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Saturday, April 4, 2009

Scrimmage Notes: Houston Dominates

It wasn't anything near a perfect practice, but Mark Richt said he was pleased with the effort his team showed during its second spring scrimmage on Saturday.

"It was a much better effort, much better energy the entire time, a lot of hard hitting, just a lot of good intensity and leadership," Richt said.

After an up-and-down performance during the first scrimmage on Monday in which the team showed little resilience in the face of adversity, Richt said Saturday's practice was far more energetic. Still, the results were mixed.

The offense was stymied for much of the early part of the scrimmage, but once coaches changed field position, putting the defense on its heels, the momentum began to shift.

"When we had 50 or more yards on the offense, we stopped them every time," linebacker Rennie Curran said. "But when it was near the goal line or inside the 50, it was kind of like we shut down at times. No matter what the situation is or where we are on the field, we've got to dominate."

One player who was dominant was Justin Houston.

As the Bulldogs' lone healthy scholarship defensive end with any playing experience at the position, Houston has been shouldering a good bit of the pass-rush burden this spring. He responded Saturday with a four-tackle performance in which he racked up a sack on the first two plays of the scrimmage and later hauled in an interception that he returned for a 30-yard touchdown.

"I thought a lot of guys perked up, but the guy that really caught my eye in a hurry was Justin Houston," Richt said. "Considering the limited amount of plays these guys are getting, that was by far the most productive defensive player."

The defensive struggles came largely with the second-team defense in the game, and with so many injuries and inexperienced players on the field, Curran said that was to be expected. Still, he said, everyone on the team needs to be prepared to play their role, and he wants to find some serious improvement before the Bulldogs' annual G-Day game next Saturday.

"Toward the end, we let some big plays get in there, some third down-and-longs, and that kind of killed us," Curran said. "We've got to keep consistency. That's one of the things that killed us last year. It only takes a couple guys to kill the whole entire defense."


Joe Cox's veteran leadership seems to be paying dividends with his two young understudies pretty quickly.

For the second straight scrimmage, freshman Aaron Murray was responsible for the offense's best highlight, a 64-yard touchdown pass to Israel Troupe. Murray finished the scrimmage 6-of-10 passing for 132 yards and two touchdowns.

His fellow early enrollee, Zach Mettenberger, didn't post big numbers, but head coach Mark Richt said he has made solid progress, too, this spring.

"I'm really, really pleased with the quarterbacks," Richt said. "Zach is placing the ball very, very well. Aaron has found the open man deep a couple times, which is good. I stand right in the huddle and listen to them call the play and they're getting more and more confidence. There's a lot less confusion."

While the progress has been obvious, Richt isn't ready to make any decisions about the future just yet. The upside, he said, is that both Murray and Mettenberger have shown that, if needed, they would be ready to play in a game. Richt just isn't sure if they'll be needed at this point.

"I'm not going to be in a rush right now to say either one would be redshirted or not yet." Richt said. "When it gets closer to the moment of truth, we've just got to decide."


The spring hasn't just been about the senior and the freshmen. Georgia's other quarterback has been impressive, too.

During Saturday's scrimmage, Logan Gray completed 7-of-9 passes for 52 yards and a touchdown and showed impressive accuracy and decision-making, Richt said.

After missing many quarterback meetings and prep time while playing on special teams a year ago, Gray is still playing catch up on the field, but Richt said the progress he's making has been evident at times.

"Logan is still a little inconsistent, but when he puts it together, it looks good," Richt said. "There's been a couple days he looked great, and a couple days when he was still kind of up and down."

Gray's arm is developing, but it's his legs that may be most intriguing. His speed and athleticism landed him a role as a returner on special teams last season, and Richt said that, as the second-string quarterback, Gray could see significant action on sets designed to exploit his athleticism, similar to the role D.J. Shockley played with Georgia while backing up David Greene.

For now, however, Bobo just wants Gray to concentrate on his fundamentals and let the coaches figure out how to use him down the road.

"This spring isn't about scheming or finding ways to get him in space," Bobo said. "It's about developing him as a quarterback. Halfway through spring, he's done a nice job of that."


Tony Wilson shed his green, non-contact jersey a few days ago, and getting back into the action on the field has been a huge relief for the junior wide receiver who missed most of last season with an ankle injury.

"It's encouraging to be back on the field after so long," Wilson said. "Being able to hit somebody yesterday, it had been since Arizona State (last September) since the last time I hit somebody. So it just felt good to be back out there."

Wilson participated in Saturday's scrimmage, but Richt said he is only at about 60 percent right now. Still, Wilson said he is encouraged by the progress and remains patient as the ankle heals.

"I've got four or five months to go, so we can break that 40 percent down and make it a healthy 100 by the time the fall comes," Wilson said.

Linebacker Charles White also returned to full participation in time for Saturday's scrimmage after missing the entire 2008 season, and Rennie Curran said he looked sharp in his debut.

"He looked really good having come off an Achilles injury," Curran said.


Fred Munzenmaier said he has been chiding coaches for months to give him a few more touches on offense. The fullback has just two carries in his career, but both have resulted in touchdowns.

With two tailbacks out of action due to injuries this spring, and walk-on Kalvin Daniels missing most of this week's practice with a shoulder injury of his own, Munzenmaier's salesmanship finally paid off, and he made the most of it during Saturday's scrimmage.
Munzenmaier has worked at tailback for most of the past three practices, and he earned 11 carries – all but one at tailback – on Saturday. He finished the scrimmage with 54 yards rushing and a touchdown.

"He had a real excellent day Wednesday and did the same thing (Saturday)," Richt said. "If we're blocking for three, the kid's getting five."

While Munzenmaier doesn't fit the mold of the typical tailback, Richt said he has enough moves to be successful.

"He's got some vision," Richt said. "He's not going to dodge many guys, but he's fluid enough as an athlete to bounce it outside. He's not a burner, but he finishes the run."

Shaun Chapas remains the starter at fullback, and Josh Sailors has handled the bulk of the reserve duties during Munzenmaier's stretch at tailback.

Once Daniels, Richard Samuel and Dontavius Jackson return to action, Munzenmaier's days as a ball carrier could be numbered, but Richt said he wouldn't rule out a few more touches for his fullback down the road.

"He came in in a pinch but he's done very well," Richt said. "Is he going to get a bunch of reps when everybody's healthy? Maybe, because he's a different style runner."


One note, Mark Richt said that most of the offensive touchdowns occurred when the team practice drives that started on the plus side of the field (i.e. the wrong side of the 50 for the defense). Rennie Curran said the defense was dominant with the long field and struggled on the short field, as you'll see the stats indicate.

Caleb King 10-43-1 TD
Carlton Thomas 6-25
Fred Munzenmaier 11-54-1 (all but one carry came as a tailback)
Logan Gray 2-23
Aaron Murray 3-6

Joe Cox 6-18-1-65 2 TDs (the INT came on the first play of the 1-minute drill)
Aaron Murray 6-10-0-132 2 TDs (including a 64-yarder to Israel Troupe)
Logan Gray 7-9-0-52 1 TD
Zach Mettenberger 1-5-0-39

Israel Troupe 3-111-1
Marquis Brown 4-53-1
Shaun Chapas 3-8-1
A.J. Green 1-26-1
Michael Moore 2-12-1
Aron White 1-5
Vernon Spellman 1-18-1
Derick Rich 1-30

Blair Walsh 1-of-1 on FGs (23 yards)
Only missed PAT was by Jamey Lindley

Justin Houston 4 tackles, 2 sacks, and an INT return for a TD (30 yards off Cox)
Vance Cuff, John Knox, Marcus Dowtin -- 5 tackles each
Nick Williams, 4 tackles
Dowtin had two PBUs, Chad Gloer and Darryl Gamble each had one. Richt said at least two of the PBUs should have been INTs though.
Kiante Tripp, 1 sack
Rennie Curran, Akeem Dent, Reshad Jones, Sanders Commings, Christian Robinson and Kade Weston, 3 tackles each

Dontavius Jackson, Akeem Hebron and Kris Durham all sat out the scrimmage.


Anonymous said...

Kinda exciting news about Munzenmaier(sp).

Billy Barou said...

Very exciting news about Houston...he showed some quickness off the edge last year, if he can really step up this year it would be HUGE. If we stay healthy, we have a very good pass-rushing set of tackles. Rod Battle is solid but not spectacular on one side, we really need someone to step up on the other side!

Anonymous said...

The in depth stats are much appreciated David