ATHENS, Ga. — Saturday’s G-Day game signified the end of Georgia’s spring football practice and the beginning of endless talk of preseason expectations, which began for some right after the Bulldogs won the Sugar Bowl.
“I feel like we’re right where we need to be,” Georgia coach Mark Richt said. “I don’t know how far we’ve gone or how far we have to go, but I think to this point, everything we’ve tried to accomplish we have. Now the key is for our leaders to take over from now until camp starts. We can’t go out there and practice with them anymore, so they’ve got to do it on their own.”
Richt is aware his team could land the first preseason No. 1 ranking in program history, but he pointed out Saturday that this year’s projections will be based on last year’s team. This year’s team returns 17 of 22 starters, but Richt said the 2007 chemistry is gone and that this team must earn its right to be good.
Bulldogs coaches will spend upcoming days reviewing spring film and will hold exit meetings with each player. Then they’re off recruiting, leaving the players to choose whether they should focus on the weight room or on what’s being written or said about them.
“We follow Coach Richt’s lead, and he’s a humble man,” receiver Michael Moore said. “No matter how much success he has, he stays humble, and that kind of rubs off on the players.”
Said linebacker Rennie Curran: “We’re all experienced, and we know what we’ve got to do.”
Richt has experience at being No. 1 from his years as a Florida State assistant. The Seminoles opened the 1988 season ranked No. 1 and promptly lost 31-0 at Miami, but they began at the top in 1999 and went wire-to-wire in winning the national championship.
“If you’re thinking you’re a preseason No. 1, you need to be stacked at every position, and I just don’t see us there yet,” he said. “We’ve got some offensive line issues, and we don’t even know who our kicker is. There are some things going on that need to get solved.
“Anybody who thinks just because we’re Georgia that we’re going to win is out of their minds.”
Defensive coordinator Willie Martinez said the players must be smart about the hype in upcoming months, taking things day by day and displaying a good work ethic in individual workouts. Then there’s the schedule, which contains home games against Alabama, Tennessee and Georgia Tech, and games away from home against South Carolina, Arizona State, LSU, Florida and Auburn.
“Every year is tough,” Martinez said, “but this one is ‘Wow!’”
That makes three
Receiver Kris Durham from Calhoun, an early enrollee in the 2006 class, competed in his third G-Day game. He almost scored a touchdown on the first play but was caught by safety Reshad Jones following a 31-yard reception.
That would be his only catch, so he didn’t come close to equaling last year’s G-Day, when he had six receptions for 137 yards and two touchdowns. Still, Durham is a projected starter in Georgia’s three-receiver set.
“I feel like I’m progressing and finally getting comfortable learning my role,” he said.
Odds and ends
Richt said the offensive line protected better at G-Day than in any other scrimmage. ... Guard Vince Vance injured his lower ankle but is expected to be fine. ... Tight end Tripp Chandler was held out because of a hip flexor. ... Backup punter Drew Butler struggled, averaging 32 yards in three punts. ... Walk-on kickers Brian Behr and Andrew Jensen performed well, but Richt said he may have six kickers vie for the job in August. ... Abry Jones, a 6-foot-3, 250-pound defensive tackle from Warner Robins, is Georgia’s seventh commitment for 2009. Jones is rated by Rivals.com as the No. 2 prospect in the state.
David Paschall is a sports writer for the Times Free Press. He started at the Chattanooga Free Press in 1990 and was part of the Times Free Press when the paper started in 1999. David covers University of Georgia football, as well as SEC football recruiting, SEC basketball, Chattanooga Lookouts baseball and other sports stories. He is a Chattanooga native and graduate of the Baylor School and Auburn University. David has received numerous honors for ...