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Showing posts with label Dallas Lee. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Dallas Lee. Show all posts

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Practice Notes: Samuel Moving Inside

Richard Samuel is on the move again, although this time it’s not quite as drastic as his switch from offense to defense earlier this offseason.

After a brief tryout at outside linebacker, new defensive coordinator Todd Grantham decided Samuel was a better fit playing inside linebacker, where he’ll be better able to utilize his speed in coverage.

“He can run, he can cover, and by playing inside, you can still blitz, but there’s a little more coverage element involved, and that would utilize his speed,” Grantham said.

Grantham said all his inside linebackers have crosstrained at both inside positions – the Mike and Mo, as Grantham is calling them – and Samuel will work at each.

That still leaves Georgia a bit thin at outside linebacker, but head coach Mark Richt said the staff felt the best option was to put Samuel where he had the best chance to succeed rather than trying to fill out a depth chart.

“It’s probably a little bit more natural for him (to play inside),” Richt said. “We started him outside a little bit because of some issues with numbers at outside linebacker, but to give him a more fair opportunity, we moved him inside.”

NICKEL FOR YOUR THOUGHTS

Georgia’s new-look secondary has been a work in progress so far this spring, with Brandon Boykin, the lone returning starter, switching from boundary corner to field corner, and three other starting jobs up for grabs.

Bacarri Rambo appears to have one of the open safety jobs locked down, but the other two players working with the No. 1 unit have been a bit of a surprise – sophomore Shawn Williams at safety and senior Vance Cuff at corner.

“I like what I see out of Vance, he’s definitely competing hard,” Boykin said. “I definitely think (Williams) has gotten better and is continuing to compete. Nothing’s set in stone, but I think he could definitely have a shot at that safety spot.”

Nick Williams, Jakar Hamilton and Quintin Banks are also in the running for the vacant starting safety job, while Sanders Commings, Jordan Love and Branden Smith are battling for the open cornerback role.

At nickel, Boykin said he and Smith have gotten the most work, but even that remains an open competition.

“As of right now, we’re the nickels,” Boykin said. “I plan on being the nickel once the season starts, but we really don’t know. Right now we’re just trying to learn the system, so we’ll see.”

NOWHERE MAN

Senior offensive lineman Clint Boling said he has been pleased with the progress of Trinton Sturdivant, who is recovering from his second knee surgery in as many years. Sturdivant has been jogging and doing some light workouts, but won’t be a full participant in spring practice.

That leaves the future for Boling wide open once again. Boling started as a freshman at guard, then shifted to right tackle as a sophomore. After Sturdivant went down, he eventually moved to left tackle, but swapped back to the right side again to start the 2009 season. Midway through last year, however, Boling was on the move again to replace Sturdivant, so by the time his senior season is ready to kick off, he has no idea where he might end up.

“I really don’t know,” Boling said. “I’ve switched around so much that it’s all kind of run together so it doesn’t matter which position I’m playing, I guess.”

BUILDING LEADERSHIP

Georgia held its first character education meetings of the spring on Thursday, and Richt talked to his seniors about developing their leadership on the practice field. The result was the most spirited day of practice so far, Richt said.

Identifying some leaders within the locker room will be a key step this spring. Last year’s veterans – Joe Cox, Jeff Owens and Rennie Curran – are all gone, and while Richt singled out Clint Boling, Darryl Gamble and Akeem Dent as players who have stepped into that leadership role, he said there are plenty of jobs available and plenty of candidates for the gig.

“I don’t want to discourage anybody by not calling him out because all those guys are really doing a good job,” Richt said.

EXTRA POINTS

-- Richt on Thursday’s practice: “It’s a great energy bunch right now. They’ve got a lot of enthusiasm. It was the first day in some form of pads where they could actually hit somebody, I think they were excited about that. But both sides of the ball came out to get better. We’re making a ton of mistakes, I know that. But when we’re making mistakes with the type of tempo and energy we’re having, it’s fun to see. We see really good athletes out there making plays on both sides of the ball, and I’m really encouraged right now.

-- On the injury front, offensive lineman Dallas Lee left practice for about 10 minutes due to some asthma issues, but returned for the completion of workouts. Safety Jakar Hamilton left practice early Tuesday with a foot injury, but he was back to a full workout Thursday.

-- Richt singled out an unnamed blogger who he thought misunderstood how the team planned to use Logan Gray on special teams this season. While Richt didn’t name names and said he “rarely, if ever” reads blogs, he felt the need to clear the air because, “the gentleman just didn’t understand why he was back there returning punts”

“When Logan is back there, it’s a time when the offensive team is punting it in, it’s a pooch kick,” Richt said. “Our defense, our punt return team, is in punt safe to keep them from faking the punt because they’ve crossed our 50-yard line. So all Logan is doing is making the decision on whether to make the fair catch or let the ball hit. The fine gentleman who writes the blog, I don’t think he really understood that very much. I just thought if everybody got educated on that, they might understand a little bit better why Logan would do that. He was 100 percent last year on making those decisions and never bobbled the ball. That’s not a hard thing to do, and we’re not expecting him to return the punt because those punts don’t get returned.”

Re-reading what I wrote Tuesday about Logan, I’m fairly certain I wasn’t the offending party. Then again, Richt was looking in my general direction during his remarks. Or perhaps he was simply checking out the score of the UNLV-Northern Iowa game.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Notes: Curran Mulls NFL Future

With the season winding down and the hype surrounding next year’s top NFL draft picks heating up, Rennie Curran knew he would have some tough decisions to make.

The junior linebacker is second in the SEC in tackles and is on pace for his second straight 100-tackle season at Georgia, and many draft services see him as a potential early draft choice. So from family and friends to fans who see him on campus, he’s already being hounded about his future.

“That’s one thing people always want to know,” Curran said. “They see you in that position and you’re ranked high and having a good season, and they want to know.”

Curran said Matthew Stafford and Knowshon Moreno, teammates last season who were both selected in the first round of the 2009 NFL draft, set a nice template for how to handle things, and that’s a path Curran plans to follow.

“Knowshon and Stafford, I watched them go through the same thing, and they did a good job handling it,” Curran said. “Right now, I’m just focused on the season, honestly. It crosses my mind just like it would anybody else who was in the situation I’m in, but it’s a good situation to be in and have to think about. But for the most part, I’m just focused on what got me here, which is working hard and finishing strong, because that’s all I really feel like matters.”

BACK TO THE BENCH

He’s the reigning SEC defensive lineman of the week, but that doesn’t mean Montez Robinson will be seeing a ton of action this week, head coach Mark Richt said.

The freshman defensive end earned his first serious playing time of the season against Tennessee Tech, racking up five tackles and two sacks while filling in for injured starter Justin Houston. But Houston’s injured elbow appears healthy this week, and that means Robinson will be back to his role of backup.

While his big week didn’t bump him up the depth chart, however, it wasn’t without it’s benefits.

“It’d be difficult to get him the same amount of reps he got last week with Justin being back, but he’s progressing and gaining confidence in himself, and we’re gaining more confidence in him,” Richt said.

Beyond the confidence boost for Robinson, it was a nice reminder for Georgia’s coaches that a once glaring hole on defense now appears to be turning into a strength.

Georgia was so thin at defensive end in the spring that two walk-on tight ends were forced to switch positions so the team could scrimmage, and when starter Rod Battle went down with a season-ending injury early in the year, things look bleak.

But Robinson’s emergence, coupled with Houston’s strong play and improved seasons from Demarcus Dobbs and Cornelius Washington, depth is far less of an issue that Richt might have imagined.

“Considering what happened a year ago and Roderick going out relatively early, you might have thought, well, here we go again,” Richt said. “But it really hasn’t been that way.”

ALIVE AND KICKING

This week’s matchup against Auburn has earned some buzz due in part to the tremendous talent both teams sport at kicker. The Tigers’ Wes Bynum and Georgia’s Blair Walsh are both among the country’s most accurate field-goal kickers, and while Walsh struggled in kickoffs last season, he has turned that around and is now the SEC’s leader in touchbacks.

All that success has been good for Georgia, but it has left Brandon Bogotay, the junior college transfer from San Diego brought in to challenge Walsh for the job, without much playing time this season.

“Every game I want to get in, so I’m just waiting for my shot,” Bogotay said.

Despite the lack of playing time – which has involved just one kickoff this season – Bogotay isn’t complaining. In fact, he’s thrilled to see the kicking game doing so well.

“Everyone wants to get their PT, but we push each other, we get better from each other, and it’s really all about the team,” Bogotay said. “As long as one of us is performing, I’m going to be happy.”

WAITING IN THE WINGS

There weren’t many members of Georgia’s 2009 signing class that haven’t seen the field this season, and several of those being redshirted are due to injuries. But of the six healthy players still waiting their turn to see the field on game day, Richt said many have adopted a healthy attitude toward work on the scout team.

“The great majority of their life right now is being on the scout team, but they can get better by doing it,” Richt said.

Richt pointed to past scout-team stars like Odell Thurman and Thomas Davis as examples of how this year’s redshirts are handling the job.

“Every day they said, ‘We’re going to give these guys as much grief as possible,’ and they got better,” Richt said. “I think we’ve got a little bit of that going on right now.”

Quarterbacks Aaron Murray and Zach Mettenberger both earned praise from offensive coordinator Mike Bobo, who said that both have gotten far more work with the first- and second-team offenses in practice this season than past freshmen quarterbacks, due in part to starter Joe Cox’s injury that keeps him from throwing on Wednesdays.

Linebacker Chase Vasser suffered a minor injury after a scooter accident on campus earlier this season, but Richt said he’s healthy again and performing well.

“Chase has done a good job on the scout team for us, and he’s back on track doing fine,” Richt said.

Georgia’s two freshmen offensive linemen – Chris Burnette and Dallas Lee -- have helped the scout team look far more impressive than years past, too.

“We’ve actually had one of our better offensive scout teams in a while. We’ve had some really good offensive linemen over there that have been able to give us a better picture.”

But the star of the redshirts, Richt said, might be defensive tackle Kwame Geathers, who has come particularly far from his first days on campus, when he arrived three days after the start of fall camp, slow and overweight.

“I don’t know the number that he dropped, but it was probably in the 30-pound range if not more,” Richt said. “That guy really did a phenomenal job of really getting his body down to where he could run and have some stamina.”

REMEMBER WHEN

Throughout a tumultuous season that has seen Georgia drop four of its first nine games, Richt hasn’t had much of a roadmap for navigating the troubled waters in Athens. But his best comparison has been to look back at the Bulldogs’ 2006 season, when after a 6-4 start, Georgia won its final three games – all against ranked foes.

That run began with a shocking upset of Auburn on the road, a game in which Richt admitted afterward that he didn’t think his team could win. Now, as the Bulldogs try to rally to another strong finish, he’s doing his best to instill confidence in his players by reminding them of how much that 2006 team overcame.

“There’s definitely some parallels and some similarities,” Richt said. “We don’t know how it’s all going to finish, but as you’re looking for something to build on or put in front of your team to tell them that you can do it, you want to grab those positive comparisons.”

BIG WEEK FOR RECRUITING

The biggest group of recruits to visit Georgia on a game day since Richt has been in Athens came when the Bulldogs hosted Auburn in 2005, he said. Most years, the Georgia-Auburn game draws a hefty crowd.

This year’s game may not draw quite as many recruits as the ’05 game did, Richt said, but it will be close, and the players who will be in Athens rate pretty high on Georgia’s wish list.

“It’s big, it’s what you would expect for Georgia-Auburn,” Richt said. “I know that as we covered the names that are coming in, not only is it a long list, but it’s a list of outstanding players for 2010, 2011 and even a couple of 2012s in there.”

Of course, the problem then becomes handling such a big group of players, but Richt isn’t complaining.

“It’s going to be a difficult day to manage because you want to spend time with these people and let them know how much you care about them,” Richt said. “When there’s such a massive number, it’s very difficult to get everybody the amount of love they probably feel like they deserve. But that’s a good problem to have.”

FIRST CATCH FEELS GOOD

When he got to Georgia, tight end Arthur Lynch was already well aware of his role on the offense. Aron White and Orson Charles were both lean, athletic tight ends with immense receiving skills. Lynch was the brawn.

But with Georgia’s big lead in the fourth quarter last week, Lynch got his first chance to show that he’s capable of more than just pushing people around, picking up two receptions back to back – the first two catches of his career.

“That was a cool experience,” Lynch said. “We were up big and the other team was playing hard, but they called the same route twice and I caught it. It was cool to get in there and see what it was like. I’ve been playing at spots blocking, but in terms of route running and out catching passes, I hadn’t had the opportunity to do that until that game, so it was definitely cool to get a part of the offense.”

PARKING PROBLEMS

Tailgaters may want to be aware of some reduced parking around campus for Saturday’s game against Auburn. Due to the wet weather brought by Tropical Storm Ida, several grass-covered areas typically used for parking, including the lots near the intramural fields off East Campus Drive, will not be available. The school also urged fans to carpool, to avoid using pull-behind trailers and reconsider placing heavy objects on the wet grounds in other grass-covered parking areas.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Burnette Excited, Not Intimidated

Chris Burnette knew what to expect even before he arrived at Georgia. In fact, that's what made him want to be a Bulldog so badly.

Burnette knew that offensive line coach Stacy Searels was a tough guy to play for, that he demanded a lot, and that freshmen weren't given any special treatment. They were thrown to the wolves, and they learned the hard way.

And yet, that's exactly what made playing at Georgia exciting. Freshmen were treated as equals, and while that meant a tough time on the practice field early on, it also meant he'd have a shot at playing as soon as he was ready.

"You really want to play as much as you can, and Coach Searels will put the best five guys on the field," Burnette said. "I'm all about competition, and I know that he won't say, 'Well, this guy's older so I'm going to play him.' He's going to put his best football players out there. I'm glad to have that kind of coach in charge of who's playing and who's not."

While Burnette figures to go through his share of hard times, he also isn't anticipating any earth-shattering changes from the way he's always prepared. In fact, his high school coach modeled their practices after what Searels did at Georgia. For Burnette, it will just be a faster pace for an old routine.

"I've been to a lot of their practices during the year, and they showed me that a lot of the stuff we do on our team is pretty similar," Burnette said. "It'll be turned up another level but I really think I've been prepared pretty well for it. The fact that Coach Searels does push his players pretty hard, I think helps in the long run as far as winning games and getting you ready to play on the next level on Sundays."

That doesn't mean Burnette isn't a little intimidated. This is the SEC, after all, and Searels is one of the country's top offensive line coaches. And while Burnette managed to avoid mat drills and the rigors of spring practice, he got some words of warning from early enrollee Dallas Lee that helped get him ready for what will soon be in store.

"Pretty much when I had one of my visits, he was telling me to take the time you have no to make sure you're in shape," Burnette said. "He said when he got there, he wasn't really prepared for that, so I'm just glad I could get some advice from the guys who did come early like I was planning to do originally."

Friday, March 20, 2009

Practice Notes: Ready to Hit

After being limited to lifting weights and performing in non-contact drills for over two months, the Georgia players will get a chance to hit tomorrow when they dress out in full-pads for the first time since the Capital One Bowl.

Although there won’t be an official scrimmage, UGA head coach Mark Richt is confident that the intensity will not be lacking.

“(Saturday) is going to be a spirited practice,” Richt said. “First day of pads is usually that way. I think the tension is already building, and I got a feeling that we’re gonna have to pull some guys off of each other.”

Despite giving up nearly 25 points per game a year ago, Richt made it clear that it is the defense that is making the early strides and dictating play in the majority of off-season drills.

“Defense without question is setting the tone in the spring,” Richt said. “I remember the years that I coached at Florida State, when we had that great run of 14 years in the top-5, I don’t think there was a spring where the defense didn’t kick our rear-end every year. It’s just the beginning, but the defense has really done a nice job.”

In addition to dressing out in full-pads for the first time, Georgia will also be hosting its annual Junior Day on Saturday.

“It’s a huge day,” Richt said of the opportunity. “It’s exciting that that many guys want to come. Every Junior Day we have is a little different and this year’s emphasis is going to be about the football part of it. They’ll get to see our Coaches coach and our players get after it.”

Richt expects at least 300 recruits to make the visit.

SAME FACES, NEW PLACES

Georgia’s offseason coaching shake-up didn’t exactly introduce the Bulldogs to a bunch of new faces, but former graduate assistant Bryan McClendon and former running backs coach Tony Ball have both brought new approaches to their new roles. Ball has taken over the wide receivers this season, and he’s giving each of his receivers a chance to prove their mettle with a clean slate and a fresh attitude.

“He’s got a different philosophy with what he does and how he wants to us do things, so it’s like rebuilding and starting over again,” said redshirt freshman Israel Troupe.

McClendon, who now handles Georgia’s running backs, has given his players a fresh start, too. Tailback Caleb King said McClendon has made a point of starting from scratch and re-teaching many of the fundamentals that may have faded into the background in the past.Of course, neither Ball nor McClendon have seen this spring as any drastic departure from the past, but they are excited to be undertaking a new adventure.

“It’s not too different,” McClendon said. “I’ve been through it as a player, I’ve been through it as a graduate assistant before, so I pretty much know the regiment. The biggest thing is the excitement – how excited I am to be able to work with those guys and just to be on the field coaching. It’s always great to be out there with those guys and improving those guys on and off the field.”

KICKIN’ IT OLD SCHOOL

Blair Walsh took plenty of criticism throughout last season for his problems on kickoffs, including hearing his head coach suggest he would fly to Poland to find someone who could handle the role. As it turns out, however, Walsh looks to be the guy to handle kickoff duties once again, and while he hopes to improve the results, he hasn’t changed his approach.

“I keep it the same,” Walsh said. “I approach it just like I do everything, very professionally and try to do my best at it. But I haven’t changed any way I look at it.”

As for what the coaches might have in store for him this year – whether he’ll be kicking deep, directional kicking or not kicking off at all – Walsh said he hasn’t gotten any news.

“I don’t know yet,” Walsh said. “We haven’t really done anything yet. I don’t know what their philosophy is, I don’t know what the coaches are doing or thinking about.”

STARTING FROM SCRATCH

Troupe is one of several players this spring hoping to turn a particularly minor role last season into significant playing time this year. Troupe’s game plan for working his way into the offense is simple: He’s going back to basics.

“This year coming in is kind of like my freshman year all over again,” Troupe said. “I’ve got a clean slate coming in and I’m just starting over from scratch.”

HANGIN’ IN THERE

Dallas Lee’s introduction to life in the SEC hasn’t been a particularly enjoyable one, thanks to the magic of offensive line coach Stacy Searels. But despite the typical freshman struggles, Lee – who Searels said is working out at center and guard so far – has held his own.

“He’s doing good,” Searels said. “It’s a kid who should still be in high school right now, but he’s out there working and it’s an eye-opening experience for him.”

Searels Speaks... Again!

So for two years, Stacy Searels refused to talk to the media. Then, several things happened:

1.) He was widely lauded by everyone who watched Georgia's O line overcome myriad injuries last year.

2.) Mike Bobo informed him, jokingly, that he'd be fined for missing media requests.

3.) He interviewed for a coaching job at another school.

Whether any of those things caused a change of heart in Searels' attitude toward us lowly media folks, I can't say. But the important part is, he's talking. First, he spoke with reporters at signing day. Now, he's talking to us during the spring. He's probably not too happy about it, but hey, we all do things we don't want. Like how I had to root for the Giants in last year's Super Bowl because I actually hated the Patriots more. Friggin' Belichick.

Anyway, Searels chatted with us for a few minutes Wednesday, and here are some highlights of what he had to say along with some video from the interview...

Searels on Dallas Lee's introduction to spring practice...
"He's doing good. It's a kid who should still be in high school right now, but he's out there working and it's an eye-opening experience for him."

Searels on when he knew he had a special player in Clint Boling...
"When I went and watched him play basketball and saw him dunk and score 20-something points, I thought that was pretty impressive for an offensive lineman."

Searels on what this spring is about...
"Right now, we're looking at this spring as trying to get to be the best we can be individually. Then when we get everybody back, we'll figure out through the summer and summer camp how we'll fit in to the positions. Right now we're working on the fundamentals, we're working on competing, toughness. Those are the things we're looking for."

Searels on how he'll decide next year's O line starting lineup...
"The thing we believe here, and I've heard it said many times, is we want to get the best five on the field. I don't care if he's a guard, center or a tackle. If it gets in a situation where you have a guy with a guard's body who is the very best tackle – that's what we would do. We want to try to find the best five combination, and the first sub is going to be the sixth guy. He's going to be the best player. He's not going to be the second right tackle. He's going to be the sixth best player. That's why I want guys to understand how it all fits together. You're not just a right tackle. You're not just a left guard. You're an offensive lineman and you need to understand that it all works together and if someone goes down and you're the next guy in line, you go."