Despite what Virginia Tech coach Frank Beamer may think, Mark Richt says Georgia had no prior knowledge of what Beamer’s Hokies would do in last December’s Chick-fil-A Bowl.
Beamer has had a long-standing policy of conducting open practices, including the Hokies’ bowl workouts at Georgia Tech last December. But he announced last week that will no longer be the case, in part because he believes Richt’s Bulldogs may have benefited from that open-practice policy.
“We practiced out at Georgia Tech and we let all kinds of people through there ... people we didn't really know,” Beamer said in Saturday's Roanoke (Va.) Times. “And I thought it hurt us in the bowl game. I'm not blaming anybody ... but I thought Georgia knew exactly what we were doing in several situations.”
Richt denied that being the case after Tuesday’s practice, but said he understands Beamer’s desire to limit access to his practices. In fact, Richt said he’d like close Georgia’s entirely.
“It's natural and I don't blame him for wanting to close it or even feeling that way,” Richt said. “To my knowledge, we had no idea what was going on.”
Although Georgia’s defense stifled Beamer’s offense for most of the game, the Hokies led Georgia 21-3 at halftime of the bowl game - thanks in large part to a trick play for a touchdown, a Georgia turnover deep in its own territory and a long kick return by Virginia Tech’s Eddie Royal. Georgia stormed back with 28 second-half points and held on for a 31-24 win.
Richt would like to completely close his practices, but said it would be too difficult to accomplish. Typically the first 15 to 30 minutes of the Bulldogs’ practices are open to media, although a handful of boosters and various friends of the program are often in attendance for the entirety.
Richt said the temptation may be too great for those who watch practice to discuss what they’ve seen - even if their intentions are not to damage Georgia’s chances of victory - but spreading some of that information may do just that.
And it’s not as if football coaches don’t seek out any excuse to feed their paranoia.
“Sometimes you hit the right call at the right time. If it happens enough times, coaches begin to wonder, ‘Gosh, they must've had us. They must have had our signals or had something,’” Richt said. “I can't tell you how many times I've been signaling plays in and things aren't going well, I'll immediately grab the guy and whisper in his ear what the play is and I'll run him in there.”
Vance Cuff barely had time before camp started to digest being a college football player. Now he’s struggling to adapt as quickly as possible.
Cuff gained his eligibility only a week ago when the NCAA accepted the waiver Georgia filed on his behalf, after the NCAA Clearinghouse refused to certify his eligibility. At issue was a speech course the Clearinghouse refused to accept as one of the 14 core classes necessary for a freshman to be allowed to compete.
The delay prevented Cuff from arriving in Athens and enrolling this summer as he’d hoped - an experience that would have allowed him to begin preparing for the season with many of the other freshmen.
“It's Division I. I knew it was hard to get in and now I know it's gonna be hard to stay in,” said Cuff, drenched in sweat and out of breath after the team ended practice with numerous sprints in 100-degree weather. “But I'm here now. The only thing is that they're probably in better shape. I'm just trying to get out there with them.”
Cuff also learned quickly that the 4.4 speed that was such an asset when he starred at Colquitt County (Ga.) High doesn’t provide an advantage at Georgia. He said he must refine his technique before he can become an effective college player.
“I knew that in high school. The only thing I had was speed,” Cuff said. “The coaches would put me back there and tell me to go get the ball. It's different now. Everybody's fast out here, so you've got to have good technique.”
Home state pride
He’s no doctor, but Georgia safety Kelin Johnson used interesting reasoning for why cornerback Bryan Evans will make a quick return from the hamstring pull he suffered in Sunday‘s practice.
Johnson connected his secondary mate’s pride in hailing from their home state, Florida, to why he’ll return sooner than three to four weeks, as was first expected.
“I give it two week tops,” Johnson said. “He's a Florida guy. Florida guys have a lot of pride about themselves and they're not gonna sit around and watch while everybody else works.”
Evans didn’t dress out Tuesday, but said the hamstring is improving and walked with less difficulty than he had the day before. Johnson said Evans still took an active role in practice, working with and encouraging the other cornerbacks and even participating in some drill work.
“He was doing a lot of drills, backpedaling, lunging,” Johnson said. “I think that's his nature.”
Daytona Beach native Johnson and Evans, who hails from Jacksonville, are among eight Bulldogs who are from Florida.
The heat index on Georgia’s Woodruff Practice Fields topped the 110-degree mark on Tuesday, creating suffocating conditions for the players’ workouts. Some players naturally complained about the heat, but Richt said he doesn’t expect to move afternoon practices to either morning or evening because of the heat. “I don't think it's that taxing,” he said. “I think it's always good to go through some tough times in camp. This is probably good for us, I think.” … The elevated temperatures on the practice field aren’t just creating tough practice conditions, it seems to be stoking the players’ tempers. The first few days of camp have featured several small skirmishes. “It's hard to keep them from getting after each other,” Richt said, later adding, “If we keep going at this rate, we won't have anything left by the time we get to the first game, because it was a pretty spirited day.” … The Bulldogs will practice for the fifth consecutive day today at 3:20 p.m.