Thursday (4-8) Practice Notes

Today will be a shorter practice as Georgia will only go at it for an hour and half today.

- Some notables in green, non-contact jerseys today – Richard Samuel, Marcus Dowtin, Abry Jones, and Caleb King.

- The first-team secondary remains Vance Cuff, Jakar Hamilton, Bacarri Rambo, and Brandon Boykin. Running with the second team were Sanders Commings, Nick Williams, Makiri Pugh, and Branden Smith. Jordan Love and Shawn Williams were both operating with the third team.

- During our viewing period, I typically like to work my way down towards the inside linebackers because coach Belin’s position group works right near the sidelines were allowed to stand on, so you can hear his comments, and he’s full of good ones. My favorite from today: “Run through the guy, you’re a LINEBACKER son!”

- Caleb King was doing some cutting and jogging on the sidelines. I’d be surprised if he plays Saturday.

- Kiante Tripp fell to the practice field after getting poked in the eye and was getting worked on by a trainer when we left practice.

- Inside linebackers were working on attacking ball carriers and making the tackle behind the line of scrimmage, using dummies.

- I got to observe the secondary working for a bit, and coach Scott Lakatos was really preaching communication in the secondary. Vance Cuff received a stern warning on one play where he didn’t communicate like Lakatos wanted.

Tuesday (April 6) Practice Report

Just got back from the practice fields and the 20 minutes that we get to watch.

- The major news today out of practice was Darryl Gamble was working with the outside linebackers. With Montez Robinson’s dismissal, Georgia has a serious shortage at outside linebacker. Not sure what to make of it yet, but hope to find out more from Mark Richt and Todd Grantham after practice. Gamble is the most experienced inside linebacker Georgia has and has practiced with the first-team unit throughout spring ball, so it’s surprising that he’s been moved over – at least for today. It may be that Gamble’s body type fits better than the other inside linebackers, or it could be a sign that the coaches are trying to get their best players on the field and are pleased with Akeem Dent, Marcus Dowtin, Christian Robinson, and Akeem Hebron at inside linebacker. Or it could just be a short-term move, allowing Gamble to learn both positions and provide depth at both.

- Chase Vasser was out of green today and practicing with the outside linebackers as well.

- Besides the regulars, Caleb King, Marlon Brown, Israel Troupe, Josh Murray, and Derek Rich were all wearing green non-contact jerseys.

- Also of note, T.J. Stripling – one of Georgia’s prized signees for the fall – was at practice today, and physically he looks like he could play right now, which is a good thing for Georgia because Robinson’s dismissal is likely going to force him on the field whether he’s ready or not.

Five Comfort Areas

As we hit the mid-way point of spring football practice, here are five areas of solace for Georgia coaches this spring in my estimation.

1) A.J. Green – Simply put, Georgia’s got the top receiver in the country, and that has to have coach Richt and company feeling good about their offensive potential. Green is practically uncoverable – which Patrick Peterson found out last season – and is a guy that defenses constantly have to shade their coverages to. Georgia will have to get production from a second wide receiver – whether it’s Kris Durham, Tavarres King, or Marlon Brown – to make defenses pay for their coverage of Green, and Green should keep the tight ends with one-on-ones on linebackers. Rantavious Wooten’s progression at flanker could be key, as he brings a different type receiver to the offense of any of his counterparts. Whether anyone else steps up or not, entering a season with the top receiver in college football is never a bad feeling to have for a first-year starter at quarterback.

2) Offensive line – With five returning starters, all upperclassmen, that have all started two seasons or more, the offensive line looks to be a strength for Georgia this season. Of course it did last year as well, and it greatly underperformed in the first six games of the season before turning things around the final seven games. Nevertheless, whoever emerges as the starter at quarterback has to feel good about who is protecting them up front, with one of the nation’s top left tackles in Clint Boling – No. 2 in Mel Kiper’s recent rankings. Add in experienced guards in Chris Davis and Cordy Glenn, and one of the conference’s premier centers in Ben Jones, and you have to think that the Georgia offensive line will be one of the stronger units in the conference – if not the strongest. And if Trinton Sturdivant can come back healthy, the Georgia offensive line will really have some depth and talent. I think it says a lot about what the coaches think of the offensive line with moving Justin Anderson to defense, who started five games on the offensive line last season. But can they stay healthy and will they be able to overcome the inconsistencies that bit them last season and run the ball effectively all season?

3) Tight ends – Orson Charles and Aron White should form one of the top tight end units in the nation, and Charles could emerge as one of the top tight ends in the nation after a promising freshman campaign. And Arthur Lynch and Bruce Figgins, who sat out all of last year, provide your more prototypical tight ends, and both are solid blockers. The wide receiver group is lethally thin, and the tight end group will have to relieve some of the pressure from that unit. To relieve some of that burden, Georgia coaches have been flexing Charles and White out of two-tight sets to put pressure on picking up the additional receivers out of a base defense, and few linebackers can hang with White and Charles in coverage. But will their blocking improve to the point where they can be relied on in the run game?

4) Blair Walsh and Drew Butler – The coaching staff will have few concerns about the kicking game this spring or fall. WIth Walsh, a nominee for the Lou Groza Award last season, and Butler, winner of the Ray Guy Award as the nation’s top punter, Georgia has perhaps the two premier kicking specialists at their position, and if coach Warren Belin can solve Georgia’s kickoff coverage woes, it’s impossible not to look at Georgia’s special teams units as one of the best in the nation.

5) Justin Houston – In Houston, Georgia should have one of the premier pass rushers in the conference next season, terrorizing backfields in Todd Grantham’s new 3-4 scheme as an outside linebacker. Houston showed last season what he was capable of with 7.5 sacks, 15 TFLs, in only 10 games of action after sitting out the first three games due to a suspension. Houston will need Cornelius Washington to produce opposite of him to relieve some of the attention he receives.

Tuesday (3-30) Practice Report

After watching the 20 minutes the media is allowed to witness of practice on Tuesday, a couple of notes stand out.

- Justin Houston was out of green and back on the practice field Tuesday after sitting out Saturday’s scrimmage.

- Receivers were working on catching the ball over their shoulder, and footwork. Marlon Brown was once again in a limited contact green jersey, while he nurses a bruised shoulder, but Israel Troupe was back out there today.

- Chase Vasser and Mike Gilliard were also in green along with the usual green regulars this spring – Trinton Sturdivant, Justin Anderson, Tanner Strickland, etc.

- Quarterbacks were being ran through footwork drills by offensive coordinator Mike Bobo, forcing them to drop back and shuffle their feet around and between a couple pads before finishing the drill by looking up and completing a short throw.

- The secondary was working on their drops in coverage with defensive backs coach Scott Lakatos. They then split off and the safeties were working with graduate assistant Todd Hartley on finding the ball in the air when coming out of their drops. Hartley was making this particularly difficult on them with off-the-mark passes. I will say I was impressed with the fluidity at which Jakar Hamilton moves in the secondary.

A.J. Harmon Out for Spring

Red-shirt sophomore A.J. Harmon, who had been receiving reps with the second team at left tackle, will be out for the remainder of the spring after suffering a high ankle sprain during Saturday’s scrimmage. Harmon’s injury continues a string of injuries for the offensive line, which now will have Harmon, Trinton Sturdivant, Tanner Strickland, and Austin Long all sitting on the sidelines with injuries this spring.

Saturday’s Scrimmage Stats

Here are the unofficial statistics from Georgia’s first scrimmage of the spring on Saturday, according to head coach Mark Richt.

Aaron Murray 10-15, 125 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT, with the longest pass completion being 45 yards.
Zach Mettenberger 7-10, 157 yards, 1 TD, 2 sacks.
Logan Gray 6-14, 37 yards, 3 sacks.

Caleb King – 6 carries for 79 yards, with the long being 55 yards.
Washaun Ealey – 9 carries for 64 yards, with the long being a 23-yard run.
Carlton Thomas – 8 carries for 25 yards, long of 12.

The receiving stats Richt had were missing 12 completions, but he did say Rantavious Wooten had six catches for 146 yards, including a 65-yard touchdown reception, and A.J. Green also had a 40-yard touchdown catch.

Defense
Bacarri Rambo 6 tackles, 1 INT, 1 TFL
Blake Sailors 5 tackles, 1 pass breakup.
Shawn Williams 1 tackle, 1 INT, which he returned for a TD.
Darryl Gamble 3 tackles, 1 sack.
Jakar Hamilton 3 tackles, 1 pass breakup.
Marcus Downtin 3 tackles
Derrick Lott 3 tackles, 2 TFL

Notes from Thursday’s practice

Practice was in Sanford Stadium today, as the media got to view about 20 minutes. Below are some quick notes.

- Practicing in green jerseys today were Marlon Brown, Israel Troupe, Chase Vasser, Mike Gilliard, Fred Munzenmaier, Austin Long, Trinton Sturdivant, and then walk-ons Cortney Newmans and Josh Murray were also in green.

- The first-team secondary remained the same with Boykin, Cuff, Nick Williams, and Bacarri Rambo taking the first-team reps.
The second-team secondary consisted of Jakar Hamilton, Quintin Banks, Sanders Commings, and Branden Smith.
The third went Jordan Love, Makiri Pugh, Shawn Williams, and walk-on Corey Dunson.

- Darryl Gamble and Akeem Dent took all the first-team reps at the inside linebacker position with Dowtin and Richard Samuel consisting of the second team. Cornelius Washington and Justin Houston took first reps at outside linebacker. The defensive line was practicing all the way across the field, and I couldn’t gather who was the first-team unit there; although, Demarcus Dobbs told me Tuesday that the first was consisting of Dobbs, Abry Jones, and Kiante Tripp.

- Offensive line’s starting group remains the same as the one that ended last season, and Tavarres King has been lining up alongside A.J. Green so far.

- Hundreds of high school coaches lining the field today for Georgia’s annual Coaches Clinic.

- I watched the Georgia quarterbacks throw out patterns to the sidelines to wide receivers who were being unguarded, and the pace at which Murray and Mettenberger throw the ball is on another level from Logan Gray. He’s going to have a tough time overcoming that deficiency in this race.

Tuesday practice notes

Just a couple of short notes from the limited viewing period – four five-minute periods – we were able to see today.

More green jerseys on the practice field today than at any other point so far this spring. The major contributors wearing green today were linebacker Akeem Dent, wide receiver Israel Troupe, and fullbacks Charles White and Fred Munzenmaier; although, Munzenmaier and Dent participated in each of the four five-minute periods that we were able to see and didn’t appear “limited” at all. Also wearing green were walk-ons Josh Murray, Matt DeGenova, and Cortney Newmans.

Trinton Sturdivant was also in green, running around the practice fields on the sidelines, as he continues to rehab his knee. Sturdivant is expected to be back in time for fall camp, head coach Mark Richt said earlier this spring.

Little shake up in the secondary on Thursday, as linebacker-turned-safety Nick Williams was running with the first-team unit at safety, replacing Shawn Williams. Bacarri Rambo, Brandon Boykin, and Vance Cuff continued to run with the first-team unit. In fact, based off the drills we saw, Shawn Williams was running with the third-team unit. The second-team unit consisted of Quintin Banks, Makiri Pugh, Jordan Love, and Branden Smith. Shawn Williams and Jakar Hamilton appeared to be running with the third team based off the drills we were able to watch.

At inside linebacker, Akeem Dent and Darryl Gamble were always the first players up for reps. At one point, new inside linebackers coach Warren Belin got in Richard Samuel’s face after he didn’t complete a drill to his satisfaction, screaming “play football”.

Belin really seems to emphasize the fundamentals and made players do drills over anytime it wasn’t completed exactly to his satisfaction. After Marcus Dowtin didn’t complete a drill exactly to Belin’s liking, he told the linebackers: “You guys are going to do it my ways fellas. Not your way, my way.”

I only had the chance to watch quarterbacks for one drill, but in that drill, the tight ends and wide receivers were separated, running routes. Zach Mettenberger and Aaron Murray were throwing to the wide receivers, and Logan Gray was throwing to the tight ends. One of the main things I came away from these drills is just how fluid Orson Charles is at 240 pounds. Aaron Murray said after Saturday’s practice that Georgia was splitting Charles and Aron White out a lot so they could use their speed, and it’s easy to see why. Both Charles and White really moves like a wide receivers out there, and really compliment Arthur Lynch and Bruce Figgins well – both of whom are more of your prototypical, bigger tight ends. Georgia should be able to lean on their tight ends greatly this season, especially with the less than ideal depth at wide receiver. I didn’t see Marlon Brown out there with the wide receivers today, and he injured his shoulder in Saturday’s practice, which could be the reason for his absence, and Caleb King was also noticeably absent from practice. Anyways, hoping to get an answer from Richt on why both were missing after practice is complete.

The starting offensive line consisted of, as expected, Clint Boling, Cordy Glenn, Ben Jones, Chris Davis, and Josh Davis.

The defensive line was working on the opposite side of the practice field, so didn’t get to witness much from them today.

Richt Thursday Practice Quotes

Head coach Mark Richt met with the media on Thursday after his team’s third practice of the season. Below are some of his comments:

On Thursday’s practice:

“I really really enjoyed watching the guys today. It’s a great energy bunch right now. They have a lot of enthusiasm and of course first day in some pads where they could actually hit someone, and I think they were excited about that. But both sides of the ball came out to get better, and we’re making a ton of mistakes, I know that, but when you make mistakes with the type of tempo, its fun to see. You see a lot of speed and just really good athletes out there making plays, on both sides of the ball. I’m really encouraged right now.”

On moving Richard Samuel to inside linebacker from outside linebacker:

“We moved him inside. It’s probably a little more natural to him to play inside. We started him outside because a little bit of the depth issues at linebacker, but to give him a more fair opportunity, we moved him outside.”

On what they’ve seen out of Shawn Williams to have him running with the first team unit at safety:

“I don’t really know. We’re rotating guys around, and depth chart doesn’t mean a lot. But I like what I’m seeing out of Shaun. I can’t sit here and say I’m disappointed in anybody’s effort right now. And I see a lot of guys trying to prove they belong.”

On the affect of new defensive coaches:

“There’s a heightened awareness, whatever you want to say, everybody knows that they have a clean slate, they have a chance to impress. The young guys know that a veteran doesn’t have an experience advantage over them because the older guys are learning it from scratch, too, and that’s probably a lot of the reason you’re seeing what you’re seeing, and were rotating a lot of guys around.”

On if he’s ever had a quarterback wear a glove for throwing like Aaron Murray has been doing in spring practice:

“Not on a seventy degree day, but I guess its tacky enough for him, I think he feels like it helps him grip the ball better.”

On who has filled the leadership void thus far:

“Right now I think the entire group of seniors, in my opinion. We actually had our first character education in the spring, and when I work with the seniors, that’s exactly what we work on. We had a good discussion about that today. I thought we had our best practice so far, but if you want to single out a couple guys, I’d probably have to say Clint Boling, offensively, and Darryl Gamble and Akeem Dent, I think they’re all wanting to take on that role, and I don’t want to discourage anybody by not calling their name out.”

Richt claims he “rarely ever reads” stuff from the media, but once all the questions had been asked of him for the day and before he could head out to catch a flight, he wanted to make one thing abundantly clear to a blogger that he had read – presumably not me since I didn’t write about the topic – about Logan Gray returning punts inside the 10-yard line this year because Richt thought “the gentlemen just didn’t understand why he was back there returning punts.”

“When Logan is back there, it’s a time when the offensive team is punting it in, it’s a pooch kick. Our defense, our punt return team, is in punt safe to keep them from faking the punt because they’ve crossed our 50-yard line. All Logan is doing is making the decision on whether to make the fair catch or let the ball hit. And the fine gentleman who writes the blog, I don’t think he really understood that very much. So I just thought if everybody got educated on that, they might understand a little bit better why Logan would do that. He was 100 percent last year on making those decisions and never bobbled the ball. That’s not a hard thing to do, and we’re not expecting him to return the punt because those punts don’t get returned.”

3-18 Practice Notes

The media got to view about 20 minutes of practice this afternoon.

- When we first got out there, the defense was separated into position groups and rotating stations, with each station emphasizing a different fundamental. Warren Belin was leading a drill where the defenders would have to jump on the ball with the proper technique for recovering a fumble, while Scott Lakatos was running his station through a drill in which they practiced stripping the ball from the ballcarrier from behind. Graduate assistant Todd Hartley was running one group through a drill where they come around a tackling dummy and the ball is thrown at them for the interception.

Then the position groups separated and went to their respective coaches. Belin led his troops through a drill in which he emphasized how to properly get off of a block, saying “Attack and get off, linebackers got to make tackles.” He really seems to do a nice job of teaching and explaining his concepts without persistent yelling.

- In the quarterback drill I watched, Zach Mettenberger took the first reps, which Mark Richt told us would happen on Tuesday. From the three practices so far, Logan Gray looks more accurate than I was expecting – keep in mind that there are no defenders – but can’t come close to matching the arm strength of Mettenberger and Murray. Mettenberger’s arm appears a bit stronger than Murray’s, but Murray seems to be the more accurate passer with a quicker release. Mike Bobo talked before spring practice began about how the big thing for Mettenberger was realizing he didn’t have to go too fast with his feet because he’s always been told he’s too slow. Bobo again was harping that theme to Mettenberger in Thursday’s practice, yelling at him at one point: “Zach stand taller, your feet are fine.”

Richt was around monitoring the quarterbacks in the two periods (five minutes) that I viewed.

- Defensive coordinator Todd Grantham has shown little hesitation in making himself heard in the three practices we’ve viewed, and that rang true again Thursday when a drill wasn’t done exactly like he wanted.

- I watched the receivers closely, too, and although there were no defenders, A.J. Green still just looks on another level from the other receivers. His speed, hands, and ability to come out of his breaks are unmatched on the team. Tavarres King and Kris Durham also impressed. After watching practice the last couple of days, I’d be really surprised if Marlon Brown didn’t play a lot this season, too. He reminds me a lot of Tech’s Demaryius Thomas with his size and speed, and he’s surprisingly quick for how big he is.

- Fred Munzenmaier and Jeremy Longo were the only Bulldogs in green jerseys.