Mark Richt made headlines last week when he talked about his desire to play backup quarterback Joe Cox more frequently.
Another player who falls into that category is backup middle linebacker Marcus Washington.
"Every once in a while you'll look back and say we should have played so-and-so more than we did and Marcus was one of those guys," said Richt, Georgia's head coach. "He should have played more last year. We need to make sure he gets in the game because he's a very good football player."
He has shown that this preseason, when his play has impressed his coaches -- who told the junior he's had his best fall camp yet -- and left Richt saying complimentary things about him after practice.
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"Anytime a good thing comes from the head ballcoach, you know you're doing something right," Washington said, "so you've got to put your head down and keep swinging and keep doing what you're doing."
There was a time not so long ago when Washington questioned whether he'd be receiving those kinds of compliments again.
Washington appeared in 11 games last year, but recorded only four tackles in intermittent mop-up duty behind then-senior Jarvis Jackson. Then a season-ending torn knee ligament suffered last November kept Washington out of spring practice and left him wondering whether he'd ever play at the same level again.
He had to take things easy when the knee would get sore in the early part of fall camp, but said it continues to improve. He also had to overcome the inevitable tentativeness that comes with trying to play at full-speed after suffering such a knee injury.
"After a couple times of contact where we could go full pads and I got chop (blocked) a couple times, I'd get up and go, 'Oh OK, it's not that bad.' Football is part mental, just like it is physical," he said.
Washington remains a backup at middle linebacker, although he seems to have fought off true freshman Charles White for second-team duties behind Dannell Ellerbe.
He has finally gotten his weight under control -- he's at 240 pounds right now and wants to level off at 235 after letting it fluctuate in his first two seasons -- and has gained the confidence of his position coach.
"Marcus has emerged. He's rehabbed his knee to the point where I think he looks really good," linebackers coach John Jancek said. "His body weight is down and he knows the defense. He looks like he's feeling more comfortable than he ever has, so those are all positive signs that he's ready to play."
Logan Gray isn't Bobby Reid, but he's the closest thing Georgia's got as the Bulldogs prepare to face Oklahoma State in the season opener.
Gray, a true freshman from Columbia, Mo., is quarterback of Georgia's scout team and will try to simulate Reid, Oklahoma State's multi-skilled quarterback, in practice.
Reid passed for nearly 2,300 yards and ran for 500 more while operating the Cowboys' spread offense last season. Gray shares many of the same physical attributes -- as evidenced by ESPN.com calling him the "ultimate spread-offense quarterback" in its recruiting evaluation last year.
Add toughness to Gray's attribute list.
In embracing his role as scout team quarterback, Gray asked his coaches to allow Georgia's defensive players to tackle him in today's practice game at Sanford Stadium in order to further aid their preparation.
"He wants to give the defense as good of a look, as realistic of a look as possible. ... We truly haven't sacked anybody all year, so we may let him do that," Richt said.
Richt weighs in
Richt has known Georgia's newest radio broadcaster for many years, although if he'd gotten his way when he first met Eric Zeier, the Bulldogs' offensive record books would look completely different.
When Richt was a Florida State assistant in the early 1990s, the Seminole coaching staff made a serious push to lure Zeier to Tallahassee to play quarterback.
In fact, Richt thought he had convinced Zeier to play for Florida State, only to discover too late that Georgia offensive coordinator Wayne McDuffie brought the then-Marietta High star to Athens and had him enroll in January so he could participate in spring practice.
"I recruited him real hard. We thought we had him, really," Richt recalled. "We thought we really had him at Florida State and then when Wayne McDuffie came from the Falcons, he basically told him he was gonna put in a lot of Florida State's system because he knew it -- he came from Florida State -- and then also he felt like he had a shot to play as a true freshman at Georgia.
"Plus they were very wise, they got him enrolled at the midyear. He was enrolled in school before we even found out we lost him," Richt continued. "I thought we were in the lead and then the next day I read he was in school. I was like, 'I don't think we're gonna get him now.'"
Of course, the rest is history. Zeier went on to become the most prolific passer in Georgia history, completing his career in 1994 as the Southeastern Conference's all-time leading passer. Of course, Richt had his share of quarterback success in the same time period, coaching Florida State's Charlie Ward when he won the 1993 Heisman Trophy.
Zeier was named to Georgia's road radio broadcast team on Wednesday, as part of the contingency plan resulting from legendary announcer Larry Munson's desire to call only home games this year. Zeier has never called a live game, but he'll team with play-by-play man Scott Howard for Georgia's five games away from Sanford Stadium this season.
Although he rarely hears a Georgia radio broadcast, for obvious reasons, Richt recognizes the value of an ex-player's perspective in game analysis.
"If you've been through it yourself, usually there's a little bit of empathy, there's at least the ability to explain where an average fan might say, 'How in the world could a guy do that?'" Richt said. "Then he might be able to say, 'Well it happens because of this, that or the other.' I think that he might be able to explain some things with a little more authority than some other folks could."
One true freshman who has surprised nearly everyone with his quick adjustment to the college game has been cornerback Vance Cuff.
Richt recently predicted Cuff will likely play this season, although defensive coordinator Willie Martinez would not go quite that far.
"We're preparing that we're gonna play him," Martinez said, adding that linebacker Rennie Curran is the only true freshman defensive player more likely to play this year. "If it happens or not, I think it'll be closer to the game. You can't say right now."
Georgia has six scholarship cornerbacks available for the first two games and will add a seventh, Ramarcus Brown, when he returns from a two-game disciplinary suspension to start the season.
With such depth at the position, Martinez would prefer to redshirt Cuff this season if he can afford to hold him back. Injuries and the veteran players' performances once the season starts will affect that decision.
"If we can hold up, being a young player and continuing to learn, he may not get a bunch of reps as you prepare four or five guys," Martinez said. "If he doesn't get the reps, then you feel really bad if he doesn't play a lot and then you could have used a redshirt year."
Freshman receiver Walter Hill did not practice Wednesday because of a high ankle sprain. Offensive lineman Scott Haverkamp (ankle), tailback Caleb King (hamstring), tight end Tripp Chandler (ribs) and offensive linemen Chris Little (wrist) and Tanner Strickland (foot sprain) also did not practice or were held out of contact. Cornerback Thomas Flowers (shoulder) practiced in a normal defensive jersey, not a green no-contact jersey, for the first time in several days. ... The team practiced several situations in preparation for today's practice game, including several special teams scenarios. ... Richt flew to Tallahassee, Fla., Wednesday morning to attend the funeral for Florida State defensive coordinator Mickey Andrews' son, Ronnie. Ronnie Andrews, 41, walked onto the Seminoles' football team when Richt was a young FSU assistant coach in the mid-1980s.