ATHENS, Ga. — Georgia held the first of its 15 spring football practices Tuesday afternoon under gorgeous skies.
Matthew Stafford was in attendance, but only as a spectator and a former Bulldogs quarterback. Tuesday marked the first workout without Stafford, former tailback Knowshon Moreno and former receiver Mohamed Massaquoi since the 2006 G-Day spring game.
File photo showing Georgia head coach Mark Richt gesturing on the the sidelines during an NCAA college football game against Tennessee in Athens, Ga. Judging from the chatter on Internet message boards, Georgia fans are fretting a little more than usual, clearly bothered by the perception that their program is starting to lag ever so slightly behind the other elite schools in the powerful Southeastern Conference. (AP Photo/John Bazemore, File)
“You know after a certain amount of time that they’re gone and that the next guy has got to rise to the occasion,” coach Mark Richt said Tuesday night. “That’s the beauty of college football and spring ball in particular. You could tell we’ve got a ways to go, but there are enough guys who know what they’re doing to give you confidence.”
Only 20 minutes of practice was open to the media, and here’s what transpired:
5:04 p.m. — An astounding 30 media members, cameramen included, are escorted to the practice fields. It’s the largest contingent the Bulldogs have experienced for a spring opener, surpassing those who came out last March to watch a team that had a lot more hype.
5:08 — Defensive coordinator Willie Martinez is at the 35-yard line with defensive line coach Rodney Garner and linebackers coach John Jancek standing by pylons at opposite ends of the goal line. After a toss sweep to a scout-team tailback, Martinez yells for his defenders to sprint to a pylon.
“Turn and run!” Martinez shouts. “Turn it on!”
It’s a scene reminiscent of last November, when the Bulldogs stayed in pursuit of Georgia Tech tailbacks Jonathan Dywer and Roddy Jones during Tech’s 45-42 upset win at Sanford Stadium. It’s a scene Georgia hopes to experience far fewer times this fall.
“Come on through the line!” Jancek shouts. “Don’t stop!”
5:10 — Players in green, noncontact jerseys have gathered. Tight end Bruce Figgins, tailbacks Richard Samuel and Dontavious Jackson and offensive linemen Vince Vance and Chris Davis are among those looking at their respective position drills, longing to be back in the mix.
5:14 — Stacy Searels takes his offensive linemen and asks them to focus. Justin Anderson, Tanner Strickland, Ben Jones, Cordy Glenn and Clint Boling line up as the starters from right to left.
“The first thing I want is a tremendous stance, and then I want tremendous steps,” Searels says. “The main thing is to get those first two steps in the ground.”
5:19 — Defensive ends coach Jon Fabris is working on fumble recoveries and uses Demarcus Dobbs to demonstrate. Several feet above Fabris is a student assistant, who is taping the drill from a tower.
“If there’s something you don’t like, tell me,” Fabris says.
5:21 — Tony Ball, who played at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga and coached receivers for the Mocs and at Virginia Tech, is back with receivers after spending the past three years with Bulldogs running backs. Ball shouts instructions for a stance-and-release drill before seniors Michael Moore and Kris Durham sprint across the field.
5:23 — Searels yells at his youngest lineman, early enrollee Dallas Lee.
“Get over here!” he says. “Dallas, I want you to take your hands and shoot them through his chest.”
A minute later, Searels screams at Lee, “Get over there, and quit walking!”
Lee will never have to go through another “first” practice again, and coaches will be yelling at other newcomers in August.
5:28 — An air horn signifies the media’s return inside, but it sounds like nothing much was missed.
“I’m going to use a typical line, because it was a typical first day in shorts,” Richt said. “It wasn’t a contact day, so it was tough to gauge a lot of things.”
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 ...