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Thursday, September 24, 2009

UGA Notes: Shakeups in the Secondary

After spraining his MCL during last week’s win over Arkansas, head coach Mark Richt said it’s doubtful that cornerback Vance Cuff will be ready to play against Arizona State on Saturday.

“Cuff is doubtful,” Richt said. “He could turn around some between now and the game and because it’s a home game – if it was an away game he probably wouldn’t be on the plane. But we’re at home and if he feels good enough he could probably help us in an emergency.”

Cuff was Georgia’s top option off the bench in nickel situations, but that job will now fall to a combination of players.

Richt said Sanders Commings, who had been working at safety, will get some action at corner this week. While Prince Miller is generally the nickel back, Richt said the senior could stay at wide corner and Makiri Pugh could see increased action at nickel, too.

The most likely option, however, will be for freshman Branden Smith to get more work at corner with Cuff missing the game. While Richt said Smith isn’t exactly polished yet in terms of his defensive aptitude, the work he’ll get this week could prove important down the line.

“(Smith) is getting better at it as (he) goes,” Richt said. “He’s still young and got a lot of things to learn, and you just have to experience some things before you can really get good at them. I’m sure he’ll get that – he’ll get more experience.”

Defensive coordinator Willie Martinez also said he expects freshman Baccari Rambo to see increased playing time at safety this week, spelling Bryan Evans and Reshad Jones.


Through three games, Georgia’s tight ends have eight receptions – just two shy of last year’s total at the position. Aron White and Orson Charles each had touchdowns last week in a win over Arkansas, which puts the unit just one short of matching its total from 2008.

The bottom line is the position has become an offensive weapon once again for the Bulldogs, and a lot has to do with the impressive performance of the Bulldogs’ top receiver – A.J. Green.

“The presence of A.J. Green has helped that spot get favorable coverages, but they’re making plays, and that’s what we were hoping,” Richt said.

Charles has been the offense’s second-best weapon in the passing game this season, catching six passes for 146 yards thus far. The freshman’s blocking game, however, remains a work in progress.

“Certain blocks are easier for a guy his size, certain blocks he can get away with on just effort and technique,” Richt said. “But there’s some blocks that just take a certain amount of strength, and he’s still struggling some on those. If he doesn’t do it just right, he can get knocked back a little bit, but he’s getting there.”


Georgia tight end Bruce Figgins still has three more games remaining on his six-game suspension, but Richt said the team hasn’t determined yet if Figgins will see any action this season at all.

The junior from Shaw High School underwent offseason shoulder surgery and missed spring practice. The injury is getting closer to being fully healed, but given that Figgins has already missed so much action, Richt said there was a possibility he would take a medical redshirt for the season.

“That has really not been determined at this point,” Richt said. “I think a lot will have to do with just where we are and where everybody is at that time.”

If Figgins should sit out the year, Richt said the Georgia Athletics Association has already determined that he would not have to miss additional playing time next year due to the suspension.

“Our association has decided that sitting out the entire year would serve as the discipline for that,” Richt said.


Richt said safety Quintin Banks would not play this week against Arizona State as he continues to recover from a knee injury that cost him much of the preseason.

“He’s still trying to get back to where he can really run and change direction like he needs to to have a positive performance,” Richt said. “He’s still not there yet.”

A series of injuries, including an offseason surgery on his knee, has kept Banks on the sidelines for much of the past two seasons. It’s frustrating, Richt said, but he has been pleased with how upbeat Banks has remained.

“He’s an awesome kid, he’s always trying to keep a positive attitude, and he’s always trying to motivate his teammates even when he’s down and out as far as practicing,” Richt said. “It just hasn’t worked out for him like he would hope, but we’re all still holding out hope that it will for him.”


The hot rumor during the offseason was that Georgia would find ways to use backup quarterback Logan Gray as a weapon on offense – even if he wasn’t going to be the team’s starting quarterback. With Gray’s speed and athleticism, offensive coordinator Mike Bobo said he thought the sophomore could be a perfect option in a “Wild Cat” formation.

As it turns out, however, Gray has been in on offense for just two snaps so far this season and didn’t see any action last week against Arkansas.

That’s not because Georgia has abandon its plans for Gray, however. With starter Joe Cox playing so well, and the Bulldogs playing in three close games so far, it’s simply a matter of not having opportunities to give Gray much playing time so far.

“It hasn’t really presented itself in a game,” Bobo said. “Every game there’s a plan for certain situations for guys to go in there, but Joe has done such a nice job in the last two games that you don’t want to break his rhythm or what we’re doing offensively.”


Georgia is once again among the most penalized teams in the country, and while Richt was hoping to avoid a significant crackdown following a 13-flag performance in Week 2, Bobo said the team’s problems against Arkansas are clearly a cause for concern.

Georgia racked up 14 penalties in last week’s win over the Razorbacks, including six false starts and three holding calls. While some flags are simply a matter of teams playing aggressive, Bobo said the Buldogs’ recent efforts show a lack of fundamentals.

“We talked about being more disciplined and focused, little things we talk about all the time that will get you beat,” Bobo said. “It’s not something that we want to see as a coaching staff, and usually it derails an offense of being able to execute and be successful. It’s something we’ve been harping on a little more this week.”

While the flags aren’t exactly something Bobo is celebrating, he said he is encouraged by how well his team responded, racking up 530 yards of offense despite the penalties last week. But while that’s an good sign, he said that type of success can’t last forever.

“We’re not going to be able to do that on a consistent basis,” Bobo said. “So that’s why we’ve got to try to keep preaching to those guys about good habits and good fundamentals and not losing their focus on things like the snap count, which is really inexcusable.”

1 comment:

Anonymous said...


Thanks from one of the many appreciative fans reading your work daily; the combination of content and analysis is second to none.

Go Dawgs!