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Friday, August 21, 2009

Practice Notes: Samuel a 'Solid No. 1'

What seemed like the likely outcome since last week’s first scrimmage is now official, according to head coach Mark Richt. Sophomore tailback Richard Samuel is firmly atop Georgia’s depth chart with a chance to become an every-down runner.

“I’d say Richard is a solid No. 1,” Richt said. “He’s playing with a lot of energy. Some of these practices, by the end of practice he’s still blazing a trail pretty good. When the other guys fatigue, he looks even faster.”

Samuel figured to have a more competitive battle with fellow sophomore Caleb King for the starting job, but King went down with a hamstring injury last week and has been unable to practice.

Richt was quick to note, however, that King’s injury hasn’t made Samuel the default choice as the starter.

“We would have rated Richard No. 1 after the scrimmage regardless of the injury,” Richt said, “but we’re anxious to get Caleb back healthy, I can promise you that.”

Both Samuel and King struggled in reserve duty at times a year ago, but Samuel has been able to take a huge leap forward during the offseason.

In two scrimmages, Samuel has tallied 233 yards on 19 touches with four going for touchdowns.

“That one year makes a huge difference,” linebacker Rennie Curran said. “You can tell he knows his plays, knows the right fits, he knows where to be. It shows on the field. He’s running that ball hard. He’s definitely that type of running back we need in the SEC to play that hard-nosed football.”

While Samuel’s upright running style has drawn some criticism of scouts and fans, Curran said a tailback who enjoys contact as much as Samuel can be difficult for defenses to stop.

“I remember tackling him one time and I got a headache,” Curran said. “He’s the type of back that can beat a defense down over time. If you throw a speed tailback in there to mix it up with him, that can really wear a defense out with a guy who runs straight ahead and hits the hole as hard as he does.”

Richt said redshirt freshman Carlton Thomas remains in the tailback competition after posting two strong scrimmage performances as well, but the bottom line is that Samuel has been the most impressive and has earned the trust of his coaches.

“He’s shown some flashes where he runs hard, plays hard and has a much more comfortable air about him, his body language,” Richt said of Samuel. “He’s in control of what to do, and he’s giving people confidence right now.”


Richt said it looked bad when sophomore center Ben Jones collapsed with a sprained ankle Wednesday, but it turns out the injury doesn’t appear too serious.

Jones suffered a lateral sprain of his left ankle which resulted in some significant swelling, but Richt said there’s virtually no chance Jones will miss any playing time.

“I’d be shocked if he didn’t play (against Oklahoma State),” Richt said. “He really is day to day. When it happened, it looked worse than it ended up being. I wouldn’t be shocked to see him get some work next week.”

Chris Davis and Kevin Perez took reps at center with the No. 1 unit for a second straight day Friday.


Georgia president Michael Adams announced dates all school employees must take mandatory furloughs Thursday, but Richt said things remain undecided as to when the Bulldogs’ coaching staff will be on vacation.

The dates set by Adams would require Georgia’s coaches to take off work the day before the Bulldogs play Florida along with another day during Georgia Tech week.

While Richt said he’ll be meeting with athletics director Damon Evans next week to discuss how best to work around the furloughs, he said he isn’t expecting any time off during a crucial period of the season.

“If the university needs to do it, then we need to cooperate,” Richt said. “My guess is, I don’t know if we’ve ever had a day off during the season, so I really doubt that we’ll be able to just stay home and relax.”


Before opening fall camp, Richt said he expected all of his true freshmen linebackers, defensive backs, wide receivers, tight ends and running backs to play this season. Three weeks into the preseason, things are still going according to plan.

“The majority of them are still absolutely in the race,” Richt said. “Some are right in the thick of it, and some of them are kind of right on the fringe, but they’re still battling, still working.”

Among the most likely to play are tight ends Orson Charles and Arthur Lynch, wideouts Marlon Brown and Rantavious Wooten, cornerback Branden Smith and linebacker Michael Gilliard.

While several others are still working to secure playing time, Richt said finals decisions on redshirts aren’t likely to come until after the fourth game of the season.

“You just don’t know with injuries and you don’t know who’s going to perk up all of a sudden,” Richt said. “Once we get into a little bit of a different routine and everything becomes a little more familiar, they start to play a little faster and they’re not as confused. So all of a sudden a guy who you didn’t think had a chance after scrimmage No. 2 has a lot of life.”


Richt's comments on two of the potential "fringe" guys:

On Jordan Love: “Jordan has done very well, and we still have every intention of playing Jordan this year.”

On Chase Vasser: “Chase is more of a bubble guy right now. He’s got to prove that he can be reliable on special teams at this point, and he’s still got a ways to go to learn what’s got to be done as an every-down scrimmage player. We haven’t given up on the thought of him playing as a true freshman, but he’s probably a little farther off than some of the others.”


Safety Reshad Jones has been back at practice for two days, but he's still donning a green non-contact jersey. Although he's being kept out of contact drills, he said he's feeling just fine.

"Hamstrings are frustrating and kind of tricky," Jones said. “I’m full speed, I’m just limited in drills, not being able to do everything right now. But next week, I should be back without the green on.”

Consider that the case for the majority of Georgia's cast of characters missing action due to sore hamstrings.

Bryan Evans, Caleb King, Akeem Dent, Aron White and Darius Dewberry all fit the bill, and while Richt said all are looking a lot better, the training staff is taking a cautious approach to bringing them back.

“We’re at the point with some of these hamstrings where, if we were three or four weeks away from a game, they’d probably be going right now," Richt said. "But we know if we get another little tweak right now, it might cost those guys the ability to play in that game. So we’re being conservative right now, but they’ll almost all be back next week.”


Demarcus Dobbs has been in green the past two days thanks to a sore neck suffered during 11-on-11 drills, but Richt said the junior defensive end hasn't missed much.

“Dobbs is fine," Richt said. "He got his neck tweeked a little bit, but he’s out there running full speed. We’re just trying to keep him from using his (head to tackle) right now.”

Dobbs said he feels good and expects to practice fully Saturday.

Beyond the injury report, Richt also gave Dobbs a ringing endorsement in terms of production, too.

“Dobbs has really had a good camp," Richt said. "I’m proud of his effort. He’s come a long way.”


Kiante Tripp has missed the past several practices as well due to a sore shoulder. While the time away isn't helping the converted offensive lineman prepare for Oklahoma State, he said the rest is mostly for precaution.

“The shoulder’s good," Tripp said. "I’m just trying to stay in shape. I’m still in the green jersey now because they don’t want any contact because they want to keep it alright until game time, but everything feels good.”


After Thursday's practice, Jeff Owens sent a Twitter message telling friends he had just been through the toughest practice in four years.

Friday, the sun was still hot, the bodies still sore, but the coaches didn't let up -- and that's exactly what Richt was hoping to see.

“It was hot out there and kind of miserable, but they fought real good," Richt said of the team's practice. "We’re still making a few mistakes here and there, but I really liked how they practiced today. They pushed. Yesterday was a tough day, so to come right back with another one, coaches are just coaching their tails off and guys are responding. We need days like today.”

The tempo being set by the coaches hasn't diminished throughout the preseason, Curran said. Considering the problems of a year ago, that's fine by him.

"We know nobody’s going to feel sorry for us this season, nobody’s going to give us any breaks when it comes to playing those games," Curran said. "If we don’t sacrifice now, it’s going to get ugly. The way I look at it is I’d rather hurt now than hurt on ESPN or in front of those fans and look sloppy in front of the fans. We’ve been putting work in day in and day out, and hopefully it’s going to pay off.”


The Sporting News posted a list of its selections for the top 10 players in the SEC, and while Florida was well represented, and Alabama receiver Julio Jones earned a spot, no Georgia players made the cut.

That might add a touch of motivation for the current season, Curran said, but the truth is, he doesn't think any of the Bulldogs have earned that type of recognition just yet.

"At the end of the day, you’re just trying to win those games," Curran said. "If the offense is doing well, the defense is doing well and we’re winning games, that respect is going to come. The lists that they’re making because their teams made it far. They made it to the SEC championship, to the national championship. We can’t expect to get respected when my defense isn’t producing and people are getting 40 points on us. That’s how it works.”


Georgia practices at 9 a.m. Saturday, followed by the team's annual fan picture day at Sanford Stadium.


brianchoate42 said...

glad to hear about how well the freshmen are doing. Seems like Richard Samuel has stepped it up a notch this fall. Great news about Jones.

Mudminnow said...

Sounds like we're developing that lunch pail mentality from Rennie's comments. It almost sounds like we're running a mini "junction boy's" camp. I love it!

I love what you're doing as well, D. Hale. Keep it coming!

Bill said...

I love that Curran calls it "my defense." And he's right, respect will come when they produce on the field. What an asset he is! Can we clone him?