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Thursday, March 4, 2010

Practice Notes: Speed Bumps for D on Day 1

Coming off the practice field, linebackers Darryl Gamble and Akeem Dent chatted about how much more they needed to learn before they’d be ready to fully deploy Georgia’s new 3-4 defensive scheme. They felt lost for much of the Bulldogs’ first day of spring practice.

Coming off that same field, tailback Caleb King complained to teammate Nick Williams that Georgia’s 3-4 was going to be tough to compete against in practice this season. Despite any confusion among the defensive players, King was sufficiently impressed.

All in all, it was much what players and coaches were hoping for – a day in which players learned a lot, while at the same time finding some perspective on how much farther they had to go.

“It’s been a while since we’ve been playing football, and the first day was a little rusty, but we didn’t really have that many mental errors,” said rising junior DeAngelo Tyson, who is adjusting to the new nose position on the defensive line. “So once we continue learning, we can play faster and have fun while we’re out there.”

Playing faster will be the long-term goal. In the immediate future, Justin Houston expects a bit more confusion.

A week ago, he was pretty confident that the Bulldogs would be able to execute the defense quickly after the team studied the 3-4 scheme on film – watching new defensive coordinator Todd Grantham’s former Dallas Cowboys players run plays. Now that Houston has had his first chance to execute the defense on the field, he’s backtracking a bit on that enthusiasm.

“There was a lot of stopping and looking around,” Houston said. “It’s not as easy as it looks on film. Those guys in the pros make it look easy.”

While the adjustment may not be quite as smooth as Houston and his teammates initially predicted, that doesn’t mean they aren’t excited about the changes.

“This is just a fun defense to play in,” said Williams, who is moving from linebacker to safety. “You’re running around making plays. You’re not just assigned to one gap. You’re making plays. You never know who’s blitzing, the safeties are always running and moving around. It’s fun.”


Tight end Orson Charles said he woke up a few times during the night Wednesday with some pre-practice jitters. Each time, his roommate, quarterback Aaron Murray, was awake, too.

“We woke up and were like, boy I’m nervous and excited. We wanted to see what the coaches were going to say and just be out on the field once again,” Charles said. “That’s everybody. Everybody came out and was nervous to be back in pads, the defense had a new scheme and didn’t know what to expect. But it was very good. It was exciting.”

It may have been nervous excitement, but by the time the players and coaches got onto the field, it was simply enthusiasm about playing football again.

In his first day of practice, Grantham barked orders at his new defensive players – even making them re-do a drill when he was displeased with how the team broke the huddle. New linebackers coach Warren Belin and secondary coach Scott Lakatos made similar points during Day 1 of spring practice, and head coach Mark Richt said his new staff looked as if it had been working together for years.

“I got a chance to walk around the field a little bit and observe our new coaches do their job,” Richt said. “They were all very locked in, very decisive about what they were doing, they all looked as if they’d been working together for quite some time.”

While the finer points still left much to be desired during drills, Richt said the enthusiasm was strong, and that was all he could ask during the first practice of the spring.

“The thing I enjoyed the most was there was just a lot of energy out there, a lot of enthusiasm out there,” Richt said. “Guys were moving around quickly, coaches doing a good job of barking out instructions, and guys really working hard to do what coach says.”


While Georgia’s defensive players were busy learning new schemes, Thursday’s practice also marked the first day without some old leaders.

The Bulldogs are replacing six starters from last year’s defense, with linebacker Rennie Curran perhaps the most notable absence. But while Curran wasn’t there to help his former teammates through the first day of drills, linebacker Marcus Dowtin said he was there in spirit.

“Rennie set a foundation since he’s been here amongst the linebacker corps, showing them how to act and the right things to do and the people to meet and how to practice,” Dowtin said. “That’s just rubbed off on us and we’re just taking it from there. So it really hasn’t been like he hasn’t been here. We’ve taken what he’s taught us and used it to our best advantage.”


Here are a few more quotes that may pique your interest from Day 1 of practice...

Mark Richt on the Houston & Washington at OLB…
“A couple of guys who were excited about pass (drills) were Justin Houston and Cornelius Washington. … Now all of a sudden they’re in these passing drills they’ve never been in before.”

Houston on dropping into coverage...
“It was pretty much the same. I’m just standing up playing defensive end, just have to drop back every now and then. I like to drop back. I get tired of just banging all the time.”

Nick Williams on Todd Grantham...
"His personality, his intensity, it's like he's playing. He's coaching, but it's like he's out there playing with us. You can tell he's from The League, and you can tell he's used to coaching grown men. I like it."


Here's a quick question posted anonymously: "In your past observations of practice, do you recall Willie ever sending the players back to the huddle to do it correctly?"

We don't get to see a ton of practice, so I can't say how much more intense Grantham was than any of the previous coaches. And as I've written before, Willie was a scary guy out on the practice field, so his lack of intensity is vastly overstated.

Having said that… This is about as excited as I've seen the players after practice in a long time. I know that doesn't mean much on Day 1 -- particularly with spring break starting immediately -- but I talked to Orson Charles after we did interviews and he still had a giant smile on his face and couldn't stop talking about the energy and enthusiasm out on the field.

Obviously it remains to be seen how long that lasts, but all reports are that it was a good first day.


Andy said...

This is all excellent news. While I obviously can't speak for last year's practices, I think most fans are right in the observation that we often looked asleep at the wheel last year. There just wasn't as much enthusiasm and excitement from the players that I would like to see (remember how much energy the 2007 squad had?). I am a firm believer that when you take talent like we have, and make them excited and intense, then the rest will fall into place. Sounds like a great start!

Anonymous said...

Redemption can be a great motivator.

Schlagdawg said...

For all your hard work, a link to a Lost music video featuring Hurley:

Michael A said...

Nice work, Hale.

Michael A said...

I'm reposting because I didn't like my energy on that last post.

Nice work, Hale!

Schlagdawg said...

Michael A. Remember that stance. I like it. Did it feel explosive? I really liked it.

devi said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

REUBEN HOUSTON was NEVER ordered by the Court to have to play against The Georgia Bulldogs in 2005. But, on the 1st opportunity to put Reuben Houston into the game, Georgia tek certainly ceased the moment and played him against UGA. Played and played and played Reuben Houston the whole entire game.

CONVICTED FELON REUBEN HOUSTON, you recall just had granted an interview with the AJ-C, and had ADMITTED that he was in the van with his child on his lap, with the 90 lbs. of drugs ON GEORGIA tek’s campus, leading them to where they could SELL THE 90 LBS. OF DRUGS.

Bryan McClendon a wide receiver, now UGA running backs’ coach, caught the pass from DJ Shockley with 3 minutes to go for UGA to prevail 14-7 ANYWAY.

LAST NIGHT REUBEN HOUSTON is AGAIN sought on FELONY CHARGES. This time taking a gun to his neighbor’s house and holding them at bay for 5 minutes over the same child he had on his lap before jumping from the van to elude Georgia tek campus police, GBI, Georgia State patrol and Fulton County Sheriff’s office in hot pursuit.

It seems there was a dispute among kids, and therefore Reuben Houston went over to square the situation with that child and his family.



Reuben Houston is on the lam from now 3 more FELONY CHARGES.


Contact police do not approach. Anyone seeing former Georgia tek FOOTBALL PLAYER who played against UGA almost the entire football game in 2005 before Tim Jennings intercepted the pass at our goal line with 1 minute to go from the best UGA football player for 4 years in a row, Reggie Ball.

Anonymous said...

Anon 6:31 who cares? I think most of us can read the paper or hear the news. This is about UGA - not some twit from tech.

Good job David. If the players are half as excited as I am next year should be fun.

Anonymous said...

We all have players that act badly and embarrass us. The key is what you sweep under the rug, or tolerate without punishing sternly. Comment about GT's shame is not as significant as UGA having more enthusiasm at practice....not even close. Plus, GT isn't in the SEC, many more important teams for UGA fans to focus on. Tech dropped in relevance 40 years ago, they are significant one week a year, SEC opponents matter all year.

Texas_Dawg said...

"This is about as excited as I've seen the players after practice in a long time."

Ahh, yes. Spring is in the air.

Last spring (3/16/09):

Will Joe Cox be the next D.J. Shockley? That seems to be the popular belief and the obvious comparison being made as Georgia sets to open spring practice with the fifth-year senior as the new leader of the offense.

...Cox's situation this season will be far more similar to what Shockley stepped into in 2005. From the moment Stafford announced he was heading to the NFL, Georgia's coaches said the job was Cox's to lose. He has already taken the reins as a weight- and film-room leader this offseason, and the spring will be all about sharpening his skills rather than winning a job.

...The on-field scenario isn't all that counts, either. In the locker room, Cox is far more similar to Shockley. Throughout the past four years, Cox has garnered a lot of respect from his teammates, and when he stepped into the starting role, he didn't need to prove himself. His teammates already expected him to be the leader on offense.

...There are advantages for Cox, too, however. Cox has an exceptionally high football intellect, he's incredibly accurate and -- most importantly -- he has better weapons around him than Shockley had in 2005.

Good old spring. Where every little redheaded kid is above average and every team is still undefeated.

David Hale said...

I'm with you Texas. That's why I offered plenty of caveats to my statement.