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Thursday, December 18, 2008

Thursday Practice Notes (12/18)

As Mark Richt was walking off Georgia's practice field Thursday, recruiting coordinator Rodney Garner informed the head coach that the Bulldogs had landed a big commitment for next season.

Richt was intrigued, wondering who might be added to next year's incoming freshman class. Garner's answer, however, was senior defensive tackle Jeff Owens.

"We were all fired up because he already knows the plays," Richt said.

Owens was pegged to be one of Georgia's defensive leaders this season, but he tore ligaments in his right knee in the Bulldogs' first game of the season. Although he was eligible for a medical redshirt, he had wavered on whether he would return for a second senior season or enter the NFL draft.

After some careful deliberation, however, Owens said he couldn't pass up a chance to spend another season in Athens and make up for some lost time.

"One more year won't hurt me. I love college, and I'm glad to be here," Owens said. "I didn't have a senior year like I wanted. We lost to (Georgia) Tech, and I can't leave losing to Tech. I've got to get revenge on that."

Just as important as turning in a more memorable final act at Georgia, Owens wanted to make sure his knee was fully healed before testing it at the next level.

On Owens' first series of the season this year, he tore his ACL, ending his season.

While he said the knee is healing nicely, and he expects to be 100 percent healthy for the start of fall practice, he wasn't ready to gamble his future by jumping to the NFL without knowing how well his knee would hold up.

"You never know what could happen," Owens said. "I could have come out this year, my knee couldn't have been ready, and I could have gotten cut. Then it would have been over. I'll take the safe route, come back to school, I'm graduating in May, I'll let my knee heal, and I'll get ready."

While Richt was thrilled to hear the news of Owens' return, fellow defensive tackles Geno Atkins and Kade Weston may have been even more excited at the news.

Owens said he submitted paperwork to the NFL's advisory board to find out where he might be selected if he entered the draft this year, but he didn't wait until the results were in before making his decision, which he said was partially influenced by Atkins' choice to return to school.

"It had some say so in it also, because me and Geno are really good friends," Owens said. "But we're going to be competing for reps next year. We're going to have me, Geno and Kade back, all of us are going to be healthy, and it's going to be something exciting to see next year. We'll just dominate."

-- While Owens said he's excited about the opportunity, he also wanted to get a commitment from his line coach, Rodney Garner, who has been rumored as a candidate for new Auburn coach Gene Chizik's staff.

"I told him what I was going to do, and I asked him what he was going to do," Owens said. "He said he's staying."

Also sticking around Athens will be Owens' teammate on the defensive line, Geno Atkins.
Atkins announced he would not enter the NFL draft last month, but he still submitted paperwork to be reviewed by the NFL's draft advisory board. Atkins said Thursday, however, that it was for informational purposes only.

"I submitted them last week, so I'm just waiting to see what they've got to say, just to see where I'd rank out in this year's draft if I would leave this year," Atkins said. "I'm 100 percent on what I said, on staying here for another year."

-- Before the two spent a few hours together in Orlando, Fla. last week for the presentation of the Doak Walker award, Georgia running back Knowshon Moreno said he didn't know much about his counterpart at Michigan State, Javon Ringer.

As it turned out, neither tailback won the trophy – that went to Iowa's Shonn Greene – but the two will see plenty more of each other as they prepare to face off in the Capital One Bowl on Jan. 1.

Moreno said he shared a meal and spent some time talking with Ringer, who has 1,590 yards rushing this season, while in Orlando, but he has only seen a few highlights of the Michigan State back's runs this season.

"They showed a few highlights, and he's a great runner," Moreno said. "He can do some great things, but I haven't seen too many highlights."

While the pregame hype will likely surround the two star running backs, Moreno said he isn't too interested in the head-to-head battle with Ringer on the field in Georgia's bowl game.

"I guess people are going to talk about it, but we're not playing against each other," Moreno said. "We're playing against great defenses, and we've got to get prepared for that. We're not preparing for each other."

-- Richt said he's running out of players to work with at practice, and the results are an extra day off for the Bulldogs Friday.

Richt said 38 players were unable to participate in Thursday's practice, and 10 more will be walking at Friday's graduation ceremony, so he decided to cut the day's practice session and have the team simply do some light workouts.

"When you take that group and the guys that are walking, it's just not worth practicing," Richt said.

Benjamin Boyd, CJ Byrd, Dannell Ellerbe, Demiko Goodman, Kenneth Harris, Corvey Irvin, Wes Jobs, Mohamed Massaquoi, Brian Mimbs and Brannan Southerland are the 10 Bulldogs graduating Friday, while former Georgia players Thad Parker and Darrius Swain will also receiver their degrees.

Georgia will return to a full practice Saturday, its final session before breaking for the holidays. The Bulldogs begin practice in Orlando on Dec. 26.

-- Freshman running back Dontavius Jackson never saw the field this season, but even his practice sessions came to an end this week.

"He had his knee tweaked, and it got scoped," Richt said.

Jackson hurt the knee in practice and had it scoped Wednesday. Richt said he won't practice again until spring drills.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Wow, getting Garner and Owens back would be huge. Not really surprised on either count but relieved. Losing Owens hurt us a LOT this year. Not saying we would have beaten Florida or Bama with him, but he was clearly the leader of the defense...and will be next year, along with Rennie Curran.

For all those worried about our defense struggling again (and for all I know, they might) consider this: not only do they have a chip on their shoulder but they've got Jeff Owens, Kade Weston, Geno Atkins, Rod Battle, Marcus Washington, Darius Dewberry, Prince Miller, Bryan Evans, and (hopefully) Asher Allen all as SENIORS next season- assuming they all can stay healthy- plus the freak of nature himself, Mr. Rennie Curran