For one reason or another, Georgia's tight ends aren't just competing against each other for playing time, they're competing simply for the chance to be on the field.
It could be because of the unusual depth enjoyed by Georgia's receiving corps. It could be the tight ends' lack of experience, which will be further exaggerated in the Sept. 1 opener against Oklahoma State when starter Tripp Chandler serves a one-game suspension.
"I'd say it's definitely a little bit of both," Chandler said.
When Georgia opened preseason camp, coach Mark Richt said the tight ends who line up in pro-style sets would compete against other position groupings -- like four-receiver alignments or those with three receivers and two running backs -- just to be in the game.
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It doesn't help that Georgia can run many of its plays from multiple formations, meaning it's not mandatory for a specific position group to be in the game for many of the options in the playbook.
"(The tight ends) try to take pride in saying, 'Hey, we can do this particular play out of another grouping where we're not on the field, so let's do it well so we can stay on the field,'" tight ends coach David Johnson said.
Without Chandler in the mix for the first game, senior Coleman Watson is the leading candidate to start, Johnson said, followed closely by redshirt freshman NaDerris Ward. Freshman Bruce Figgins from Shaw High is also in the picture, although his coaches haven't announced a decision on whether he'll redshirt this season.
The receiver depth and the need to make more happen in the passing game put more pressure on the tight ends to perform. But Chandler said that will be good for the group's development.
"Pressure from everywhere I think is good," he said.. It puts pressure on you to be a better player to see the field. It puts pressure on you to know your role better, know your position better, know your different tasks so you can see the field. It puts more pressure on you, but pressure can make a diamond."
Wet and wild
The Georgia staff pulled a fast one on the players Thursday afternoon. The team piled up in buses and traveled to the Ramsey Student Center, expecting to practice indoors to avoid the 103-degree heat in Athens.
Instead, the Bulldogs were treated to an afternoon in the activity center's pool. When they entered the pool area, they saw Richt seated atop the Olympic-level high dive, three stories above the water.
Richt eventually stood, turned his back to the water and executed a perfect back flip to cheers from his players.
It was a maneuver he first perfected as a high schooler in Boca Raton, Fla., but Richt said it was three years ago -- the last time the team took a field trip to the pool -- that he last attempted the dive. "I've been visualizing it for about two days because I knew we were going to do this," Richt laughed. "Actually I was thinking about sneaking in last night and practicing because I knew there'd be a lot of cameras and people here. But I couldn't get the time, so I did a lot of praying and positive visualization and it came out pretty good."
The team was scheduled to hold its first two-a-day workouts on Thursday, first working out in the morning before the expected afternoon practice. The afternoon workout was first pushed back in favor of the time at the pool, only to have the replacement evening practice canceled altogether later on.
The team instead went through evening meetings as a reward for five physical days of practice in stifling heat.
Weighing the percentages
Brandon Miller admits he had difficulty adjusting to the switch from strongside linebacker to middle linebacker in the spring. He said he understood about 50 percent of his new job when spring drills started, which improved to 70 percent by the end.
And where was he when preseason practice started?
"I'd say 80 percent," Miller said a few days ago. "That 20 percent should come in the next (month)."
Miller knows many Georgia fans are concerned about the coaches' decision to move him to the position, questioning whether he's a sure enough tackler or possesses the speed to be effective. But Miller said he's confident he'll have a productive season and quell those fears.
"I'm looking forward to the challenge. I know there's a lot of people counting on me and depending on me, as far as me holding it down," he said. "So I'm going out there and giving my all and giving my best and going out there and having fun."
Offensive tackle Chester Adams "tweaked" his left ankle in Thursday morning's workout, Richt said, and would not have practiced in the evening. The senior starter watched from the side while his teammates swam Thursday, entering the pool area on crutches and with his ankle heavily taped. Richt said the injury isn't considered serious and Adams may return to practice tomorrow.
Receiver Mikey Henderson injured his hip and safety Quintin Banks suffered a minor head injury Thursday morning. Defensive tackle Brandon Wood walked off slowly following practice, favoring a strained lower back.
After watching from the sidelines the previous two days, cornerback Bryan Evans donned full pads with his teammates Thursday morning. Evans practiced in a green no-contact jersey because of the pulled hamstring he suffered Sunday, but was pleased at how quickly it's improving.
"I've never pulled a hamstring. Most of the time if I hurt a muscle, my muscles heal fast. I don't know what that is," Evans said. "Right now I can move way better than the first day."
Evans isn't practicing close to full speed, instead jogging, backpedaling and working on his cuts. But he believes he'll be back in half the time he was originally expected to be out.
"Right now I feel good," he said, admitting he was first expected to miss a month because of the injury. "So in the next week and a half, week or two, I hopefully can get to opening it up a little bit just to see where I'm at."
Thomas Flowers practiced as the No. 1 cornerback Thursday morning ahead of sophomore Asher Allen, who held the starting spot at the end of spring practice. ... Allen, however, is the leader for kickoff return duties, tailback Thomas Brown said. Brown is working as the No. 2 kickoff return man behind Allen. ... Safety John Knox would have participated in his first practice Thursday night, but that was postponed until this afternoon. The freshman recruit from Statesboro (Ga.) reported to Athens on Wednesday after receiving notice he passed his state high school graduation test. Knox will wear jersey No. 32. ... Richt said the team spent 25 minutes of three-on-three position battles Thursday morning, with the defensive groups winning 7-6. The No. 1 defense, he said, dominated the No. 2 offense, while the starting offense and second-string defense were about even. ... The Bulldogs will take the field for their eighth preseason workout at 4:20 this afternoon.