ATHENS - Georgia is nearing the end of a long stretch of consecutive summer practices, and the toll is showing.
A number of players continue to miss practice, including inside linebacker Ramik Wilson, defensive lineman Chris Mayes, tight end Jordan Davis and several others.
"Right this minute we've got a No. 1 and No. 2 unit, and a No. 3 unit. I don't know if we've got a No. 4 unit anymore because of some bumps and bruises," head coach Mark Richt said after Friday's morning practice.
The Bulldogs were set to hold another practice in the evening, which will be their 10th of the preseason. They will hold their first scrimmage on Saturday night, and then get a break on Sunday, the team's first day off since practice began on Aug. 1.
Richt did not appear worried about how his players are holding up, saying they were showing more stamina than in years past. He also remained guarded on injuries, saying only that Davis was "day-to-day" and not specifying his injury. Wilson is known to have a concussion, according to sources, but the other maladies remain unknown.
Two O-linemen make a move
There remains at least one (perhaps two) starting jobs open on the offensive line, and many candidates. One youngster and one veteran have made their case for it this week.
Sophomore Brandon Kublanow and senior Watts Dantzler have been getting work with the first-team this week, based on the media viewing periods. Kublanow was working at first-team left guard, which is the open spot, while Dantzler was getting work at right tackle.
Richt said he and the coaches believe they have at least five players they feel comfortable using. He didn't mention them, but the clear starters appear to be center David Andrews, John Theus at one of the tackle spots, Kolton Houston at either tackle or guard, and Greg Pyke at guard.
The trick is finding the right fits at each spot, such as determining which tackle spot Theus will occupy, and whether Houston will play right tackle or left guard. Much of that depends on who emerges as the fifth and final starter.
"Some days Kublanow or whoever is having a good day, and then the next day might not be quite as good," Richt said. "Coach (Will) Friend is mixing and matching the No. 1 unit. He hasn't settled on a No. 1 unit yet. But the first and second line are functioning pretty good. We're able to run our plays, and protect. Obviously there are some plays where the defense whips us, and some plays the offense whips the defense."
Dantzler has pushed for a starting job before, but has never been able to break through. He did rotate in occasionally last season.
"Watts is throwing his hat in the ring for a starting position, or quality playing time," Richt said. "He's having a good camp so far."
The three scrimmages could go a long way towards determining who is the No. 2 quarterback behind Hutson Mason. Or the competition between Faton Bauta and Brice Ramsey could just continue into the season.
Richt said he hadn't sat down with offensive coordinator Mike Bobo to discuss yet, but did indicate that neither Bata or Ramsey has established himself in the top backup role.
"It might be tight enough where we have a week-to-week discussion, I just don't know," Richt said.
Richt said he was happy with the way Mason is doing this preseason. He also said it was "pretty typical" to give a quarterback a day to rest his arm, as Mason did on Monday.
Rome and the pickaxe
Tight end Jay Rome was back practicing a day after being on the side in a very unusual conditioning drill: He was swinging a pickaxe in a sandpit, as strength and conditioning coordinator Joe Tereshinski watched.
Richt was asked a day later what that was about.
"If a guy can't run you've gotta burn calories somehow, and you've gotta exert somehow," Richt said. "Joe T. thought that would be a good idea."
And yes, the team happened to have a pickaxe available.
"Yeah we had a pickaxe. Thought we would dig a hole, then cover it up, and dig another hole."