** FILE ** Mark Richt and the Georgia Bulldogs are heading into spring practices. (AP Photo/John Amis, File)
The Georgia assistant football coach making the most adjustments in spring practice is the one who's been there the longest.
Rodney Garner is in his 13th season as defensive line coach but now is working with three positions in the 3-4 scheme being installed by new defensive coordinator Todd Grantham. Garner has no previous background coaching in the 3-4, and it's been a quarter century since he played in something similar.
"We were a 50 defense when I first got to Auburn, when Aundray Bruce was our outside linebacker," Garner said Thursday. "Then everything evolved to a 4-3, but when I first got to college, everybody was playing the 50. Then it evolved to the 4-3, and now it's evolving back around to the 3-4. Everything seems to go in cycles."
Georgia held its third spring practice Thursday and will work for the first time in full pads Saturday. Head coach Mark Richt described his Bulldogs as a "great energy bunch right now."
Fewer than 10 percent of Bowl Subdivision teams used the 3-4 last year, with Alabama being the only program in the Southeastern Conference. It's not only new at Georgia this spring but at Georgia Tech, with former Virginia coach Al Groh in charge of implementing it there.
"As far as coaching, it's still fundamentals and D-line play," Garner said. "Obviously the terminology is different, and there are different schemes and different fits, so it's just a lot right now for the guys to absorb. There are a lot of mistakes out there, but we've got to put it in and get them better with it and more comfortable with it."
Said Richt: "His responsibility has really grown. He's responsible for three defensive linemen and spends a lot of time with the outside rushers."
Adding to Garner's challenge is the youth with which he has to work, especially at the nose position. The Bulldogs were hardest hit after last season at defensive tackle, where Geno Atkins, Jeff Owens and Kade Weston were seniors.
All three are expected to get drafted next month by the middle rounds.
"It obviously would have been good having those three guys back going into this system," Garner said, laughing. "That would have been a much better luxury, because right now we've got a whole new system and a whole bunch of new players, too."
Odds and ends
Former tailback Richard Samuel, who was moved to outside linebacker before spring practice, now is working at inside linebacker. ... Richt said offensive tackle Clint Boling and linebackers Darryl Gamble and Akeem Dent are among the early leaders of the 2010 team. ... Redshirt freshman quarterback Aaron Murray believes he has a better grip of the ball when wearing a glove. Asked if he's ever had a quarterback wear a glove before, Richt said, "Not on a 70-degree day."
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 ...