OL injuries affect offense, defense

dching@ledger-enquirer.comAugust 13, 2007 

— Sure, the mounting injuries on Georgia's offensive line are affecting the way the Bulldogs' starting offense prepares for the season, but there's a less obvious effect as well.

With offensive linemen dropping like flies, the second-stringers are moving into starting spots and leaving vacancies on the No. 2 offensive line that are being filled by walk-ons.

And that's hindering the second-string offense -- the group that typically practices against the starting defense -- making it difficult for the second-teamers to do enough offensively to help the No. 1 defense get ready for the opener against Oklahoma State or the following week's game against South Carolina.

"It's difficult to get our No. 1 defense the type of look they need to even come close to resembling what they're about to run into that first ballgame, the first two ballgames for that matter," Georgia coach Mark Richt said.

"It's pretty slim pickings."

The injuries continued to pile up for the Bulldogs on Monday, particularly along the offensive line. Starters Chester Adams (high ankle sprain) and Scott Haverkamp (ankle) were already out, as were freshmen Chris Little (wrist) and Tanner Strickland (foot sprain). Now add redshirt freshman Josh Davis to the list.

Davis suffered a shoulder injury and participated in the second of Monday's two practices in only shorts and helmet while teammates wore shoulder pads. Richt said the injury will not require surgery, but will cause Davis to miss some practice time and drop the number of scholarship linemen currently available to eight.

Haverkamp said he expects to be back later this week and Adams and Davis could also return sometime in the next several days.

Injuries aren't exclusive to the offensive line, however. The secondary is also dealing with its share.

Four members of Georgia's secondary were held out of Monday afternoon's workout for a variety of reasons. Safety Reshad Jones injured his knee while making a tackle in Saturday's scrimmage. An MRI revealed no structural damage except for a bone bruise that "will still keep a guy out for a while," Richt said.

Cornerback Thomas Flowers (shoulder) missed the afternoon practice and Antavious Coates' surgically repaired knee was sore from all the work in camp and kept him out of Monday's practices. Cornerback Bryan Evans continues to work out on the side after pulling a hamstring last week. Richt said he could return within the week.

Additionally, defensive tackle Tripp Taylor, fullback Jason Johnson and receiver Kris Durham all missed Monday's workout, Richt said, due to heat-related symptoms. Durham fell awkwardly on his head while making a touchdown catch in Saturday's scrimmage, which also contributed to his absence, Richt said.

At practice in green no-contact jerseys were Haverkamp, Adams, Davis, Strickland, Little, Mikey Henderson (hip pointer), Tripp Chandler (ribs) and T.J. Gartrell. Richt didn't know why Gartrell was in green, but said, "He did just about everything. I don't know what it was."

Enough to go around?

It's nothing new for Georgia to have a crowded backfield and this year will likely be no different.

At the very least, Georgia will feature seniors Thomas Brown and Kregg Lumpkin, along with the addition of redshirt freshman Knowshon Moreno.

A wild card is true freshman Caleb King, whose fate the coaches aren't revealing -- if they've even made the decision whether to redshirt him yet. Richt likened Saturday's scrimmage to an audition for the two youngsters -- one it appears the more experienced Moreno won by leading the two with five carries for 36 yards.

"Caleb's still a little uncertain at times, which is very natural," Richt said of King's five carries for 6 yards in the scrimmage. "It was a good taste of some full-speed action for Caleb especially."

Running backs coach Tony Ball said not to read too much into those rushing stats, calling Moreno "a work in progress."

He said all four backs still need work on their pass protection skills and that Brown would be who he'd turn to as the most consistent blocker in an important situation.

As for King, Ball made the most direct statement concerning King's status for the season. If he won't play an active role in the team's offense, he won't play at all.

"We wouldn't do that if we don't feel like we can get him the reps to warrant him helping us win and want to burn his redshirt," Ball said.

Whether there are three tailbacks or four, Moreno expects the coaches to single out what each player does best and gear their touches toward those skills.

"The coaches see what we can do and what we're best running," Moreno said. "Whoever's in there, it's gonna be the best play for them."

Wilson's fire

Richt said he's seeing more fire out of his receivers in preseason camp and he gave credit to one of his young players for that.

He believes the physicality redshirt freshman Tony Wilson shows while playing the position is rubbing off on his teammates.

"It's starting to become contagious," Richt said. "We've seen some guys get after it a little more than we've ever seen them and I think Tony has a lot to do with that."

Wilson caught a touchdown pass from Matthew Stafford and was one of the leading receivers in Saturday's scrimmage.

Richt said he and redshirt sophomore Michael Moore have stood out from the other young receivers thus far in camp.

"Those two guys I think have been the most impressive of the relatively young guys with not much experience," he said.

Quick hits

Richt said safety Kelin Johnson grabbed an interception in the starting defense's one-minute drill against the No. 2 offense. Richt said the defense held the offense without a score for the entire minute, approximately 12 or 13 plays, although Richt continuously gave them first downs. Meanwhile, the starting offense drove into scoring position in its turn at a one-minute drive and place-kicker Brandon Coutu hit a field goal Richt estimated at 35 to 40 yards to win the drill. ... The temperature again hovered around the 100-degree range in Athens, but Richt didn't trim things back on Monday as he had in previous days. "We had two full practices. We didn't cut anything down. In the last few practices, everywhere I could cut out 10 minutes here or 5 minutes there and do something to get them some kind of break because of the unmerciful heat, I was mindful of that." ... Despite the attrition caused by heat and injury, Richt said the coaches expect the players to cope with the heat and continue working. "Anybody who can go is going," he said. "We're not saying, 'Gosh, he looks like he's tired, let's hold him.' We haven't really done any of that. We want them all to push through it if they can." ... Richt singled out Mohamed Massaquoi, Wilson, Sean Bailey and freshman Aron White for difficult catches made in practice. White's led to the only legitimate first down the No. 2 offense earned in the one-minute drill against the starting defense. ... Monday's workouts were Georgia's 10th and 11th of the preseason. The team will practice at 3:20 p.m. today and hold its final two-a-day workouts on Wednesday, including a morning special teams scrimmage.

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