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Friday, February 5, 2010

Notes: Position Changes Could Come Soon

Several of Georgia's top commitments on the defensive side of the ball made it official that they were coming to Athens on Wednesday, but just where they might line up once they arrive remains a bit of a mystery.

Star defensive back Alec Ogletree will begin camp at safety, head coach Mark Richt said, but there's a chance he could end up at linebacker at some point. At 6-foot-6, 215 pounds, defensive end T.J. Stripling has the prototypical frame for an outside linebacker, and defensive coordinator Todd Grantham said that's a move any of the Bulldogs' ends could make, including new recruits Brandon Burrows, Jalen Fields and Dexter Morant. Even prized prospect Garrison Smith, who played defensive tackle in high school, could find he fits better at end in Grantham's 3-4 scheme.

"Any of these guys you bring in, you get them working, then you evaluate and see where they can help you, wherever that may be," defensive backs coach Scott Lakatos said.

And for now, Grantham said finding a home for players who have yet to arrive on campus is a secondary priority.

“It’s kind of early because we’re still evaluating our guys," Grantham said. "Once we get our guys in place, we’ll figure out what the best matchups and best scenarios are.”

The process of evaluating the current Georgia players is one Grantham began several weeks ago, breaking down film on each player and working to decide where they might fit in.

The results aren't exactly in yet, he said. But they're not too far off, either.

“We’re getting closer," Grantham said. "It’ll be sooner than later, but nothing’s ever etched in stone. We’re going to start some guys out at positions and see how they handle it. But I can tell you that nothing is etched in stone right now, and we’ll be constantly tweaking it throughout spring ball and into the fall to get our best players on the field at all times.”

That's a plan Lakatos is on board with, and he might take it even a step further.

Film study provided an initial gauge, spring practice will add more, and the fall will see the arrival of the new freshmen -- but it might be years before everyone has found a home, and even then things will be re-evaluated with each new matchup.

"Sometimes people's ability correlates to what you're trying to stop and how they can help you that week may be different than the previous week," Lakatos said. "And then players change. Players develop at different rates than other players. So it's a constant evaluation of who the best guys are and what's the best situation."


While the loss of a few longtime Georgia commitments, including receiver Da'Rick Rogers, before signing day was the primary buzz among fans and recruiting services this week, head coach Mark Richt took a more pragmatic view of the situation.

Georgia was lucky enough to hold on to its entire class a year ago, but Richt knows that's the exception to the rule. More often, he said, keeping an 18-year-old's mind made up is a difficult task.

"These kids are 17, 18, 19 years old and coaches that are anywhere between 25 and 65 are trying to convince them why one school is better than another," Richt said. "So it can be confusing at times. It can be very difficult at times. That’s why our policy has been to be very straightforward from the beginning, Don’t say something that won’t come true in the end. Trust is really the only thing we have to hold us together, I think.”

Richt said coaches get a good feel for recruits during the process, and they usually have a pretty good idea of which ones are sincere about their commitments and which are likely to bolt before signing day.

But the process works both ways, and even Georgia got in on the action this year, swiping offensive lineman Kenarious Gates at the last moment from Kentucky.

It's just part of how things work on the recruiting trail, and while it may have put a dent in the Bulldogs' rankings from recruiting services this year, it's nothing Richt is getting too upset about.

“If we feel like that kid is not 100 percent certain, then we’ll continue to recruit him," Richt said. "I think everybody does that. If you take a kid is solid, then you’re wasting your time and you don’t want to do that. Sometimes these kids make decisions based on emotion and they’re not certain what they want to do, so we’re going to continue. I think you have to.”

That explanation doesn't necessarily smooth things over with some of Georgia's current defenders, including Jakar Hamilton, who said Rogers' late decision prevented another player from being recruited as heavily and left his team in a bad position. Hamilton and teammate Bacarri Rambo both promised some retribution on the field should they get a chance to hit Rogers in a game.

When reminded that Georgia, too, had lured a commitment away from another school, however, Hamilton's mind didn't change much. Just like any hijinx on the recruiting trail, a little retribution is all part of the game.

"It happens a lot," Hamilton said of the de-commitments. "But your in the SEC. You're going to get hit regardless."


The loss of Rogers put a bit of a damper on Georgia's signing day festivities this week and, perhaps more importantly, it meant the Bulldogs' depth chart at wide receiver would take a hit going forward.

Georgia will have just seven scholarship receivers on hand in 2010 -- senior Kris Durham, who missed all of last season with a shoulder injury, juniors A.J. Green and Israel Troupe, sophomores Marlon Brown, Tavarres King and Rantavious Wooten, and true freshman Michael Bennett, who just signed with the Bulldogs on Wednesday. Durham will most certainly be gone in 2011, and there's a strong chance Green could depart for the NFL a year early as well.

“Depth is definitely an issue at receiver. I would say we don’t have, at this moment, a good number that I feel comfortable having," Richt said. "Usually during the season you’re probably going to play around six or seven (receivers) and that’s what we have right now, so everybody’s going to get their share. We need to stay healthy at that position.”

Of course, while the Bulldogs may be a tad thin at receiver, the tight end position is overflowing with riches, and that could certainly offset any shortcomings in the passing game, Richt said.

Georgia returns all three of its top tight ends from 2009 -- junior Aron White and sophomores Arthur Lynch and Orson Charles -- while junior Bruce Figgins is set to return from a shoulder injury that cost him last season.

Richt said he still plans to employ three-receiver sets on occasion, but the diverse skill sets of his tight ends makes them a prime option for offensive coordinator Mike Bobo's scheme.

"What you’re looking for in offensive football is a chance to have some mismatches," Richt said. "We’re blessed with four outstanding tight ends. We certainly have playmakers and good solid depth with guys that can really play that position. I think that takes a little of the burden off the wide receiving corps."


In what was no doubt the most unintentional highlight of Georgia's signing day for fans, the Bulldogs' normally reclusive offensive line coach, Stacy Searels, was forced to address an inquiry about injured left tackle Trinton Sturdivant during a question-and-answer session with fans.

Searels stepped to the microphone and attempted an answer, but his voice was noticeably hoarse.

“My voice is gone because I was hollering at somebody else this morning,” Searels said, to huge applause from fans.

Truth be told, however, Searels was thrilled to have a scratchy throat, too. It meant he was finally off the recruiting trail -- where the shorthanded Georgia staff has spent much of the past two months -- and finally back to the business of whipping his players into shape.

“On Monday and Wednesday we had our offseason program," Searels said. "It’s fun to get off the road, sleep in your own bed, and get back to coaching ball."


As for those players Searels has been busy motivating of late, the past three seasons have provided a big dose of encouragement as to what the future might have in store.

Georgia landed three offensive line recruits this year -- four-star prospect Brent Benedict, burly lineman Kenarious Gates and Kolton Houston, who enrolled in January and is already working out with the team.

While it's unlikely that any of the three will see the field -- just as last year's signing class of Austin Long, Chris Burnette and Dallas Lee failed to do -- that's not necessarily a bad thing, Searels said. It means that Georgia's starters are doing their job, and unlike years past, the younger players are being given an opportunity to develop before being thrown into the fire.

“The first two years (Searels was at Georgia) we started four true freshmen," he said. "These kids being able to redshirt, get a little bigger, get a little stronger, work in the weight room and develop and not just be thrown into the fire, I think it’s going to make the offensive line even better.”


Georgia's newest safety, Jakar Hamilton, arrived from Georgia Military College with a pretty impressive reputation. Grantham, Lakatos and the rest of the Bulldogs' staff had seen him on tape enough to know he had plenty of ability. But there's always a concern about how a player will react to a new environment.

In Georgia's first few days of offseason conditioning, however, Lakatos said Hamilton has gone a long way toward eliminating any of those worries.

"We watched him on video, and he's a very good player on tape -- very exciting, very physical, rangy, competitive guy," Lakatos said. "The encouraging thing is, the couple of morning workouts we've had, he's been that guy. I know that's different from being on the field, but he's a hard worker. And with his ability times the hard work, he has a chance to be pretty good."


It's not just Georgia's defensive players that are going to get a quick study in Grantham's new 3-4 scheme. It's also the rest of his staff.

While Lakatos will be new to the scheme, he's not likely to be greatly affected by the changes to the front seven. Rodney Garner, on the other hand, is going to be getting a fresh look at preparing a defense, and he's excited for the opportunity.

“This is my first time coaching in a 3-4 scheme," said Garner, Georgia's lone holdover among defensive coaches from last season. "I’m excited about expanding my knowledge as a coach just like the players are.”


For six crucial weeks of recruiting, Georgia's coaching staff consisted of just one full-time defensive coach. That meant keeping a full staff on the road talking to recruits would be a chore for all those involved.

But to avoid being too shorthanded, the Bulldogs activated three of their graduate assistants to head out on the road, too, and when Georgia finally wrapped up recruiting season Wednesday, Garner said its successes were due in no small part to the efforts of the graduate assistants.

“They played a very vital role," Garner said. "I think it was beneficial for them and it was beneficial for us. It gave them a chance to get out there on the road and enhance their resume, and I thought they did a nice job when they were out there.”


Anonymous said...

Great stuff David!! Keeping my spirits up and keeping me looking forward to G-Day.

GATA said...

What is it with the Vols and stealing recruits with an apostrophe in their name? I can only hope Da' Rick works out for them as well as Nu' Keese did.

Da' Nu' Vols'

Has a nice ring to it, don't ya think?

Schlagdawg said...

So many sign possibilities for the TN game...

"Da'Rick, watch out for Da'Tree!"

or if he's not starting:

"Da'Rick, how's it feel to ride Da'Bench?"

Anonymous said...

David please do an article explaining how Alabama keeps recuiting high numbers.

Trey said...

Is Sturdivant technically going to be a junior this season? I know sometimes they let kids redshirt and then medical redshirt. I just don't know how that works since he has missed two straight seasons.

Anonymous said...

I'm not a great football mind, but if we are stocked at TE with talent, I see us running a lot of two TE sets next year. How will they defend us with a power running game and playmaking, catch receiving TEs on each end?

GATA said...

"Anonymous said...David please do an article explaining how Alabama keeps recuiting high numbers."

Every SEC team can sign a max 0f 28 every year. Early enrollments do not count against this number. However, a team can only have 85 scholarship athletes "enrolled" at any given time.

So to answer your question, if Bama only has 20 scholly spots available, and they sign 28, then they will have to pull 8 offers before the kids enroll. Sometimes kids do not qualify or get injured and wash out that way.