Bulldogs Blog

Butler not used to competition

Georgia's coaches have still not announced their starting punter -- a decision that's as much a motivational tactic as anything.

Although they've said Drew Butler holds a slight edge, they continue to maintain that Butler and Brian Mimbs are in a neck-and-neck race for the job and that nothing is guaranteed for Saturday's opener against Oklahoma State.

"We've gotta try to put some pressure on them somehow," Georgia coach Mark Richt said. "Part of it is the mystery, I suppose, knowing that every kick counts."

Practice pressure is a brand-new experience for Butler, who has never had to compete for a job. Heck, he never even played football until his sophomore year of high school.

"It's a lot of fun. Not that I wasn't focused (before), but you're focused every day at all times in practice," said Butler, the son of former Georgia all-America kicker Kevin Butler. "You're really harping on yourself. I get down on myself when I don't kick the ball well."

Butler was a member of the first class to go through all four years at Peachtree Ridge High, so the Duluth school's football program was still in its infancy when Butler was coming through. When kicking game mishaps cost the Lions a pair of wins in his freshman year, Butler -- till that point a member of the school's golf team -- decided to give kicking a try.

"There wasn't anybody in the school who could really do it," Butler said. "It was a lineman who was kicking the ball and he just had a monster leg. But he wasn't there the next year, so I just decided to go out for the team and nobody went out, either, so it was just me by myself."

Things took off from there. He averaged 40 yards per punt as a junior and was an all-state kicker as a senior, and what started as a fun pastime developed into a possible college scholarship opportunity.

Considering his bloodlines, Butler had attended plenty of Georgia games as a fan. It wasn't until he picked up the sport that he gave serious thought to being on the sidelines as a member of the team.

"I've imagined it. After 11th grade, 12th grade, I started punting the ball pretty well and I figured I had a shot. Now here I am," he said. "It's a dream come true and I couldn't be happier."

With only two years of organized football under his belt, Butler admits he has a lot to learn. But he's in the right environment for that, with Mimbs and Lou Groza Award candidate Brandon Coutu around to help.

"The good thing about it is I'm learning something new every day still. Whether it's from Brandon or Brian or the coaches, it's all still new," Butler said. "Most of these guys have been playing probably since pee-wee ball and I've been playing since 10th grade. I'm just loving it."

Coates injured

Antavious Coates' Georgia career was beset by injuries before it ever really started -- and now it never will.

Coates suffered a season-ending torn anterior cruciate ligament on Saturday, marking the fourth time since 2004 that the Georgia safety has suffered such a knee injury. This time it will be career-ending, as his coaches will seek a medical disqualification for the redshirt sophomore who never played a down at Georgia.

"If he was gonna get hurt, you wish he could have at least put his game gear on and done it in a ballgame. I think that would have really meant something to him," Richt said. "He never got to play between the hedges -- that really hurt him."

Richt's staff had been slowly easing Coates back into the rotation to ease the burden on his injured knees. He first tore an ACL in 2004, midway through his senior season of high school. He tore ACLS in preseason practice in each of the last three seasons.

Initially, Saturday's injury didn't appear to be as serious, but an MRI on Sunday revealed his fourth torn knee ligament.

Trying to look at the bright side, Richt said NCAA rules will allow Coates to work as a student coach -- which will help him get started at his chosen profession.

"He's allowed to get on the field and actually get some coaching done. So he's gonna get a really great head start in that area," Richt said. "He's still an inspiration to our football team, he's still gonna help us."

But that didn't make the day any less dark for Coates, who was closer than he'd ever been to finally making it onto the field. Delivering the news was clearly difficult for his head coach.

"It's a sad day for him and his family, and for Georgia," Richt said. "He's just a beautiful kid who's not complained one bit."

Injury update

In much more positive injury news, first-string right guard Scott Haverkamp returned to practice on Monday and should be full-speed for Saturday's game.

Haverkamp sprained an ankle in Georgia's first preseason scrimmage and reaggravated the injury a week ago, forcing him to spend more time in a green no-contact jersey.

Richt said the coaches held Haverkamp out of 11-on-11 competition on Monday as a protective measure.

Numerous players were in green on Monday, including three expected starters. Linebacker Darius Dewberry (shoulder), cornerback Thomas Flowers (shoulder) and receiver Sean Bailey (head) are all expected to play on Saturday.

Bailey may have suffered a mild concussion last Saturday, but was able to practice some on Monday and said after practice that he is not experiencing headaches or other aftereffects of the injury.

Linebackers Akeem Dent (concussion) and Justin Houston (hamstring), tailback Caleb King (hamstring) tight end Tripp Chandler (ribs), offensive linemen Tanner Strickland (foot sprain) and Chris Little (wrist), receivers Kris Durham and Walter Hill (ankle) and defensive end Michael Lemon (neck) were also in green.

Freshman linebacker Charles White did not practice after injuring his foot last week.

Facility upgrade?

Richt's rainy day refrain invariably includes Georgia's need for an indoor practice facility -- an issue that most recently arose last Friday, when stormy weather cost the Bulldogs a practice.

Richt was rather testy after the practice -- he explained on Monday a set of circumstances that had gotten under his skin -- and commented that he was "about tired of it" when discussing the lack of an indoor facility.

That led to his issuing a statement on Sunday apologizing for the tone of his statement on a frustrating afternoon. In the statement, he gave vague mention to a "major facility improvement" that he and athletic director Damon Evans have been discussing.

Asked to elaborate, Richt said nothing is set in stone yet, but he is excited about the possibilities of the proposed facility addition.

"I'm really not at liberty to say how far we've come, but we've been working together for quite some time. We're formulating a very good plan for the future, and I'm excited about it," Richt said. "I just can't elaborate on anything at this point. And nothing's a slam dunk anyway. But we've had a lot of discussions about the needs and how to provide for those needs."

Quick hits

Monday was the Bulldogs' last practice day in full pads before Saturday's game. ... Although senior receiver A.J. Bryant is currently not one of the Bulldogs' top seven receivers, Richt said "I'm not saying it won't happen, but that's not what we're thinking" when asked if the staff would consider redshirting Bryant this year as it did with offensive lineman Fernando Velasco after his sophomore season. ... The much-debated family-friendly tailgating zones will be back on Georgia's campus in a much smaller capacity this fall. Instead of two large zones, Georgia will designate a small area on North Campus near the school's administration building for alcohol-free tailgating for the family. See the school's gamedaygameplan.com Web site for more rules and regulations for gameday tailgating this fall.

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