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Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Practice Notes: Samuel Impresses During First Scrimmage

The spotlight was on Georgia's tailbacks during the Bulldogs' first scrimmage of the fall Wednesday, and sophomore Richard Samuel didn't disappoint.

Samuel stole the show with a series of impressive runs, totaling 108 yards on five carries, two of which went for touchdowns, and adding another 70-yard reception for a score.

"He ran the ball well," head coach Mark Richt said. "He definitely had more space to work with than any other back, but he broke some tackles also. He finished strong."

Samuel saw minimal playing time in a backup role a season ago, showing flashing of potential, but had trouble picking up extra yards downfield at times.

While Richt said Samuel benefited from some big holes at the line of scrimmage Wednesday, a great deal of his production came on moves the sophomore made in the open field, including a few impressive maneuvers on a 63-yard touchdown dash.

"We were running off of the right side of the line and it kind of got congested," Richt said. "He broke it back across the grain and got vertical. He either made a safety miss or stiff-armed him and then made the last guy miss."

Samuel had the majority of the carries with Georgia's No. 1 offense, Richt said, while his primary competition for the starting tailback job, Caleb King, split time between the first- and second-team offense. King finished the day with just 18 yards on five carries.

Georgia's other running backs met with mixed results as well. Carlton Thomas tallied 60 yards on five carries, including a long run of 28 yards, while Dontavius Jackson ran four times and lost six yards. Freshman Washaun Ealey added just 13 yards on five carries, but Richt cautioned fans not to read too much into the final statistics.

"You can get a pretty good gauge of who ran with the No. 1 offensive line and who ran with the No. 2s," he said.


As impressive as Samuel's scrimmage stats were, the sophomore is still having some problems holding on to the football.

One of Samuel's most impressive runs of the scrimmage came on a third-down play in which he darted through the line of scrimmage for a first down and a long gain. The play ended with Samuel coughing up the football, however, and that's something Richt won't tolerate in a starting tailback.

Richt said the fumble may have been the first of the fall for Samuel, but after the tailback struggled with the same problem as a freshman a year ago, it's an issue he needs to resolve quickly.

"Right now I would think the incentive of playing time would really help him hold on to the ball," Richt said. "That's probably the only thing that will keep him from getting a substantial amount of playing time is just being a guy who fumbles."


After Georgia's coaches have a chance to break down the film from Wednesday's scrimmage, Richt said he expects the depth chart at tailback to be reshuffled a bit, with two or three of the top performers to be moved to the front of the pack. Although Richt cautions that his evaluations won't be all about the numbers.

"When we evaluate, we will put more on a scrimmage than we do on any other grading system," Richt said. "This is as live as we can get, as real as we can get. So the scrimmages mean a lot, but we do understand when one guy's got a lot of space and other guys don't."

While the new-look depth chart will likely be a hot topic among fans, Richt said he's not overly concerned with who has earned starting jobs just yet. The bigger issue for him is finding enough depth that Georgia won't have to worry about employing a back-up from time to time.

"I don't particularly care who's No. 1 today or tomorrow," Richt said. "I'm looking for guys that are ready to play. I'm not even looking for starters. I'm looking for guys that, if we put them in the game, they could function at winning football. That's really and truly all I'm concerned about right now."


Beyond tailback, the biggest position battle on the roster may be for the No. 2 quarterback job, a position to which sophomore Logan Gray continues to stake his claim.

Gray was the top performer among Georgia's backup quarterbacks Wednesday, completing 6-of-12 passes for 93 yards and two touchdowns, going mostly against Georgia's No. 2 defense. While Gray has continued to impress, however, Richt said the second spot on the depth chart is still an open competition.

"He's done a nice job, and I would say he's still a solid No. 2 but Aaron (Murray) has done some nice things," Richt said.

Murray finished the scrimmage 5-of-16 for 52 yards and a touchdown, while fellow freshman Zach Mettenberger completed just 1-of-10 passing.

Mettenberger's performance was as much a function of some problems with the No. 2 offensive line, Richt said, which has made it tough to evaluate the freshman's overall ability.

"I hate it for him because the great majority of his passes that were incomplete were batted at the line of scrimmage," Richt said. "When he got in there, he didn't get much help from the line at all. When Mettenberger gets time and space, he can really throw it beautifully, but he's just not getting that luxury right now."

While Murray and Mettenberger are both battling to move up the depth chart by the time fall practice ends, Richt said he still wouldn't write off the option of playing one of them this season even if they don't beat out Gray for the No. 2 job.

"If we felt one of those two guys was our No. 2 then we'd absolutely play them," Richt said. "One of them is going to be No. 3 if they're not No. 2, and we still may choose to play them, but I'd be hesitant to do that."

Starting quarterback Joe Cox completed nine of his 13 attempts for 158 yards and two touchdowns in Wednesday's scrimmage.


Rod Battle missed four games last season and all of spring practice due to a litany of injuries, but Richt said his senior defensive end is making up for lost time.

Battle was a force during Wednesday's scrimmage, racking up three-and-a-half sacks. The senior's return to health – and to the starting lineup – will be a key for the defense this season, Richt said.

"He missed four of five games, some at the beginning, some in the middle, some at the end, and he never really got on track (last season)," Richt said. "He's excited he's healthy, and he's practicing well. It's good that we've got a bunch of healthy D ends right now, period. We will be better."

Fellow defensive end Demarcus Dobbs had half-a-sack during Wednesday's scrimmage.


A number of Georgia's usual starters at linebacker sat out of Wednesday's scrimmage nursing injuries, but Richt said none were serious. Rennie Curran, Darius Dewberry, Akeem Dent and Darryl Gamble all missed the practice with soreness in their hamstrings.

The absences were likely as much about getting a closer look at the youngsters as it was about giving the time off to the veterans.

"I think that's partially to get those guys a lot of work and then we had some veterans that are a little banged up, and we wanted to just keep them from getting hurt unnecessarily," Richt said. "I think Coach (John) Jancek wanted to see his young pups play. He knows Rennie can play, he knows Dent can play, he knows Gamble can play."

In place of the veterans, Nick Williams, Marcus Dowtin and freshman Mike Gilliard ran with the No. 1 unit for most of the scrimmage. Dowtin tallied seven tackles and a half-a-sack at middle linebacker, while Gilliard had five tackles and a half-a-sack, as well, while playing the Sam position.

"(Gilliard) seems to be picking things up well," Richt said. "He lined up properly, and certainly he will hit you. I think he's gaining the respect of his teammates."


Receivers Marlon Brown and Tavarres King skipped Wednesday's scrimmage as well. Brown is recovering from a jammed finger, and Richt said King's back has been sore after taking a particularly rough hit during practice earlier this week.

While Caleb King and Washaun Ealey both played in the scrimmage, Richt said neither was at full strength. Ealey has practiced with a sore elbow after hyperextending it last week, and King had a sore hamstring, Richt said.

Tight end Aron White also missed the scrimmage with a sore hamstring, Richt said.


The number of scratches from the starting lineup was extensive, but two returning veterans looked good in their first live action of the fall.

"Jeff Owens got to play today and came out of it outstanding, and Trinton Sturdivant played and came out of it just fine," Richt said. "So they were happy, I'm sure, to get that full scrimmage out of the way."


-- While Richt and running backs coach Bryan McClendon have insisted that blocking will be as important in deciding on a starting tailback as their rushing totals, Richt said his runners didn't have too many chances to show their stuff Wednesday.

"The defense didn't bring a lot of pressure," Richt said. "You usually have to bring a linebacker or a safety in order for the backs to get involved in the blocking schemes. ... The true test comes when they're bringing pressure where you have to recognize it, get in position to do it, then follow through on your block. We didn't (bring) much pressure at all."

-- Richt said the No. 1 units performed admirably, as expected, but he was disappointed with the performances of some of Georgia's backups.

"Our No. 1 offense did really well and our No. 1 defense did really well, but there's too much disparity between our ones and twos right now," he said. "There should be better competition when our twos go against our ones on both sides of the ball."

-- Georgia's coaches have worked tirelessly to eliminate penalties this season, and the defense seems to be on board. The offense, however, has been a slightly different story.

"It's not horrific, but we're still jumping offsides a bit too often on offense," Richt said. "The defense might have had one. The defensive line has been better this camp than the offense as far as just aligning properly and just not jumping off. The neutral zone penalties (for the offense) are a little bit of a bother right now."

-- Orson Charles had two touchdown receptions in the scrimmage and Richt said he has been impressed by what the freshman tight end has done in practice thus far. Arthur Lynch added a third touchdown reception during Wednesday's action, too, and Richt is hopeful the position could be a key weapon in the red zone this season. "We do have some good-looking receiving tight ends right now," he said.

-- Richt said Marcus Washington worked almost entirely at defensive end during the scrimmage. Sounds like that's close to being a full-time gig for Washington now.

-- For those of you who asked, no, I didn't get to watch the scrimmage. The stats were provided by Richt and were "unofficial."

-- One other note I meant to mention yesterday: Talked to A.J. Green for a story and the subject of Mohamed Massaquoi came up. He said he spoke with Mo earlier this week and that Massaquoi is working as the starting No. 2 receiver with the Browns alongside Braylon Edwards right now.

-- For full scrimmage stats, click HERE (or scroll down an extra half inch).


Anonymous said...

Good stuff David! Thanks for feeding us so well :D

Anonymous said...

if Richard Samuel racked up that much yardage, that does not bode well for our defense. Sounds like our defense struggled mightily in the scrimmage.

Anonymous said...

sore hamstrings...definitely a strength and conditioning issue when its that many! do we not know how to stretch properly and workout properly? seems like the only weight room news we get is people going for the jugular and just trying to max everything out...don't think that's a good philosophy

Anonymous said...

...Um, did you miss the part where it was the No. 2 defense? And not only the 2 defense, but the 2 defense missing some of it's better/best lbr's, in Dowtin, Williams, and Gilliard, who were running with the 1's.

I would hope that our no. 1 offense can gash a bunch of freshman backups.

Our no. 1 defense throttled our no 2 offense.