Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Spring Practice Preview - with David Ching

Spring practice starts today. The once quiet and stillness of Woodruff Field will crackle with excitement as CRob and Tree strap on the pads and meet DICK Sam IV at the line of scrimmage. To prepare us, David Ching of ESPNs DawgNation sits down a minute to answer some questions about positions to look at and developing stories to watch.

1. First of all, what's the schedule for the spring? How many practices do the coaches get to help knock off the rust as well as prepare for the next season? There are 14 practices plus the G-Day game on the schedule, starting with a practice on Tuesday.

2. I think the thing that is at the forefront of everyone's mind is the competition at running back. What do you expect we'll see from that position during Spring drills and G-Day? I think Isaiah Crowell is the most well-rounded tailback on Georgia's roster and he will remain as the No. 1 option by the conclusion of spring practices. I'll be interested to see how quickly Keith Marshall rises on the depth chart. I think he will win some playing time this spring and will contribute in the fall. What will be interesting to see is how Richard Samuel, Carlton Thomas and Ken Malcome figure into the mix. Mark Richt complimented Malcome for his improved attitude last week and I think he might continue his progress from late last season this spring.

3. In your mind, what becomes of Richard Samuel? The fan favorite seems focused on the tailback position, but there's been discussion of a possible move (again) to fullback? Honestly, I don't view Richard as a fullback. He's got a fullback's frame, but he doesn't often run like a fullback and he has been fairly brittle throughout his career. I don't know if sending him charging into the hole to blast a linebacker 30 times a game is the best way to keep him healthy. Fullback might be where he ends up, but I think Richard would be a better fit at tailback or in some sort of hybrid role between the two positions.

4. I read your preview on the OL and Richt seems encouraged by the potential there despite the losses of Jones, Glenn and Anderson. No doubt Coach Friend has a difficult task. What's a reasonable goal you think for him coming out of spring practice? Since they certainly want to wait for John Theus to arrive on campus before settling on a lineup, I think the goal this spring will be to determine where everyone fits best and to start developing a general plan. They can begin deciding whether David Andrews or Chris Burnette is the center, which will affect the guard rotation. They can decide whether they want Mark Beard, Watts Dantzler and Kenarious Gates to spend most of their time at guard or tackle. Friend doesn't have to decide on his starting lineup for the Buffalo game five months ahead of time. He just needs to start narrowing down the possibilities. I think they will wind up being fine, but it's obviously the most uncertain personnel group on the roster entering the spring.

5. Orson Charles ended up being the only underclassman to go pro. Coupled with Aron White graduating, we're looking at some new faces in the transition from 2011 to 2012. What do you see in Arthur Lynch and Jay Rome and what differences can we expect at this position during the transition? Obviously we haven't seen too much of either player, but I think both Lynch and Rome will be very good college players. Rome had the higher profile as a recruit -- he was ESPN's top-rated tight end in 2011 -- but I think Lynch might surprise some folks. First of all, he's huge. Plus, he's tight with Aaron Murray and the quarterback is going to want to get his buddy the ball. Both of those guys are going to factor into the passing game and I think they'll be effective. The bigger concern at tight end is the depth. I expect freshman Ty Smith to play some in the fall, too, simply because of numbers. Lynch and Rome are the only scholarship tight ends on campus this spring.

6. There's a lot of troubled waters at the defensive back position. Even before the recent arrests and subsequent early season suspensions I've been eager to see Malcolm Mitchell on the defensive side of the ball some. How much do you think he'll be able to contribute and do you think this is a short term fix or will it end up as a long term split between reps? No, I think he will be a factor on both sides beyond the first couple of games. Brandon Boykin told us at Georgia's pro day that he thinks it might actually be easier for Mitchell to moonlight on defense than it is for a predominantly defensive player to contribute significantly on offense. Obviously he needs time to pick up his responsibilities in the scheme, but he has such ridiculous athleticism and competitiveness, I don't think he will have much difficulty becoming a valuable cover man.

7. Subsequently, how will the wide receiver position handle not having its most explosive playmaker this spring? If there is any position on the roster that could absorb that hit, it's the wideouts. Not having Mitchell in the spring isn't that big of a deal. He'll still be available in the fall. Meanwhile, it will be interesting to see how Tony Ball establishes his pecking order. You have to figure Tavarres King is at the top, but then he'll have to determine what to do with Michael Bennett, Chris Conley (who will be limited in the spring by injury), Marlon Brown, Rantavious Wooten and Justin Scott-Wesley. Then you'll add Mitchell and Blake Tibbs to the mix in preseason practice. They'll be fine in the spring, but I still believe Mitchell will be one of their go-to options in the fall, particularly once Sanders Commings and Branden Smith are back on defense.

8. Sounds like Richt is going to emphasize special teams this spring. Is using more starters on special teams something you think the entire team will embrace? In other words, can we look forward to more spirited competition for coverage and protection teams? Yes. They didn't hire a special teams coach like some folks wanted, but I really don't think that was necessary. They spent a lot of time this offseason rethinking their schemes and personnel on special teams and I expect the results to be much more positive in the fall.

9. With Hutson Mason deciding to stay in Athens and redshirt that leaves Christian LeMay as the most likely backup to Aaron Murray. We saw a glimpse of him last spring. Does it sound like he's ready to step in? I'm not sure about that. He reportedly got off to a slow start last fall, but picked things up better late in the year. I think he'll be the frontrunner for the 2012 backup job, but if anything were to happen to Murray, I'd still expect Mason to be the guy the coaches turn to.

10. Lastly, we went back to using mat drills some this winter. As the revamping of the post-Van Halanger S&C program continues, is it reasonable to expect even greater strides this season towards a stronger, better fit team? I think bringing back some of those endurance workouts will be helpful. They might have gone too far the other direction in building bulk last season. I'm not an expert in that area at all, but it's possible that showed up late in the losses against LSU and Michigan State. Personally, I'll be interested to see how adding versatile skill sets like those of John Thomas and Sherman Armstrong will affect their conditioning and results. 

Thanks again to David for stopping by. Hopefully the Dawgs have a very productive and injury free spring.

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Bernie said...

Look for Justin Scott Wesley to surprise the Bulldog faithful! He's going to get a lot of PT in 2012.

Bernie said...

Nice interview, Chang knows his stuff. But I hope he's wrong. I am hoping Lemay will give Murray a run for his money, Lemay was the #1 Pro Style QB his Jr season, and he developed a reputation for playing H-U-G-E in big games.

I also hope Marshall wins the #1 spot at RB, just didn't like what I saw from Crowell last year. I think Crowell thinks he's great, and you get a sense of entitlement with him, I don't get that from what I've seen and watched and read about Marshall.

Bernie said...

I'm eager to see JSW as well. He's a huge kid and super fast. The only question mark I hear is his hands. I'm hoping for a BIG year from him.

I don't care if it's Marshall or Crowell...or Samuel or Gurley or Big John Jenkins. (j/k)  I'm just glad whoever is the starting tailback in 2012 will have EARNED it. Unlike last year when we used whoever was healthy and wasn't suspended.