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Friday, June 5, 2009

From the Mailbag: Keeping the Dawgs Healthy

Greetings from lovely Savannah, Ga. I'll be here all weekend for the wedding of the Telegraph's Jay Adams, who seems to have miraculously convinced a girl to marry him. Hopefully few big sports stories happen in Macon while we're gone, since the majority of the sports staff is here.

A couple quick links I wanted to pass along...

-- 960 the Ref has an interview with Georgia basketball coach Mark Fox posted on its Web site.

-- If you're interested in Phil Steele's preview of Georgia, the Senator has a link to it at his site.

-- And finally, sad news this morning that Ledger-Enquirer preps writer Jerry Rutledge died last night at the age of 52. I didn't know Jerry, but my prayers certainly go out to his family and all the folks at the Ledger-Enquirer.

I've also been posting responses to some reader questions from Mark Richt and Mark Fox this week, and I still have one more for you.

For the life of me, I can't remember who submitted this question, so I apologize in advance for the lack of a shout out, but someone wanted to know what Coach Richt was planning to do differently this year in hopes of avoiding so many injuries.

First off, while Caleb King and Joe Cox and the defensive ends will all be under the microscope this fall, perhaps nothing will have a bigger impact on Georgia's success than staying healthy. Last year was a disaster in that department, but the Bulldogs at least had the depth and talent (and Knowshon Moreno and Matthew Stafford) to overcome the rash of bumps and bruises.

This year, they won't have that luxury. Georgia has just one experienced tight end for the first six games. It has just six scholarship wideouts, and just two with any real experience. The defensive end situation is a mess. Safety is thin, and if Cox were to get hurt, no other QB on the roster has thrown a pass in a game.

Of course, all that won't matter much if Georgia can stay healthy, and Richt has offered somewhat differing plans for how that's going to happen. Immediately after the 2008 season ended (and even during the bowl practices) Richt said he thought he was too soft on his players. He felt he allowed them to relax too much following a handful of early injuries, and that the relaxed attitude may have led ot more injuries. The result was a brutal offseason that almost every player I spoke with called the hardest of their careers.

Recently, however, Richt has talked about trying to be more cautious with his players, too -- not wanting to overtax their bodies early and have them struggling late.

His most recent response, however, seems to be a mix of the two philosophies -- sort of dipping your toe in the pool for a few minutes, then diving in head first.

"We don't want to run into an injury situation and I've got to try to set up our practices to where we can still practice in a physical manner but not to the point where we're wearing these guys to a nub," Richt said. "I want to start in such a way where we don't go guns blazing early on and then we have a bunch of guys watching instead of practicing, so that's something I want to look at real closely. And then I just want to establish a tremendous practice and work ethic, especially defensively, that will allow you to establish that mental and physical edge that you need."

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