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Friday was for the pups.

Georgia continued preparation for its Liberty Bowl matchup on New Year's Eve against Central Florida, but Friday morning's workout overlapped with commencement ceremonies for the fall semester. Fifteen players missed the practice because of graduation, including starters such as tackle Josh Davis, defensive end Demarcus Dobbs and linebackers Akeem Dent and Darryl Gamble.

Backup tight end Aron White was the student commencement speaker.

The absence of so many veterans allowed the younger Bulldogs to move up the depth chart temporarily and get more repetitions.

"Today's the day we probably do that the most," coach Mark Richt said. "Actually, that was the largest group that we've had [graduate] since I've been at Georgia. A lot of our guys missed this practice, so we didn't do any kicking game. We did a little fundamental work, a little skeleton, a little 11-on-11, and then we scrimmaged for the rest of practice. It was a perfect day to do that."

Friday's practice also featured guests from the Opportunity House in Lavonia, Ga., including James Robert "Radio" Kennedy and former T.L. Hanna (S.C.) High School football coach Harold Jones, upon whom the 2003 movie "Radio" was based.

So which Bulldogs who sat out this season can be expected to contribute next year?

Quarterback Aaron Murray believes freshman tailback Ken Malcome and freshman receiver Michael Bennett will make their mark on next season's offense. Outgoing receiver Kris Durham seconded the opinion on Bennett, saying, "The guy is going to be something special. He makes plays every day in practice."

Defensively, two linebackers to monitor could be Richard Samuel, a former tailback, and Jarvis Jones, who transferred to Athens after playing last season at Southern Cal.

"Richard Samuel is coming on real strong and will bring a lot of pop," Dent said. "There will be a lot of guys making a lot of plays for this defense next year."

Said Richt: "Jarvis Jones is enjoying it. He looks good."

If they returned

What if receiver A.J. Green and outside linebacker Justin Houston and any other Georgia junior who's seriously mulling over a jump to the NFL actually decided to return for their senior seasons? Richt brought up the scenario following Friday's practice.

"I don't think there is any individual award that wouldn't be possible with this bunch," he said.

Wishing Zach well

Former Georgia quarterback Zach Mettenberger, who was dismissed from the team by Richt following spring practice, officially rejoined the SEC this past Wednesday when he signed with LSU. Richt said Tigers coach Les Miles never called to inquire about Mettenberger but the Georgia coach wished his former player well.

"I'm very happy for him," Richt said. "I love Zach, and I love his family. I've known him since he was a peanut, and I'm really glad he had the season that he had in junior college. He's got a great opportunity at a great school."

Odds and ends

Richt said after practice that sophomore Orson Charles is too valuable at tight end to get moved to receiver should Green elect to turn pro. ... Georgia can become the second SEC team ever to win five bowls in five seasons and the first since Alabama won six straight in 1975-80. ... Richt said all the fall semester grades would not be in until Wednesday, so that's when he would likely announce whether there were any academic casualties for the bowl.

Contact David Paschall at dpaschall@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6524.

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