Georgia’s wide receivers and running backs are both adjusting to life under new position coaches this offseason, and while the contact has been minimal as the coaching staff hones in on recruiting, the early reviews from players at both positions are positive.
Longtime Bulldogs wide receivers coach John Eason has moved to an administrative position, moving Tony Ball from running backs to Eason’s vacated role. The transition has been smooth, wide receiver Tony Wilson said, but admitted there’s definitely a new atmosphere in the meeting room.
“It’s more of a football meeting room now,” Wilson said. “Coach Eason dealt with football, but he was always talking about life. Coach Ball is on the same thing, but it’s a different approach. You just hear Coach Ball more than you were going to hear Coach Eason. Coach Eason was kind of laid back and would let you flatten out your errors on your own. Coach Ball may jump you here and there.”
With Ball heading up the receivers meetings now, the role of running backs coach belongs to Bryan McClendon, who is just three years removed from playing at Georgia. McClendon spent the past two years working with the receivers as a graduate assistant, and has quickly implemented a tough-minded approach in his new role with the Bulldogs’ running game.
“I’ve seen how he worked with the wide receivers, and I know he’s going to be a tough coach,” tailback Caleb King said. “I believe that’s what we need in the running back position. One day he went downstairs in the weight room and trained with me and was killing me, so I believe he’s going to be like that the whole year.”
Of course, if King or the other running backs have any trouble, they won’t have to go far to seek an extra bit of advice from their former mentor.
“(Ball) said if I have a problem or any troubles, I can come to his office and he’ll still talk to me,” King said. “I’m glad he’s still close.”
New QB praised
After a breakout freshman season, A.J. Green might be expected to lament the departure of his quarterback, Matthew Stafford, who announced earlier this month that he would forego his final season at Georgia to enter the NFL draft. As it turns out, however, Green is excited to catch passes from Georgia’s new starter, Joe Cox.
Green worked with Cox regularly during practice and said Cox’s skill set doesn’t differ too much from the man he’s replacing — even suggesting that Cox might be a tad more accurate than Stafford. At the very least, Green admitted, his hands should sting a bit less after hauling in a quick strike this season than they did with Stafford under center.
“Coming from Stafford, it’s a little more heat,” Green said. “Joe, he puts it right there. It’s not really a difference, but heat-wise, Stafford puts a little more on it.”
Punter heir apparent
Georgia’s special teams were a mixed bag in 2008, but punter Brian Mimbs proved to be one of the team’s few consistent veterans. While his replacement for 2009 has yet to be named, kicker Blair Walsh said the early indications are that second-generation Bulldog Drew Butler is the odds-on favorite to win the job.
“From what we all know, it’s Drew right now,” Walsh said. “Drew has earned it, he’s competed for the spot back when he was a freshman. He’s a fantastic punter. Drew could have played, but he just happened to be behind Brian.”
When Knowshon Moreno announced he was leaving Georgia early to enter the NFL draft, he didn’t exactly give his teammates much of a heads up. King and fellow running back Richard Samuel learned of the decision through TV news coverage the day of Moreno’s announcement, and neither have talked to their former teammate since he left to begin training in Texas.
That doesn’t mean Moreno left Athens without passing along a bit of advice to the players who will be tasked with filling his rather large shoes in 2009.
“He told me just don’t let nobody put you down,” King said. “A lot of people are going to try to put you down and say bad stuff about you, but just don’t worry about it.”