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Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Practice Notes: Dawgs Looking For Spark on the Ground

Georgia knew replacing Knowshon Moreno would be tough, but four weeks into the season, coaches hoped the results would be a bit better.

The Bulldogs rank 11th in the SEC in rushing offense, averaging just 112 yards per game on the ground – down nearly 40 yards per game from last season.

Richard Samuel opened the season as the Bulldogs’ top tailback, but since Caleb King returned from a hamstring injury two weeks ago, the two have shared the load. That’s a trend head coach Mark Richt said he expects to continue.

“Right now in my mind they are 50-50 in my thinking,” Richt said. “One guy might be running a little bit better than the other, and he may get more. We’re not to the position where we saying 75 percent of the totes here and 25 percent there. We looking to more let’s play them both, keep them fresh, see how they’re doing and kind of go from there.”

That’s Richt’s plan, but offensive coordinator Mike Bobo isn’t convinced that a timeshare is the best alternative.

Before Tuesday’s practice, Bobo said he hoped one back could impress enough during this week’s workouts to secure the bulk of the work and, in turn, improve the floundering running game.

“We’ve got to get somebody in a groove, and we’ve got to get the running game going,” Bobo said. “I’d say right now, (they’re even), but if somebody has a great day (in practice), they might be the starter. We’ve got to find somebody to jump start our running game.”

Samuel is averaging 4.5 yards per carry so far this season, but aside from an 80-yard run against Arkansas, the sophomore tailback has tallied just two yards per rush on his other 26 carries in the past two games.

King has looked like the better runner overall, picking up 114 yards on 22 carries since returning from a hamstring injury that cost him the first two games of the season. In addition to his rushing exploits, King has also been the better all-around back in practice, running backs coach Bryan McClendon said. But that doesn’t mean King has secured a more significant role in the offense.

“I do think both worked extremely hard, but Caleb did a little better in pass protection than Richard did,” McClendon said. “Hopefully one way or another it will shake out, but as long as we get the production, it wouldn’t hurt me if I had to play them 50-50 again.”

Richt has been impressed with King's strong outings in his first two games as well, but a fumble last week against Arizona State and two drops on screen passes make the task of identifying a clear starter a bit hazy.

“He’s been progressing as he’s been able to play," Richt said of King. "I think he’ll certainly get a good share of (the carries), but I’m not going to sit here and try to predict if he’ll get more than Richard."

Beyond the work of the tailbacks, Bobo said Georgia needs to improve in other areas in order to get the running game going. Blocking by the offensive line has been problematic at times, and Georgia's continued propensity for turnovers and penalties have hindered the team's ability to get its tailbacks into any sort of rhythm.

The bottom line is productivity, Bobo said, and the coaches are happy to employ whichever lineup will maximize that, whether it means playing one tailback the majority of the time or splitting up the playing time between Samuel, King and freshman Carlton Thomas.

“If you ask any running back, they’d like to have it 25 carries themselves a game, but what’s going to give us the best chance to win the game?" Bobo said. "We’re not going to give it 25 times a game if we’re not getting but a yard or two yards every time we run it.”


Two weeks ago, Brandon Wood wasn’t expecting to play this season. His shoulder was feeling better after offseason surgery, but he had all but decided to accept a medical redshirt in order to preserve an extra year of eligibility down the road.

Still, Wood missed being a part of the action, and when Richt approached him about returning to work following Georgia’s win over South Carolina earlier this month, Wood jumped at the chance.

“It’s hard just sitting there and watching the boys play and I can’t do anything, and then I saw we had injuries and I didn’t want to be selfish, I wanted to be a part of the team and help out,” Wood said.

With starting defensive end Rod Battle out, Wood saw a chance to make an impact. And despite the surgery that held him out of the first three games, he said his shoulder is actually feeling pretty good.

“I felt good going through the drills and stuff,” Wood said. “The (coaches) had been looking at the film and seeing what I was doing. They asked me what I was thinking about it, and I said I was ready to play.”

The junior saw significant action at defensive end last week against Arizona State despite having played defensive tackle each of the past two seasons. The transition hasn’t been particularly tough, Wood said, but it has tested his conditioning.

“You cover a lot more ground at defensive end than you do at tackle,” Wood said. “That’s the tough part about it. But it’s better going against a tight end than a guard and a center.”


Georgia announced Tuesday that it had finalized a deal to add Idaho State to its 2010 football schedule.

Georgia had two open dates available on the slate, needing one more non-conference home game to fill out the schedule. The Bengals will visit Athens on Nov. 6, one week after the Bulldogs’ annual date with Florida. Georgia’s lone open date will be Nov. 20, meaning it will play 11 straight games before its 2010 off week.

Idaho State plays in the Big Sky Conference and is 0-4 so far this season, including a 50-3 defeat to Arizona State, which lost to Georgia last week. The Bengals finished 1-11 in 2008, losing their first 11 games before beating Sacramento State to close out the season. Overall, Idaho State has lost 19 of its last 20 games.

Georgia’s remaining non-conference slate in 2010 includes the home opener against Louisiana-Lafayette, a road date at Colorado and the annual regular-season finale against Georgia Tech.


LSU will be the second team Georgia faces this season with a new defensive coordinator, but unlike the mystery that surrounded Bill Young’s defense at Oklahoma State, the Bulldogs know what to expect from John Chavis.

The Tigers’ new defensive coordinator is a familiar adversary for Richt, having spent 14 years as Tennessee’ defensive coordinator before moving on to LSU when Philip Fulmer was let go at the end of last season. From what Richt has seen on film, not much has changed in Chavis’ new location.

“They are doing the same thing and for good reason,” Richt said. “Coach Chavis has been one of the finest defensive coordinators in the SEC for years. … What they do is very, very sound, very difficult to deal with. When you insert the type of athletes that Tennessee and LSU have, they’ll have nothing but success.”


While fellow freshman Rantavious Wooten has enjoyed increased playing time in each of the past two games, Marlon Brown is still waiting his turn on the sidelines.

Brown said he thought he had a good preseason and has been surprised by the lack of action so far, but he isn't letting it get him down.

"It's been real tough, real tough," Brown said. "When the season started, I wasn't playing and I was kind of down a little bit. But after a while, I just said, 'Forget it,' and keep grinding in practice."

Brown was highly recruited coming out of high school, waiting until National Signing Day to confirm he was headed to Athens. After announcing his decision, Tennessee coach Lane Kiffin suggested Brown only chose Georgia to make his grandmother happy.

So the slow start to his career could certainly have Brown questioning his choice, but when asked if he had any regrets, he was pretty emphatic in his response.

"Never, man," he said. "Never."


Richt said Tuesday that he expected linebacker Akeem Dent to miss a second straight game and said defensive end Kiante Tripp was likely to sit out of Saturday’s matchup against LSU as well.

Dent's hamstring injuries have been an ongoing problem since the preseason, with his brief return to the lineup earlier this season only setting him back further.

"It's one of those things you can't really explain," linebackers coach John Jancek said. "At first he had a high hamstring pull, and now this one's a little lower. I think it's an issue of time and once he gets back of just rehabbing it and maintaining. For me, it's hard to explain, but I just know we need him out there."

After spraining his knee against Arkansas and missing last week’s game, however, cornerback Vance Cuff is expected to be ready to play this weekend.


Asked about the big hit that sent Florida’s Tim Tebow to the hospital with a concussion last week, Georgia receiver A.J. Green said he was more concerned about the lineman responsible for the sack.

“Whoever on the offensive line gave up that block is about to get it,” Green said. “It’s not good to be him right now.”

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