Georgia Freshmen Getting Anxious For First Game
ATHENS, Ga. — The opening game of each season tends to bring a bit of first-time jitters for Georgia’s freshmen, but for tight end Orson Charles, the scene at Boone Pickens Stadium on Saturday will seem a bit familiar.
It’s not that Charles has ever visited Stillwater, Okla. before, but for the past six months, he’s been dreaming about what the trip will be like.
“Ever since I found out I was going to Georgia, I looked at the schedule and I’ve just been dreaming about it – imagining scoring touchdowns, making that crucial block and just celebrating with my teammates after the victory,” Charles said. “I’m getting enough sleep, but I’m always dreaming about the same thing.”
Charles’ fellow freshman tight end, Arhtur Lynch, said he hasn’t been quite as consumed by visions of his first college downs, but he’s definitely a bit anxious about what’s in store.
“In high school, we had a lot of big games, but I can’t really get a grasp on what it’s going to be like,” Lynch said. “It’s going to be fun, it’s going to be exciting, but it’s going to be nerve-wracking because you know this isn’t high school anymore.”
Mark Richt has been down this road with freshmen before, but admits this season will be a bit different than even he is used to. It has been since 2003 that Georgia opened on the road – meaning there isn’t a player on the roster that can pass along any advice on how the freshmen should handle the situation.
That, Richt said, might not be a bad thing.
“Those guys have no idea what’s about to happen to them,” he said. “They say the term ‘Ignorance is bliss’ and it’s probably true. The less you tell them, the better.”
Regardless, it will be an experience the freshmen won’t forget, Richt said. And more importantly, it’s one they’ve waited a long time to enjoy.
“Camp has been long,” Charles said. “We’ve been seeing too much of each other, been banging too much, and now we finally get to leave and go hit somebody else.”
READY, WILLING AND ABLE
Mark Richt isn’t giving away any scoop on who might handle the kickoff duties at Oklahoma State – sophomore Blair Walsh or JuCo transfer Brandon Bogotay – but he definitely sounds like he’s gained a lot more confidence in the incumbent since the preseason began.
“I see a lot different focus from Blair,” Richt said. “I think the competition of Bogotay coming in has really helped that situation. Both of those guys are really capable.”
The competition has certainly kept both players sharp, but Walsh said it’s not necessarily Bogotay’s presence that has spurred him on to greater heights.
“I’m not the type of person who lays back when he has a job, but competition pushes everybody,” Walsh said. “It’s not just about bringing guys in so you have somebody pushing you the entire time. You’ve got to do what you’ve got to do and just working hard for me has been the key.”
After a strong start to the season, Walsh struggled down the stretch last year – particularly when attempting directional kickoffs, a favorite philosophy of Georgia’s kicking coach, Jon Fabris.
Whether the Bulldogs choose to kick to the corner or boot it deep, however, Walsh said he’s aware that Oklahoma State presents a significant problem. Kick returner Perrish Cox is closing in on the Big 12 record for return yards, and his 895 return yards and two touchdowns made him one of the top threats in the country.
“We know what we’re up against,” Walsh said. “We know the guy is very good, and we’ve got to be on top of our game.”
Walsh plans to be on top of his game, too. Regardless of which kicker is handling kickoffs, Walsh said he has something to prove, starting with Saturday’s contest against the Cowboys.
“I’ve been working hard and I have something to prove to everybody to show that I can do what’s asked of me and that I’m the guy for the job,” Walsh said.
THE ELEMENT OF SURPRISE
Oklahoma State’s defense took a good bit of criticism a year ago after being embarrassed against rivals Texas Tech and Oklahoma and finishing 93rd in the nation in total defense.
That might be some encouraging information for Georgia, but with new defensive coordinator Bill Young now at the helm for the Cowboys, there’s a bit of mystery as to just how good the unit might be.
“You look at where he’s been, and if it’s consistent, then schematically you know this is probably what he likes to do,” Richt said. “But then as you’re studying his scheme, you’re not studying his personnel. If you’re studying Oklahoma State’s personnel, it’s in a system that they’re probably not going to be running. Coaches don’t like the unknown, and we don’t know for sure what’s going to happen.”
That makes the task of preparing for Oklahoma State a bit more of a challenge than normal.
The plan, offensive coordinator Mike Bobo said, is simply to watch the Cowboys’ personnel and study Young’s past work, then hope to come up with a few options that look like they have a chance to be successful. The bottom line, however, is for Georgia’s offense to be good at what they do best.
“You’ve got rules for your plays and blocking assignments and routes for different coverages,” Bobo said. “So what we can execute and what we feel gives us the best chance to win against any kind of package is what we’ll go into the game with.”