The Georgia Bulldogs spent most of Tuesday afternoon working against the scout team version of the Oklahoma State Cowboys on the field turf. Among the faces that emulated the Cowboys was true freshman Logan Gray, who is taking on the role of starting Cowboy quarterback Bobby Reid in practice. Head Coach Mark Richt is noticing the grind of practice taking a toll on the players, but they turned things around toward the end of the day. The Bulldogs have one more practice before the practice game on Thursday.
Here is what Coach Richt had to say about the events of the day:
Today was the time of the year when everyone is tired of slamming into each other, tired of the heat, and tired of waiting, but we have to continue getting better. I thought overall, the guys preserved pretty well. The best thing that happened today was our one-minute drill. Our number two defense gave a little ground, but in the end made a big play, a pick to stop the drive. It was good work at full speed and the second team defense was engaged and made the offense work. The offense did a lot of nice things, but they needed a touchdown to win the drill and the protection broke down for Matthew Stafford and he got hit a little bit as he threw the ball. We usually don't hit the quarterback, but a guy came pretty hard off the edge and at least nudged him as he threw it and caused a pick. They did not protect well enough and that was a running back situation on that one.
Our number one defense got up there with our number two offense and they drove about 65 of 70 yards. It came down to three shots inside the ten and the defense made three really outstanding plays. On second down, we had an offensive player drop a ball that could have won the drill. On the third down, which was the last play of the day, with 1.1 seconds to go, C.J. Byrd made a really nice pick in the end zone to win that drill. That is the kind of pressure we need to provide in those drills and I thought our number two units did a great job of making our number ones work. When you are in the one-minute drill you are winning or losing the game, today the defense won and the offense did not get it done. Overall, it was a pretty good day considering the smoking heat.
Is the red zone defense one of your biggest concerns heading into the season with so many new starters on defense?
Well you know in a drill like that you have to make a play to win and it happened to be in the red zone this particular time. Sometimes it is down the field in a one-minute drill. It turned into a red zone drill with the clock being involved in it. They had to play pass. Someone might have had enough nerve to run a draw at the very end, but it is doubtful anyone would do that from five or six yards out. I did that one time 15 years ago and it did score by the way. If we can cause people to kick field goals on defense and on offense we can get seven instead of three [that is good]. When we look back on our last season, in the Kentucky and Vanderbilt games for sure, if we scored seven instead of threes or didn't miss field goals, we win those games. There is no doubt about that.
When you look back at all the stuff that happened last year, does Brannan Southerland's season get overlooked?
Brannan of course scored a lot of touchdowns for us. He led the team in scoring and was an outstanding blocker. He was a great short-yardage and goal line runner, and a great screen catcher and runner. We got a few plays where he will be the primary target on a pass play. He has caught the ball extremely well and he is an outstanding fullback.
As an offensive coordinator do you need to remind yourself to use the fullback?
Well you need to. I have been in Mike Bobo's ear from time to time. We talk about personnel all the time and when you go across the board you cannot forget Brannan and his ability to make plays. We like him in the game; there is no doubt about that.
How much will his blocking ability be called upon given the youth on the offensive line?
I would say 70 percent of his job is blocking whether it is run blocking or pass blocking regardless of what your offensive line situation looks like. The great majority of his job will be blocking. There is no doubt about that. We will still try to use him some as a runner and a ball-catcher.
Speaking of the fullbacks, last year you redshirted Shaun Chapas and Fred Munzenmaier, how have they developed and what will their roles be?
They are very good, those kids ought to help us on special teams and I think they are ready to play. They are very versatile players. They have good running skills and if you watched them in high school, they were very good runners and tackle breakers. They have a little bit of shiftiness in the open field. They are big, strong, and physical. They are starting to block that way. I think our fullback situation is very outstanding for some years to come.
What was your nickname for those two?
Mutt and Jeff. They are really good buddies and it is amazing how they both came in as fullbacks, we both roommates, they both redshirt, and it seemed like every class they went to, they went together. They became really good friends and I think their parents are too.
Coming into this year did you think Marcus Washington would be a redshirt candidate because of his knee?
If it did not respond, yeah. We are thankful it is responding well right now because we really need him. Every once in a while you look back and think I should have played so and so more, and Marcus is one of those guys. He should have played more last year. We need to make sure he gets in the game because he is a very good football player. He really understands what we are doing. He's got his weight down and is in great shape. He looks good.
Is there still a stigma attached to kids redshirting and what percentage of recruits do you tell you plan to redshirt?
Well, here is the bottom line. Not many times do we talk redshirts with any signee. With Logan Gray it was discussed and he is probably the only one. There are some that ask about the redshirt. A lot of times it is offensive linemen and sometimes at any position, a parent might say, isn't there some merit or an advantage to redshirting academically and getting acclimated to school. Some parents want to know about that and we tell them the same answer, which is the truth. We want to have everybody come in, in great condition and compete. We want them to try like mad to become the starter or to be a second team guy who plays. We really do not know what our injury situation is going to be like and we do not know who might just be flat out better than the next guy, so we tell them to come in with the attitude of being in great condition, learn what to do, and then compete. Usually after the second scrimmage, which is about now, we have a much better feel for where those guys are, even the guys who are working on the scout team. After the scrimmage Thursday night, there are usually two guys who play so well for Oklahoma State, that we say we have to get him in the game because he is a natural. He is going to make tackles, so let's get him on special teams. We see enough by game three, four, or five this guy is ready to play. Nothing is etched in stone, I know you guys want to have an answer and write about it, but I do not know the answer yet. We have our guesses, but the guesses only cause pain when they read about it all the time.
How do you deal with the top ranked guys who think they will play as a true freshman, but you end up redshirting?
Sometimes guys get really bent out of shape, but most times guys look at the big picture and see that it is in their best interest. They see other guys that have been redshirted. Thomas Davis was a first round pick and he redshirted. Reshad Jones is a tremendous player and he redshirted. Knowshon Moreno is all anyone wants to talk about and he redshirted. There are a lot of guys that end up redshirting and they become some of the greatest players in the country. A redshirt to me is not a bad thing. Most guys like Ken Shackleford when they get to be a senior wish they had got redshirted. He wished he did. Even Chester Adams might even feel that way especially towards the end of the year. He will think it would have been nice if I had another season. A lot of guys look at it as a blessing. Look at Fernando Velasco. When we redshirted him two or three years into it, when we first talked about it, he was not too happy about it. Now he is thankful and excited. He is the leader of our football team and he has a chance to play a position that might help him in the future with the NFL. A redshirt is not a bad thing, some people make it out to be, but it is not.
What is going on with the competition at tight end?
It is muddy, real muddy. I could not tell you who is going to start or how much anyone is going to play. To me it is still wide open, very wide open.
Have you had a chance to talk to D.J. Shockley since his injury?
No, I left a voicemail and I have not been able to speak with him yet. Hopefully soon, I will.
A lot of your players looked to Michael Vick having watched him play in this state. Have you talked to them about what is going on with Vick or any of that stuff and will you?
We did not. I think we are so busy right now it is hard to think about those things right now. I am sure they are observing what is happening and catching a hint to what is going on. The bottom line is this is another example of the ramification of making a mistake. I always tell the players once you break a rule or a law; you really lose control over the consequence. The authority over you at that moment basically has control and you have to abide by that. That is another example of that and it happens at all levels.
Jarius Wynn (groin) and Scott Haverkamp (ankle) did not participate in practice Tuesday. In green on Tuesday were Tripp Chandler (ribs), Thomas Flowers (shoulder), John Knox (heat), Tanner Strickland (foot), and Chris Little (wrist). Clint Boling filled in for Haverkamp at right guard and Coleman Watson, NaDerris Ward, and Bruce Figgins filled in for Chandler. Josh Davis, Flowers and Knox both saw action. Caleb King was dressed out, but he is still dealing with a pulled hamstring and was not participating.
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