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Friday, December 19, 2008

Friday Practice Notes (12/19)

One day after defensive tackle Jeff Owens said he expected his line coach, Rodney Garner, to be back with Georgia next season, head coach Mark Richt revealed that another assistant might be headed elsewhere.

Richt said Friday that Auburn has contacted offensive line coach Stacy Searels regarding a position on new head coach Gene Chizik's staff.

"They're talking to him, so we'll see," Richt said.

Reports last week speculated that Searels had met with Auburn already, but Richt did not confirm those meetings. Garner had interviewed with the Tigers for their head-coaching position before Chizik was hired last week, but Richt said Auburn has not asked to talk to Garner again regarding an assistant position.

Searels is in his second year with the Bulldogs after working as offensive line coach at Appalachian State, Cincinnati and, most recently, LSU. He is an Auburn alumnus, however, where he was an All-American offensive lineman.

Searels is currently the fourth highest paid assistant on Richt's staff, earning $235,400 per year.

"I don't want to lose anybody," Richt said. "We would hate to lose Stacy, but we would hate to lose any of our guys right now."

-- Richt has some empathy for Florida offensive coordinator Dan Mullen, who will call plays for the Gators in their quest for a national championship against Oklahoma next month while concurrently working as the new head coach at Mississippi State.

The Georgia head coach did the same thing when he landed the job with the Bulldogs, while still acting as the offensive coordinator at Florida State.

"You don't want to leave with unfinished business," Richt said. "You wish that the hiring process didn't happen in the heart of a run for a national championship. But then when you add it all together, you've got to decide what you're going to do."

Richt said the ultimate determination comes down to what the head coach wants. In his case, Bobby Bowden asked him to stay. Florida head coach Urban Meyer did the same for Mullen this week.

During Florida State's preparation for its date with Oklahoma in the 2001 Orange Bowl, Richt said he spent the morning hours at practice and meetings, then used all his free time to get a jump on recruiting at Georgia. It was a touch balance to find.

"It's very, very difficult to do," Richt said. "I wish him the best because it's not easy."

-- Cornerback-turned-safety Bryan Evans is doing all he can to get on the field for Georgia's appearance at the Capital One Bowl.

The junior injured his right foot against Georgia Tech and returned to practice for the first time Wednesday, but said he isn't close to being fully healed.

"It's doing better," Evans said. "It's kind of sore but I think I can push through it."

Evans said he hopes to continue to increase his practice level in order to be eligible to play against Michigan State.

"If I don't practice, I don't play," he said, "so I've got to do something out there."

-- Special teams captain and reserve safety Andrew Williams injured his knee earlier this week, requiring surgery, but Richt said he expected the sixth-year senior to be available for Georgia's bowl game.

"They cleaned him up with a scope," Richt said. "When you repair it, you're out for a good bit. When it's un-reparable, you can kind of shave off that piece and you can go easily in a two-week period, so he'll be there."

-- Richt cancelled Friday's practice session due to a severely limited roster of available players. Nearly 40 players were out with various injuries, while 10 more were busy attending graduation ceremonies.

Richt said he expected several of the injured players back at work when the Bulldogs open bowl practice in Orlando on Dec. 26. Among those he said should be healthy enough to play are wide receiver A.J. Green (groin), tight end Tripp Chandler (knee), wide receiver Kris Durham (hand), fullback Brannan Southerland (knee), Evans and Williams. One player who won't be ready, Richt said, is linebacker Darryl Gamble, who is recovering from a broken leg.

"We do hope to have a good bit of them back," Richt said. "There's a handful of guys we think will be back to practice at the bowl site. We'll be OK."

-- Add third-year sophomore Reshad Jones to the list of Bulldogs underclassmen who have submitted paperwork to the NFL advisory board to investigate his draft status.

Jones joins Geno Atkins, Matthew Stafford, Knowshon Moreno and Asher Allen, all of whom will consider leaving school early to enter the NFL draft.

Jones said it is unlikely he would depart Athens, however, and considers the board's results simply a way to gather some information.

"Most likely I won't (leave)," Jones said. "I'm just trying to get info to see how they evaluate me."

-- While a handful of Georgia players are mulling NFL futures, Owens became the second player to announce he would definitely be staying in school earlier this week. The senior's decision, he said, was made at least in part because of a healthy dose of politicking by the Bulldogs' other senior commitment, Geno Atkins.

Atkins said he's excited about the prospect of playing another season with Owens, but he isn't taking credit for his teammate's decision.

"I won't take the credit for that," Atkins said. "I think a lot of people were telling Jeff the best thing to do was to come back. But he had to look deep down inside and find out what was best for him, and I guess coming back was what was best."

-- Safety Quintin Banks hasn't had much luck when it comes to injuries this season, but he's holding out a slim hope that his fortunes could turn before Georgia's bowl game.

Banks injured his knee during fall camp and was able to return to action for just one game before suffering another injury that kept him out the rest of the season. He was hopefully the knee would be healed in time to play against Michigan State, but he said that now seems unlikely.

"I was hoping I could get some bowl game in, but right now, it's not looking too promising. It's one of those things, you don't want to get put out there unless you're 100 percent, and there's an outside chance I'll be that way before the bowl game."

-- Freshman kicker Blair Walsh has endured his fair share of scrutiny this season, particularly down the stretch as he missed several short field goals and struggled on kickoffs. Since the regular season ended, Walsh has stopped speaking with the media, instead focusing on ironing the kinks out of his game, but Richt said his kicker has remained confident.

"We didn't have as many attempts for him, that was part of it," Richt said. "We made a couple decisions to punt or to go for it a couple times. But he's handling it fine."

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