ATHENS - Georgia held its final practice of the spring on Thursday. Beforehand, head coach Mark Richt was asked, given how this is always a time of optimism, he's ever left a spring feeling bad about his team.
“I wouldn’t say it publicly, but there’s been times I was just shaking my head and I’d be concerned,” Richt said.
So if this was one of those years, Richt wouldn't say it publicly. It doesn't appear to be the case, but he did say that Georgia finishes the spring with a lot still unsettled.
“This is a year in particular We still don’t know for sure who’s gonna play where, who’s gonna start," Richt said. "We have a good idea of knowing who’s gonna play. But I can’t think of a year where I’ve had more uncertainty as far as who’s gonna start. But I feel like we have the right ingredients. I feel like we’ve got the right talent base. It’s just a matter of who’s gonna win it (the starting job), and are they gonna be mature enough to play well enough early enough, especially with how the season begins.”
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When Richt was asked which positions are open: Richt's first response was all the D-line positions.
"I think we're gonna have ... a lot of guys playing, but I'm not sure who's gonna start. I think that's up for grabs," Richt said. "I think just about every one of those positions are up for grabs, as far as the D-line."
Then Richt said the secondary remains up for grabs, other than cornerback Damian Swann.
"I'm not convinced we're settled on who's gonna play the middle linebacker positions for us. I'm not 100 percent certain who's going to start on the perimeter, other than I can safely say Swann's going to be one of them. There's some guys that have earned the right to be No. 1 at the end of spring but we've gotta see if that's where they end up. In the fall there's gonna be more competition coming in. So we'll see there."
Jordan Jenkins is set at outside linebacker. But Richt wouldn't commit to anyone at the other spot.
Then came the offensive line, which remains in tumult.
"David Andrews is probably gonna be the center. The rest of them, I think there's some other guys that I think will start, but will they start at guard, tackle, I don't know. If a guy like (Xzavier) Ward win's a job, then it kind of changes the dynamic at the tackle position, and is one of those tackles is gonna become a guard."
Richt is kind of pushing back on the idea (promulgated in part by his own staff) that the offensive line is a big concern. When asked if it was keeping him up at night, Richt shook his head and said no.
"It's not so much a question of do we have enough guys that can play the positions. It's more a question of where is everyone gonna line up," Richt said. "I mean the entire line is back from last year. We did well on offense, we broke a bunch of school records. I'm not disappointed in the offensive line, but I see some guys that weren't starters or players last year who are starting to get better, starting to get healthier, trying to show coach they deserve to play or they deserve to start. ... I think that's what's happening, is the guys that were behind are catching up, and they're trying to earn that playing time."
Some other tidbits:
Bennett's recovery on track
One the best things Richt has seen this spring, and the best thing this final week, was Michael Bennett running routes with the other receivers. Bennett is recovering from a torn ACL last year, and had been running on the side this spring.
"I'll be real honest, I didn't know he was gonna do that. I wasn't mad, it just kinda caught me off guard," Richt said. "And there he was with his pads on .. and his helmet. Of course he had a green (non-contact) jersey on, but he was running routes. I mean he didn't look a whole lot different than the rest of the guys. He was running at a pretty good clip."
Bennet made some nice catches and looked good coming out of the breaks on his routes, according to Richt, who obviously kept a close eye on him.
"He looked great. I think it really made him feel good," Richt said. "It made me feel good."
Feeling a draft
Richt had talked about attending the NFL draft in New York, but with Jarvis Jones apparently not going after all, Richt will be watching from home. Jones and Richt had talked about going together, but recent lists of draft attendees haven't included Jones, or fellow linebacker Alec Ogletree.
Jones told Richt recently that he wasn't sure whether he was going. Then a Georgia staffer recently told Richt that Jones wasn't going.
After signing 33 players this year, Georgia's next class will be a lot smaller. But Richt isn't pegging a specific number yet, just saying it'll be in the "20-range."
The SEC signing rules would appear to limit Georgia to at most 27 or 28 players, which would then take away from the 2015 class. (The basic gist is that a team is limited to 125 over a five-year period.)
"You do have to be a little more methodical, because if you just sling them out fast and everyone says you're in, then you're done recruiting before it's started," Richt said. "You've gotta make sure you're recruiting the right guys."