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Thursday, February 12, 2009

Football Notes (2/12)

With Matthew Stafford heading to the NFL, Joe Cox is now the starter at quarterback for Georgia, and he's garnered plenty of attention already.

Two highly recruited freshmen Aaron Murray and Zach Mettenberger are already enrolled in school and working out with the Bulldogs, too. Mettenberger is a local recruit from Watkinsville with a cannon arm, and Murray was touted as one of the best high school players in Florida, leading his team to a state title last season. Both have already earned their fair share of hype, too.

And then there's Logan Gray the redshirt freshman who figured to be second on the depth chart in 2009, but thus far has been fourth in terms of media and fan attention.

"I don't know if I feel forgotten," Gray said. "It's easy when we've got two big quarterbacks coming in as freshmen. I feel like I was getting a lot of questions my freshman year, and we still had Matthew Stafford and Joe Cox. I don't mind it. I know what I've got to do and I'm just going to stay focused on that."

Last season, staying focused on improving at quarterback wasn't easy. As one of Georgia's primary punt returners and a key cog on several special teams units, Gray spent a big chunk of his practice time working on things other than playing quarterback.

"When you're losing out on reps it just kind of catches up to you and I think that's why, I don't know if I regressed, but I wasn't getting better at the rate I wanted to last season," Gray said.

With his special teams days behind him or so it seems for now it's all quarterback, all the time for the athletic Gray. He said he's happy to be focused on playing his true position, and hopes to earn some playing time with a strong spring, too. Mark Richt and Mike Bobo both said that plays could be installed in the offense to exploit Gray's ability to run the ball as a compliment to Cox, who is more of a true pocket passer.

"It hasn't been talked about too much so far, but hopefully if I have a good spring and the coaches feel confident in me, that would be something I would love to do," Gray said. "Hopefully that will work out, but I've just got to have a good spring and prove myself that I'm capable of getting in there and doing that."

-- Rennie Curran had an impressive sophomore season at Georgia, racking up 115 tackles to lead the team, but he said he expects more in 2009.

Curran said he has been working on small details of his game, such as using his hands better and spending a bit more time watching film, but he said his biggest concern has been improving his leadership skills.

Heading into his junior season, Curran said he would like to earn All-America honors next year, but his top priority is getting the Bulldogs' defense ready to win an SEC title.

"My main thing is for the defense as a whole to be successful, and I feel like that starts with me setting the tempo," Curran said. "It's just things like working on my football knowledge, so hopefully if a guy's about to make a mistake, I can help him out, point him out when he's doing something wrong, just knowing the entire defense as a whole, just any little detail that will take me to the next level."

-- Wide receiver A.J. Green said he's feeling about 80 percent healthy right now, but he still isn't sure he'll be ready to go full speed in spring practice. The SEC's leading pass catcher in 2008, Green suffered through a nagging groin injury all season and has spent the offseason resting so far.

"I'm getting much better," Green said. "I'm starting to run and I'm lifting now."

It's progress, but it might not be enough to have him ready to be a full participant in drills when camp opens next month. Green said the biggest problem now is simply getting the groin back into shape, and he's not rushing things at this point.

"It's not that sore," Green said, "but when you open up or run for a long period of time, it just gets tired, but no pain."

-- It's been a common refrain in Georgia's locker room this offseason, but everyone seems to agree the team is working a lot harder than it did a year ago. Cox said the new focus has been obvious during seven-on-seven drills, when even the young players have stepped up to show their skills.

"The (drills) that we have done have been real productive," Cox said. "A lot of the younger guys that have to step up have been doing real good, and everybody wants to learn. It's been good to see."

-- Darius Dewberry won't even be at full speed until June after undergoing surgery on his shoulder, so linebackers coach John Jancek isn't making any predictions about the senior's future just yet. Given the potential depth Georgia could have at linebacker, however, a change in positions isn't completely out of the question, Jancek said.

The Bulldogs are thin at defensive end, and Dewberry's bulky frame and physical style have been enough to at least have coaches considering a position switch in his senior season. Dewberry saw action in just seven games last year due to a mix of injuries and off-field problems, and will face stiff competition for playing time to open the 2009 season.

"With his body type and the way that he plays the game, he certainly would be a candidate to (move), but I think we have to wait and see how the defensive ends perform this spring," Jancek said.

-- Senior linebacker Marcus Washington missed all of 2008 with a shoulder injury, but that's feeling good now. The problem, however, is that he's managed to injure himself in a whole new way this offseason.

Washington sprained both wrists doing power clean lifts in the weight room last week and is now sporting a supportive brace on each hand this week. He said the injuries are minor, however, and expects to be 100 percent by next week.

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