ATHENS – For the first time in at least four years, and perhaps much longer, head coach Mark Richt opened up the entire practice to the media on Thursday. Normally only a few periods totaling around 10-15 minutes are open.
So it was a chance to get some more in-depth observations than usual. Here are 10, plus a bonus:
1. Dime packages: Defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt is following through on his pre-spring statement that he’ll use more dime packages, which was basically absent in last year’s Georgia’s defense. What’s interesting is how it’s being incorporated right now.
Damian Swann, the senior cornerback, is playing inside at what the team calls the “Money” spot in the dime. It’s basically an inside linebacker spot.
"It's like playing the star (position)," Swann said after practice. "It's just on the other side. I mean you're pretty much doing the same thing you probably would do if you were playing the star. And I actually played a little bit of that my freshman year when we played dime against South Carolina here. I enjoyed that. It's just another opportunity for me to make plays, doing something else."
Ramik Wilson and Amarlo Herrera, the two starting inside linebackers in the base defense, are alternating as the lone inside linebacker on the dime package.
2. Pruitt’s style: Pruitt is constantly preaching for his defensive backs to get low. He wants them hunching and bending, presumably to be in better position to tackle.
“Get high, and he’s going to go right inside of you,” Pruitt said to a defensive back, demonstrating by turning sideways.
Pruitt is also urging eye control – as in zoning in on the assignment. He’s getting help there from senior Corey Moore, who instructed Tramel Terry and fellow safeties on it.
“Catch your eyes,” Moore could be overheard telling a teammate.
3. Faster pace: As Herrera put it: "Everybody's just constantly moving." Not that the team was slogging through practice in past years, but there is a noticeably quicker pace this spring. The team has changed the way it does a number of drills, and the order of drills, especially on defense. Players are regularly shuttling from one end of the field to another.
"The practice speed has gotten us faster, and is gonna make us more in shape when we get to game time," linebacker Jordan Jenkins said.
"It's completely different," Herrera said. "The way practice is run, nobody's sitting around. You've got (first-teamers) and (third-teamers) on one field and you may have (second-teamers) practicing on one field the whole time."
4. Greg Pyke: The sophomore appears to have entered the competition for a starting spot on the offensive line. Pyke was working as the first-team right guard for all of practice, ahead of Brandon Kublanow, who subbed in at right guard last season. Pyke, who appeared in just two games last year, and only on special teams, is getting his shot.
5. The battle in the trenches: It wasn’t the best day for the offensive line, which didn’t get the better of the matchup with the defensive line on Thursday. That’s not surprising, considering the experience returning on each side.
6. Special teams coaching: Even though John Lilly and Mike Ekeler were named as co-special teams coordinators, Richt has said that almost every assistant will be involved. The practice viewing allowed the media to see what Richt meant:
During a field goal drill Will Friend was overseeing the offensive line, Tracy Rocker the defensive line, and Kevin Sherrer was standing behind the line a few steps.
7. Quayvon Hicks update: Hicks, who is converting to H-Back, is still learning the position. At one point he didn’t know he was on the field in a formation and had to be called. His blocking in space may also be an issue in some situations. But his physical ability remains good.
8. The new quarterback: Jacob Park, the freshman quarterback and early enrollee, has good zip on his throws. He’s also got good size and mobility, so his future at Georgia likely depends on his ability to pick up the playbook and decision-making.
The strongest arm among the quarterbacks probably belongs to Brice Ramsey, the redshirt freshman.
9. Tailbacks: Star tailback Todd Gurley is participating in most drills, but sat out some contact situations. Keith Marshall is sitting out all contact drills, and spending a lot of time running on the side. Brendan Douglas was getting the most snaps after Gurley, followed by A.J. Turman.
When Gurley was out there, however, the defense knew it. During a seven-on-seven passing drill he ended up being swarmed by four defenders, even though the pass was headed elsewhere. Gurley enjoyed the moment.
“That’s one, two, three and four!” Gurley said loudly, pointing at each defender.
10. Rome if he wants to: Jay Rome, the first-team tight end, is out injured this spring, but he’s not missing from the practice field. In fact the junior is quite active, hanging around the offense during drills, and talking to Jordan Davis, the freshman who is the only scholarship tight end on the field right now.
And one more: Mark Richt is no passing, shrinking violet during practice. Particularly three-on-three drills. Let’s leave it at that.