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Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Practice Notes: Offense Remains a Mystery for Georgia

The film room is usually the starting point in preparation for an unknown opponent, but this year, there might not be too much studying Oklahoma State's coaches can do to prepare for Georgia's offense.

With four new starters at the skill positions and a bevy of fresh-faced reserves ready for their first work as college players, there will be a much different look on offense than the Bulldogs had a year ago. The problem is, even Georgia isn't quite sure what to expect.

"It's going to be different, no doubt, and I'm not sure what it's going to look like," head coach Mark Richt said. "I've got an idea on a couple guys, but there's a lot we just don't know."

Only fullback Shaun Chapas and wide receiver A.J. Green return as skill-position starters from a unit that was one of the most feared in the SEC a year ago. The rest of the unit, however, will be getting used to new surroundings.

Quarterback Joe Cox, tight end Aron White, wide receiver Michael Moore and tailback Richard Samuel are all expected to get starting nods Saturday, but the group combines for just eight starts in their careers prior to this season.

Even the offensive line, while stocked with veterans, hasn't played together with the current lineup before, meaning it might take a while for Georgia's coaches and players to get a feel for what they have to work with.

That doesn't mean the Bulldogs aren't expecting to produce some offensive fireworks, however.

"I feel really good about everything that we have in right now and everything that we're doing," Cox said. "I think we've got a good plan set and we have the guys to execute it. So I'm not worried."


Tuesday provided some bad news for Oklahoma State.

First, starting tight end Jamal Mosley left the team for personal reasons. Head coach Mike Gundy refused to comment further about Mosley's departure, but The Oklahoman speculated that recent legal problems for the sophomore could have played a role. Mosley was also charged with misdemeanor marijuana possession in June but was currently in good standing with the program.

That news was fallowed Tuesday by a report by Oklahoma State's Scout Web site that said starting linebacker Orie Lemon tore his ACL during Monday's practice and would miss the season.

Lemon started all 13 games for the Cowboys last season at middle linebacker.


After spending the 2008 season putting together a patchwork offensive line, Georgia opens the 2009 season with a surprising level of depth.

Trinton Sturdivant, Chris Davis, Ben Jones, Cordy Glenn and Clint Boling are expected to be the starting five for Georgia on Saturday, which means former starters Vince Vance and Justin Anderson will be watching from the sidelines.

With temperatures expected to be in the high 80s in Stillwater, however, Richt said he expects that there will be some backups rotating in during the game.

“I'm pretty confident that we'll play more than five linemen,” Richt said. “I think Vince will play. I think Justin Anderson will play.”

Josh Davis, who started three games for the Bulldogs last season, won't be available Saturday while he continues his rehab following multiple shoulder surgeries this offseason. Davis is getting closer to making a return, however, and Richt said the junior could be in position for playing time in the near future.

“He's not going to play this week, but hopefully in a week or two, Josh will be in a position where he can be in the mix, which would be good for us,” Richt said.


Outside of Richard Samuel's climb to the top of the tailback rotation, Georgia's first official depth chart of the season offered few changes from how it was expected to look before preseason practices began.

The lone surprise might be at linebacker, where Darryl Gamble has moved to the top of the depth chart at middle linebacker and senior Darius Dewberry is listed as the top Sam linebacker.

That leaves Akeem Dent, who started 10 games in 2008, the odd man out, but linebackers coach John Jancek said not to read too much into Dent's status as a reserve. A nagging hamstring injury cost Dent nearly two weeks of practice, and that was just enough to keep him from solidifying a starting post.

“He missed a bunch of practice and Darryl has obviously done a great job,” Jancek said. “Dewberry's been back a couple weeks now and shown he's ready to play. But it's not anything where (Dent) is not going to play. He's got a role in there and will probably get just as many reps as Darryl. It's a great situation to have when you have a bunch of guys with experience.”

Jancek said he expects Dewberry, Dent, Gamble, Rennie Curran, Nick Williams and Marcus Dowtin all to see action against Oklahoma State.


Defensive tackle Abry Jones and defensive end Montez Robinson may not be among the freshmen who see action in Georgia's opener, but the two have impressed enough this preseason to give Richt a good indication they'll be on the field at some point this season.

“Before this season's over, (they'll play),” Richt said. “I'm not going to say they will or won't in this first game, but we're targeting them to play this season.”


Running backs coach Bryan McClendon said Caleb King told him his hamstring felt better Tuesday, but the sophomore tailback still wasn't not back and practice. Sources told the Telegraph Monday that King would not make the trip to Stillwater, but McClendon said that would not be official until the team's travel roster is released Wednesday.

Assuming King won't be able to play this week, McClendon said redshirt freshman Dontavius Jackson would be the likely fourth tailback on the depth chart behind Samuel, Carlton Thomas and Kalvin Daniels. While McClendon said freshman Washaun Ealey has turned in some strong practices this week, traveling Jackson is a more practical alternative.

“You definitely want to bring an extra guy,” McClendon said. “Dontavius is pretty much already going because we use him on some special teams.”


In last year's opener, Georgia had nine different players catch a pass against Georgia Southern, with none collecting more than three.

That distribution isn't likely to be quite so wide this year, with a thin corps of receivers that includes just six scholarship players, including two freshmen.

“We're not going to expect them to play a major role right now, but they've certainly got to be ready to play,” receivers coach Tony Ball said of his freshmen, Marlon Brown and Rantavious Wooten. “And with what we're asking them to do, I think they can go out there and perform.”

That's the expectation Cox has for them, too, but he's not planning to have the outcome of the game hinge on their success. With veterans Michael Moore and A.J. Green, Cox said he expects a few more passes to sail in the direction of Georgia's best receivers.

“You don't want to just have the other team knowing they're going to throw it to one guy,” Cox said. “So we want to spread it around, but we know who our playmakers are, and we've got to be creative in finding ways to get those guys the ball more.”

Of course, finding a breakout receiver among the freshman class wouldn't be anything new for Georgia. Last year, Green burst onto the scene in the Bulldogs' opener, catching a 36-yard reception on just his third play from scrimmage to set up a touchdown.

After watching Brown, Wooten and tight ends Arthur Lynch and Orson Charles this preseason, Green said he wouldn't be surprised to see a repeat performance from one of this year's new faces.

“I know they'll be able to handle it,” Green said. “They're confidence is pretty high right now. They listen, they work hard. They're ready.”


If the depth at wideout becomes a problem, Ball said only one of Georgia's walk-ons is ready to step into a game situation at this point – junior Marquise Brown.

Brown, who appeared in two games last season, was an offensive star during the spring, catching three passes for 62 yards in the annual G-Day game, making him a prime option should Ball need to dig deep into his depth chart on game day.

“He's gotten a lot of work with the first and second group,” Ball said. “If I had to tag a walk-on that could help us, it would be him.”


His style may be bruising, but there's more to Georgia tailback Richard Samuel, according to his offensive coordinator.

While Samuel's size – he's 6-2, 224 pounds – and his running style put him in a category with some fullbacks, it's his speed that sets him apart.

“Richard can run,” offensive coordinator Mike Bobo said. “He's very fast. If he gets out in the open field – there's a lot of people in this league that can run, but compared to guys we've had in the past, I'd say he's the fastest since I've been here.”

That includes Bobo's time as a player, and that's probably as far back as he has to go to find anything resembling an apt comparison.

“He's similar to Robert Edwards,” Bobo said, “and Richard might be a little bit faster.”


Samuel's speed might make him a weapon on special teams, too, after he ended last season as Georgia's top kick returner.

As the opener approaches, Ball said he's still looking at four or five potential return men on kickoffs, and Samuel's other duties as starting tailback won't be a factor in who ends up getting the call on game day.

“I wouldn't hesitate to put him back there because he's got experience,” Ball said of Samuel. “I'll make my decision (based on) how he handles the ball, how he communicates. It isn't rocket science, but I've got to feel comfortable with that person.”


Anonymous said...

Biggest thing I saw on the depth chart is that there is a FR at long snapper. Wow.

Anonymous said...

great job David--DH is the most reliable source of dawg news on the web. Keep up the great work, and Go Dawgs!