ATHENS - Mark Richt and his two coordinators held a teleconference on Wednesday to preview spring practice. Here are some highlights:
- Tailback is suddenly a spot with one scholarship player healthy to start the spring: Todd Gurley. The other half of the Gurshall tandem has a minor injury: Keith Marshall's hamstring, injured while running on the UGA track team, will keep him out of practice the first week. But the hope is he returns after spring break.
Offensive coordinator Bobo said there was "no question" they would be careful with Marshall and Todd Gurley during spring practice, considering the depth of the position.
"It's something we're going to have to talk about as a staff and hash out about how much contact you truly give those guys, because depth is a concern there," Bobo said. "One goal this spring is to get some depth there, but the new guys that we need to build depth with are not here in A.J. Turman and (Brendan Douglas). We're going to try J.J. Green out some at that position as a scat-back type of guy. And Tramel Terry is a guy that could also dual-train from receiver to running back, but he's got his ACL. So the guys that you really want to train and add depth with are not here. So it's going to be a touchy situation in spring ball."
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- Richt said Josh Harvey-Clemons will play "multiple" positions, and will move around based on what's needed against the team they're playing.
"He's very versatile, and quite frankly there's just certain games where he may add more value at safety and other games he may add more value at outside linebacker," Richt said.
Defensive coordinator Grantham wouldn't even pigeonhole what position Harvey-Clemons would meet with during the spring.
"He'll be in a couple (of meeting rooms). He's a guy that we feel like we can play at safety or we can play at outside 'backer. We'll mix and match and move him around. He's a good player," Grantham said. "The thing that I feel like we've done a good job of is we've gotten guys that can make plays in position to make plays. We certainly feel no differently than when we recruited Josh. He's a guy that can affect the game. He's long. He's athletic. He's got a skill-set that not many people have with his size and athletic ability."
- Interestingly, one of the first things Richt said he wanted to emphasize in practice is playing safe.
“The things I’m most concerned about as head coach is make sure that fundamentally we’re teaching the game of football to them, number one, in regard to safety," Richt said. "I want to make sure these guys really truly understand how to tackle properly and how to run the ball properly and how to make contact properly, and both sides of the ball for safety."
Then he pointed out the new rules against "launching" at a player.
- Richt sounded excited about the prospects on the defensive line, despite all the experience that left that position.
"So if all these guys come through for us up front, for example, even though we lost some very good defensive linemen, shoot we might even have more depth if we have a bunch of guys that can all prove they’re ready to play," Richt said. "So collectively instead of one guy playing 50-60 snaps we can have 30 apiece, and maybe be as effective or even more effective. So we are excited about it. We are really looking forward to seeing that happen, all throughout."
- Richt still plans to assist in coaching the kickers and punters, but not during spring practice. There wasn't enough time to do research between recruiting and now, but after spring practice he plans to learn what he can to be in a position to do that come the preseason.
“If I do it, and I do plan on spending time in this offseason, to really try to learn the fundamentals of kicking and punting, and what the routines might be real important for our guys," Richt said. "I can’t sit here and say I’m gonna be an expert after some of the studying I’m gonna do. But I’m gonna be better prepared to help guys make sure they stay on track with their fundamentals, how they think, and even some detail. I’ll be able to have a little bit more opportunity to be more detailed in trying to help them stay focused with their fundamentals.”
- Grantham also said early enrollees Chris Mayes and John Atkins will cross-train at nose tackle and defensive end - as will John Taylor, who redshirted last season.
"I think they're (Mayes and Taylor) multiple guys, meaning they can play end or nose. I've been real impressed with both of them," Grantham said. "I think having the ability to have John Atkins here mid-year is invaluable, because he's been able to go through our offseason program up to now. He's been able to complete our mat drills - we'll do the last one today - and I think that's really helped his mental toughness. Both are big and physical men that you need to have in the SEC to win. ... We'll mix and match those guys along with Chris Mayes and Ray Drew and Garrison (Smith) and those guys to try to find out what they can do. We're excited about getting those guys out there, because they are young and athletic, and I think they can help us."
- At inside linebacker, Grantham mentioned Amarlo Herrera and Ramik Wilson as the top veterans returning, indicating those two rising juniors will be the first-teamers. That's interesting, because Wilson had rotated between inside and outside. Of course they aren't the only ones out there this spring: Ryne Rankin and Reggie Carter, a couple early enrollees, will compete.
"I think the combination of Amarlo and Ramik with the two early signees will allow us to have a feel for exactly what those guys can handle and do going into the summer," Grantham said. "Once summer gets here, we'll have a few other guys coming in that we'll mix in there and put them where we think they can help us for next year.
- When asked about the secondary, the first player Grantham talked about was Damian Swann. The second was Connor Norman.
Norman has given the secondary some stability in terms of work ethic, and helping younger guys like Corey Moore, and now early enrollees Tray Matthews and Quincy Mauger.
"When you start talking about the new guys and even Corey Moore, this is their chance to really showcase what they can do," Grantham said. "Tray's a guy that I've been really impressed with, his movement skills, his intelligence and the way he handles himself. I think he's a guy that can definitely help us, and we're going to throw him into the fire and let him get going. Quincy is another guy that's been really impressive since he's been here. I really glad that we have both those guys in camp right now, because if not we'd definitely be short back there and wouldn't be able to work with those guys like we can now."
At cornerback, Grantham said besides Swann he's been very impressed with Sheldon Dawson (a freshman last year) and Reggie Wilkinson (an early enrollee.)
- On Toby Johnson, the team's final signee, Grantham said they would have to see how he's progressing from ACL surgery once he arrives this summer. Grantham turned the subject quickly away from Johnson to the other defensive linemen, but did say that Johnson is a big player "who can affect the game in the SEC."
- After the departure of Zander Ogletree, offensive coordinator Mike Bobo said the fullback position will be a spring competition between Merritt Hall and Quayvon Hicks. The latter player, who played sparingly as a freshman, is an intriguing talent for the fullback spot.
"He's one of the guys you want to get off the bus first," Bobo said. "He's got to play how he looks, which is real physical."
- The right side of the offensive line is in flux, with right tackle John Theus out the first half of spring practice with an injury, and right guard Chris Burnette missing all of it with shoulder surgery.
In the meantime, the offensive line will be Mark Beard at left tackle, Kenarious Gates at right tackle and Austin Long at right guard. David Andrews at center and Dallas Lee at left guard return to their spots, at least for now. Bobo said nothing was set in stone, so guys could continue to move around and end up in different spots, depending on how they play.
Beard and Long will be given a chance to start on the offensive line. Bobo also mentioned Greg Pyke (who redshirted last year) and Watts Dantzler as having a chance to move up with a good spring.
"These are guys that we've got to see if they're ready to play and ready to be contributors to this offense," Bobo said. "If they're one of the top five, they're going to play. We'd like to have more than five and create some depth there."
Josh Cardiello, one of the early enrollees, will start out spring working inside (guard and center, with an emphasis on the latter). Aulden Bynum will work at both guard and tackle.
- There are no plans right now to move anyone from offense to defense, or vice versa, according to Richt.