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Friday, February 20, 2009

Friday Football Notes (2/20)

Bolded, for your viewing pleasure...

-- Defensive tackle Ricardo Crawford admits he finds Shakespeare pretty boring. He studied the British playwright in high school, and never took a great deal of interest.

This summer, however, Crawford expects that to change, now that he'll get a first-hand view of the backdrop for much of Shakespeare's work. The third-year sophomore will spend three weeks studying Shakespeare and British literature in Oxford this summer as part of a study abroad program sponsored by the university.

"I'm going to have my camera, everything," Crawford said. "I'm ready to have fun, I'm ready to get there."

The 21-year-old Crawford's longest trip to this point in his life has been to visit relatives in Chicago, and he doesn't know of anyone on the team who has ever been to England. In fact, his fellow Bulldogs have already taken to teasing him a bit about his travel plans, giving him the nickname "Oxford."

Despite the friendly barbs from his teammates, Crawford said he's particularly proud to be going on the adventure. His 2.97 GPA was just shy of the 3.0 cutoff to qualify, he said, but passionate recommendations from people like athletics director Damon Evans put him over the top, and he said the accomplishment impressed a few of his coaches.

"When Coach (Rodney) Garner heard it, he was like, 'Huh?'" Crawford said. "He totally lost it, but he was so proud of me. I felt good for Coach Garner to feel proud of me. That's a big goal for anybody."

-- Freshmen Brandon Boykin and Sanders Commings are close friends, but this offseason, they'll be facing off against each other in a battle for playing time at the cornerback position vacated by Asher Allen.

While Boykin seems to have the inside edge based on the playing experience he got as a nickelback in 2008, he knows the task of earning the starting gig won't be easy.

"I'm going to have to go out there and work hard every day because there's people behind me that want to play the position just as bad," Boykin said. "I definitely wouldn't say that it's my position."

Allen gained a reputation during his three years in Athens as one of the SEC's most physical corners, and that's a tradition that both Boykin and Commings hope to continue.

Of course, Boykin figured he would have a hard time adding the weight he needed to match Commings' intimidating 6-foot-1, 200-pound frame. As it turned out, the bigger task might be keeping weight off.

At 185, Boykin has added nearly 20 pounds since arriving at Georgia last year, and he said it wouldn't surprise him if he was even bigger once the 2009 season began.

"I'm surprised I got there so early, so I just need to maintain that during mats and spring practices," he said. "If I can get bigger and maintain my speed, that'd be great but at the rate I'm going, I probably will get bigger."

As for the battle with Commings for playing time, Boykin insists it will be a friendly competition, and he expects both to find a role when the team wraps up fall practice.

"He's like my best friend on the team, but it's going to be pretty intense," Boykin said. "I know we're going to compete against each other, and whatever the outcome is, we'll still be friends. He's going to be on the field regardless, and so am I."

-- Georgia's first-year running backs coach Bryan McClendon said he has to laugh a bit when he considers how little he'll have to work with this spring.

A few months ago, Georgia's tailbacks were the envy of the SEC, with two talented freshmen backing up the conference's leading rusher, Knowshon Moreno, while two more freshmen waited in the wings with redshirts.

When the Bulldogs open spring practice next month, however, McClendon won't be enjoying a wealth of riches. Moreno is headed to the NFL, while freshmen Richard Samuel and Dontavius Jackson will both miss practice while recovering from injuries.

While McClendon said he's hopeful Jackson will be able to participate in a limited capacity, he said the top priority for his battered backs is to get healthy.

"I don't want them to try to rush back and put themselves behind the 8-ball in that aspect, coming back and they're still hurt," McClendon said. "They're not giving themselves a chance by coming back hurt."

-- With the NFL combine kicking off this week, former Georgia quarterback Matthew Stafford has taken center stage in the national media. As a potential No. 1 overall draft pick, Stafford has been popping up in newspaper stories, Internet mock drafts and TV coverage with regularity.

Last week, former roommate and current Georgia wide receiver Kris Durham was on the phone with Stafford, catching up on each other's lives, when the quarterback put his old friend on hold.

"He told me to hang on for a second because he had to go do an interview for 'SportsCenter,'" Durham said. "Then I saw it later that day. It was kind of funny."

All the hype hasn't gone to Stafford's head, however, Durham said. For a quarterback who has been the center of attention since high school, it's all par for the course.

"He's got a level head," Durham said, "so he's taken it and is just focused on what he needs to do to get ready for the combine and the interviews and all the tests he's about to do."

-- One of Georgia athletics director Damon Evans' biggest goals for the football program for the past few years has been to market the Bulldogs on a national level. It started with scheduling out-of-conference opponents like Colorado and Arizona State, but the plan will take another big step forward this spring when Georgia's annual G-Day game will be broadcast by ESPN.

As it turns out, however, the impetus for deal actually came when Evans was getting his haircut a year ago, and he noticed Florida's spring game was on the TV.

"I've got the guys in the barbershop saying, 'Hey Damon, you can't get us on TV?'" Evans said. "I looked at that, and I think that's the only college football on that day, and my mind is just racing at what great exposure that would be. That's when we started working on it."

Georgia's G-Day game will be broadcast live on ESPN on April 11, the first time the game has been carried on national TV. Evans said the exposure for the program could be a big boost for Georgia both in recruiting and in growing the team's popularity to a non-traditional fan base.

"To have your spring game on national TV, that means people on the West coast can see it, people up north, Midwest," Evans said. "That's what it's all about. I've always talked about growing our presence nationally, and this is one way, another step in doing that."

-- It has been two long seasons in Athens for running back Caleb King. The highly recruited tailback hasn't seen much action, carrying the ball more than once in the same game just seven times in his career while backing up 1,000-yard rusher Knowshon Moreno.

"It was hard," King said. "On the sideline you would see him make a play and be like, dang, I can do that, too. It was tough. But I learned a lot from it, I learned a lot watching, and everything happens for a reason."

When spring practice begins next month, King won't lack for attention. Georgia will have just two healthy scholarship tailbacks in action, and King is likely to be used early and often while looking to lock down a spot atop the depth chart for the fall.

"It's a gift and a curse," King said. "I know I'm going to get beat on and get tired, but I'm going to get a lot of reps and a lot of time to shine."

-- I didn't get a chance to include this in the links post earlier today, but the Albany Herald's Scott Chancey has an article catching up with former Bulldog and current Super Bowl runner up, Leonard Pope.

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