- First of all, I've been wondering as I read about camp and practices how much AD McGarity has been visible. He's kept a close eye on things thus far, such as his seat at the scorer's table during basketball games. Very hands on. I know the media is limited to just a few minutes of practice, but have you seen him around the fields observing things from a distance?
I’ve seen McGarity at practice just one day so far this month, but then again the media has been more and more limited ourselves in getting access to practice. He told me he also went by practice another time on the first week of camp, went to the team’s 6:15 a.m. conditioning testing before camp began and addressed the team on the night they officially reported. His fourth-floor corner office gives him a view of the practice fields, so he can get a peek whenever he wants.
2. Turning towards Saturday, can you give us a rundown on players that may miss the opener due to injury?
After Monday’s final full pads practice before the Boise game, tailback Richard Samuel seems to be the player whose status might be most in question, but he’s optimistic about being able to play.
Samuel has dealt with a quadriceps injury for two and a half weeks. He said he practiced about half of the workout. Richt said he’s still not 100 percent and is still the projected starter over Isaiah Crowell as of today.
Cornerback Branden Smith said he jogged on Monday when he did not practice. He was in a walking boot on Friday, but said that he will be ready to play on Saturday. I asked him if his 4.3 40 speed is now 4.4 due to the injury and he wouldn’t even allow for 0.1 of a second to be lost due to the injury.
3. Kwame Geathers seems to have locked down the starting NT position for the opener. However, it seems like we can expect both him and Jenkins to play. Given Boise's offense I would think we would need both on the field more often than not. What are your thoughts at the nose tackle position?
First of all, the position seems to be called many things. Coaches and players also call it nose guard. When Todd Grantham first came around, the guys playing there were listed just as nose. Whatever you call it, Geathers is the starter. He has picked up where he left off in the spring. Even if Jenkins didn’t have his battles with the heat and his hamstring issue, I’m not sure how much of a battle it would have been for the starting job. If Jenkins is healthy enough (he practiced Monday), he’ll get snaps. Grantham said the other day that he’s worked some at end, too, so it will be interesting to see just how he’s used and how effective he is from the get-go.
4. Of course the other key position battle fans have been focused on is RB. It sounds like Crowell is progressing as well as could be expected. Do you think he's ready to handle the bulk of the load, or should we expect a more widespread distribution of carries against Boise State?
I think the distribution of carries against Boise will go this way: Samuel-Crowell or Crowell-Samuel. Mark Richt already likes his top two tailbacks better than the disappointing combo of Ealey-King from last year. Samuel is projected to start now, but his injury may impact that. I’d be surprised if we see either Brandon Harton or Ken Malcome get a carry unless Samuel can't go. From everything coaches have said, Crowell is ready for the demands of the position. He’s not afraid to get physical in pass protection and seems to know his assignments about as well as you could hope for a freshman. As far as how many carries Crowell or Samuel get, the hot hand may dictate that.
5. Speaking of Crowell, the Dream Team focus seems to be mostly on him and Mitchell. But the truth is the greatest impact of the 2011 class will be in depth, talented depth. Which freshman that hasn't had much attention thus far do you think will stand out as the season progresses?
I’ll give you two. Damian Swann and Amarlo Herrera.
Swann is already in the top four cornerbacks now after Brandon Boykin, Branden Smith and Jordan Love. If Smith can’t go Saturday because of his foot injury, Swann will be a starter in the nickel package. Herrera’s physically imposing already (6-2 and 231 pounds) and plays a position of inside linebacker where the Bulldogs are thin in depth behind Christian Robinson and Alec Ogletree. There’s Mike Gilliard and Herrera behind them among scholarship players.
6. Will Friend's hire was met with a lot of questions. Months later he seems like a good fit and a welcome change. What are your impressions of him and the offensive line as a whole?
The players seem to have really taken to Friend, who is quite a change of pace from the often gruff Stacy Searels. Friend is a former Georgia graduate assistant who Mike Bobo helped bring back to Athens. The offensive line has underperformed the last couple of seasons, but if the starting five can stay healthy, they have a chance to be decent. Cordy Glenn and Ben Jones are highly-rated for their position for the NFL, Kenarious Gates started a few games last year and Justin Anderson is a big-body that can potentially be a force in the run blocking. Right guard Chris Burnette hasn’t played a snap yet in college, but has the smarts and held onto the one spot where it looked like there might be a push for the starting job.
7. One of the biggest off season stories both locally and nationally is Coach Richt's hotseat. Yet, with some players leaving and the recruiting haul in February the staff seems as confident as ever. At least much more so than the last couple years. What are your thoughts on the coaching staff's attitude after a 6-7 season?
I’d say the attitude is no nonsense. Starting off with Boise State and South Carolina means Georgia needs to be sharp right out of the gates. There was no trip to Ramsey this year for the annual diving/swimming deal. Everyone has bought into the No Complaining rule that Richt picked up after meeting with Falcons coach Mike Smith. I’m not sure if I sense the coaches are confident as much as at least on defense, there appears to be an upgrade in talent at critical spots for the 3-4 with Geathers/Jenkins at nose and Ogletree/Jones at linebacker.
8. The Bacarri Rambo situation has really grown legs here recently. My initial thought was that he was injured in some way, or possibly in the doghouse. Now it seems the coaches have been sending a message. Do you think he starts? If not, what do you think the reason might be?
Mark Richt finally came out and said on Saturday what players have said and reporters have seen with our own eyes—that Shawn Williams and Sanders Commings are the starting safeties for the Boise State game. Richt won't say yet if Rambo is suspended for the Boise game, but says "I'm still working on that," when asked when he will announce any other suspensions.
9. Georgia lost two big playmakers in AJ Green and Justin Houston. In your mind, who helps ease the pain of their loss on each side of the ball?
It might be a collective effort on offense to make up for Green’s catches, but I would expect tight end Orson Charles to get more passes directed his way. Aaron Murray has said he wants him to hit 50 catches this season, which would be a Georgia record in a single season for a tight end. Freshman Malcolm Mitchell still could turn into another receiving threat along with Tavarres King. Marlon Brown has been talked up by coaches, but I’m kind of taking a wait and see on him until the real games begin. On defense, I think Houston’s production as a sack guy will come largely from Jarvis Jones with Cornelius Washington helping out. Geathers also could generate some push up the middle.
10. To wrap this up, what do you think the biggest question is heading into this last week of preps for the 2011 season? And given that, what do you think is a reasonable projection for the Dawgs in 2011?
There isn’t one glaring thing that jumps out as a question mark to me except perhaps the lack of depth at several spots—on the offensive line, at tailback and inside linebacker. An injury to a frontline guy at those positions could be costly. Georgia certainly needs Crowell to be the guy that it hoped he could be as a big-time playmaker when it signed him, but the sense I get on that is he hasn’t disappointed so far. Given the way, Georgia’s schedule sets up, a 9-3 season seems reasonable to expect, but the ceiling is of course higher. At least splitting the Boise-South Carolina games back-to-back is essential because an 0-2 start coming off last year’s losing season would be hard for the fanbase to stomach.
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