chances to play more prominent roles.
“I was just talking to Justin for a little bit and I just told him I was proud of him for how he worked all season long because he’s gotten better,” Richt said. “He’s one of those guys where fans, they kind of know the starters and they kind of know the incoming class, but they kind of forget about everybody in between. That’s kind of what you’re talking about with Justin and guys like Corey Moore and Devin Bowman and Sheldon Dawson. They’re guys that are on the brink of having some really significant roles on this team and are working toward that.”
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