ATHENS - Mark Richt didn't see any need to tamp down the big talk about Leonard Floyd this preseason. In fact, Richt only added to it Friday by singling out the freshman linebacker for praise.
"I kind of called him out in front of the team, but Leonard Floyd just practices so hard. He's relentless," Richt said. "His head's still spinning, learning stuff. But he's really impressed me how hard he practices on a daily basis. He's gonna get better and better because of it. There's other guys, but he really stood out to me. He's been standing out to me for awhile."
Floyd probably weighs more than his listed 225 pounds, Richt guessing he's at about 235. That apparently hasn't slowed him much, judging by the scrimmage stats and raves from fellow players.
Floyd, who spent last year at prep school, is making it interesting at the Sam outside linebacker position, where sophomore James Deloach is listed as the starter. Deloach, speaking after Friday's practice, also had kind words.
"He's really athletic, and has a quick burst off the ball," Deloach said. "Both of us have an equal opportunity to show what we can do. It's just all competition, really."
Richt later also had kind words for freshman outside linebacker Davin Bellamy, who has missed time after thumb surgery.
"Davin really showed a little something," Richt said. "He might've had a little fresher legs than everybody because he hasn't been practicing as much."
The 'banged-up' secondary
It's now getting to the point where Richt is concerned about the health of his defensive backs. Corey Moore continues to miss practices with a knee sprain, Tray Matthews has been slowed by two injuries (shoulder and hamstring) for awhile and safety Shaquille Fluker has missed the past two days with illness.
"You said it: It looks banged up," Richt said. "You can't hardly get better if you practice. You can learn some things watching, walk-throughs, film study. You can learn, but until you're out there doing it it's just so hard to get good at anything. And also for us to know what they're getting, what they're comprehending, what they're able to execute. We just haven't had enough healthy guys to become as good as we can be. So it's a concern right now."
It wasn't quite like Steve Spurrier calling out his players, including Jadeveon Clowney, for not getting off the injured list and back to practice. But it was the same idea. Georgia's first opponent is Clemson and its up-tempo offense, requiring plenty of defensive backs to defend it, so Richt wants them out there practicing as soon as possible.
"It's hard to get better when you're not practicing. It's a problem," Richt said. "And playing Clemson does make it probably a little worse."
Richt said he didn't have any idea when Moore would return.
Freshman Reggie Carter remains the top backup to starting inside linebackers Amarlo Herrera and Ramik Wilson. (And Carter could still give Wilson a big push.) But the next inside linebacker who is impressing Richt is freshman Johnny O'Neal, who had a big hit in Friday's practice.
"I grabbed him and said: that's why we signed you son," Richt said. "He's stout in that hole inside. I don't even remember who the back was, but he rejected him when he hit him."
Freshman Tim Kimbrough seemed to be the fourth inside linebacker on the totem pole, ahead of O'Neal. But Kimbrough has been out with a sprained knee.
More optimism in Houston
Kenarious Gates missed Friday's practice with a neck strain, which isn't believed to be serious. Interestingly, the players working at that spot not only included Mark Beard, last year's left tackle backup, but Kolton Houston, who is battling John Theus for the right tackle spot.
Theus got a shot at left tackle in the spring, so Richt was asked why not try Theus there. Richt addressed that by praising Houston.
"Kolton's very athletic guy. I think he's athlete enough to do it out there on the left side," Richt said. "He's doing very well. He's just one of the guys now, what he's been hoping for for a long time. But he's practicing hard, he's giving good effort. He's having success. He's either gonna start or he's gonna play a good bit."