(Note: CLICK HERE to see the stats from Saturday's scrimmage. The rest of my notes from the day's work are below...)
Two days after reports surfaced that as many as four Georgia football players may have been involved in an incident in which three university students were threatened and assaulted in a taxi, head coach Mark Richt remained mostly silent on the matter – for now.
“I believe by Monday we’ll have all the information needed,” Richt said. “There’s things I’d like to say about it, but I won’t. I’ll wait. I’ll wait until Monday.”
The report first came to light in a story in The Red & Black last Thursday, in which three people filed a police report claiming that four black men had shared a taxi from downtown Athens with them, making violent and sexual comments on the ride while slapping or hitting two of the accusers multiple times. The report indicated that the accusers believed the men were members of the Georgia football team.
Police continue to investigate the incident, but as of Saturday, no players had been charged with a crime, and Richt indicated that the only players who missed Saturday’s scrimmage were due to injury.
DURHAM, CUFF STEAL THE SHOW
Georgia’s scrimmage proved to be a big day for the offense, particularly senior receiver Kris Durham.
Three of the Bulldogs’ four offensive touchdowns went to Durham, Richt said, and the senior finished with four catches for 74 yards.
“I was about the second best (receiver),” said A.J. Green, who caught six passes for 80 yards. “But I didn’t compare to Durham though.”
Durham caught a fade pattern from Logan Gray on the first drive of the scrimmage then hauled in two post pattern passes for touchdowns, too. The big numbers were a welcome after Durham missed all of last season with a shoulder injury.
“He’s doing good, and I know he’s excited about practicing again and playing football again,” Richt said.
Added Green: “From Day 1, I know he’s going to be a weapon. The question is just going to be can he stay healthy, but he’s going to make some big plays, and it was good to see him out there with three touchdowns.”
While the defense didn’t have quite as impressive a showing Saturday, corner Vance Cuff managed to turn in the day’s highlight, making a one-handed interception of an Aaron Murray pass in the back of the end zone.
“Vance is really gaining confidence daily, and he’s making some really nice plays – plays that I hadn’t seen him make on a consistent basis,” Richt said. “I think you can just see his demeanor, his confidence level has really risen.”
Green said Cuff has grown by leaps and bounds this spring and, although he’s still involved in a stiff competition with Branden Smith for the open starting cornerback job, Cuff has added an element of physicality to his repertoire that makes him a touch matchup.
“He’s getting more aggressive. He has the speed to go with anybody, but he’s getting much better,” Green said. “He’s more slender, tall, and I feel like he can get his hands on you quicker than some of the shorter ones because he has long arms. And he’s just jamming a lot of the receivers at boundary, and he’s been real aggressive.”
FEWER FLAGS SATURDAY
There were so many penalties during Thursday’s practice that Richt said he hardly cared how the offense and defense performed. When practice ended, he had his players rolling the length of the field – twice. It was enough punishment to have several players on the verge of vomiting, but it seemed to get his point across.
Georgia’s offense committed just one infraction during Saturday’s scrimmage – a false start on one of the receivers – and the defense had just three.
Richt said he hoped Saturday’s more refined play would be the rule, and said Thursday’s lackluster performance was likely based more on a bit of displaced energy from his players.
“Spring ball, you’re smacking that same guy day after day after day,” Richt said. “You’re competing with him, and sometimes they just lose their patience with each other and you get a dumb foul. He’ll lose his composure because he wants to whip that guys o badly. It wasn’t all bad because the energy level and the fight was great, but we just had too many penalties.”
BUMPS & BRUISES
Aside from players out for the remainder of spring practice, Georgia had just three players miss Saturday’s scrimmage. Tailbacks Caleb King and Dontavius Jackson and receiver Marlon Brown all sat out, but all are expected to be back for the final week of practice.
“It’s getting better,” King said of his sore knee. “They just wanted me to rest on it, and I know for sure I’m coming back on Tuesday. It was just flaring up.”
Fellow tailback Washaun Ealey was also limited during the day’s scrimmage due to a minor knee injury, getting just five carries, leaving the majority of the tailback work to Carlton Thomas and walk-on Kevin Lanier.
“I got a little banged up, so it was mostly Carlton,” Ealey said. “I just got a little knee bruise, but I’m still practicing. It’s not a factor.”
While the offense was the winner Saturday, Richt said the defense had it's moments, too.
“Offense really had a pretty good day," he said. "Defense didn’t have as much success as they’d had during the mid-week, although they made some big plays at the tail end of some drives that were really impressive. The defense won the short-yardage drill at the end of practice.”
And while there is still one more week of spring practice yet, Aron White adds that today's work was a crucial moment for many of the players involved in position battles.
“We’ve still got a couple more practices to get in, so it’s by no means over, but it was definitely a day to go out and see where we’re at," White said. "It’s close to a game as we’ll get before the (fall), and guys tried to take advantage of that.”
While the quarterbacks said the rotation between the first and second-team units was about even, Clint Boling said he was fairly impressed with how the backup offensive line performed.
“There’s a little bit of different experience-wise," Boling said. "Us in the first group, we’ve been playing together for two or three years, and we have a continuity between all of us. Those guys rotate around a lot. But they’re doing a good job out there.”
I'm writing my feature for tomorrow's Telegraph on the quarterback derby, so be sure to check that out. In the meantime, here's a few of the quotes about the QBs following Saturday's scrimmage.
Logan Gray on his performance...
“I felt good today. It was nice on the first drive getting some rhythm going and completing some balls, and we kept it going throughout. Me, Aaron and Zach, it seemed like the whole offense had a pretty solid day.”
Aaron Murray on his spring...
“I think I’ve definitely improved, and that was my main goal this spring. So I just want to keep improving this week and have a good G-Day.”
Richt on how the QBs have done this spring...
“It has been a good competition and I am pleased with it. I’m pleased because by sitting in there every day and listening to Coach Bobo install and coach and teach, watching how they react and watching how quickly they can answer the questions correctly, and just to see them have their notepads and making notes, they’re just good students of the game. And you can see it out on the field. They’re really making very few mistakes, and we’re pretty complicated when it comes to declaring linebackers for blocking schemes and deciding whether you should run this way or that way or check to a pass or change the protection or if you’re throwing hot. All these things, there’s a lot to think about and they’re really processing it very well.”