ATHENS, Ga. -- The stated purpose of a Mark Richt teleconference on Thursday was for the media to ask “whatever you want.” But upon the first question, it became clear that Richt had one mantra in mind:
Driven by necessity, the Georgia football team will use players at multiple positions, with spring practice setting up to be a long experiment for some players.
“All hands on deck,” Richt said.
That means Malcolm Mitchell, the team’s top receiver last season, will get a look at cornerback. It also means tailback Richard Samuel will get practice snaps at fullback. And it could mean starters everywhere also will play on special teams, the Bulldogs’ sore point last season.
“We have got to make sure that we take our entire talent base of our football team and get the best players out there in whatever situations that we need them in,” Richt said. “If that means a guy playing both ways or playing two positions on defense or whatever it might be -- or if that means the entire starting lineup on offense and defense playing special teams -- I don’t care what it is. Whatever we’ve got to do to get the best players on the field, we’ve got to do that: take advantage of everybody’s abilities.”
Richt said last week that Mitchell could play at cornerback, and he was more emphatic Thursday.
“Quite frankly, we’re going to experiment with it a little bit and see how much he can handle, learning some cornerback. So I think that’s something.”
There also has been movement on the idea of Samuel at fullback. Richt had been adamant about Samuel staying at tailback for his senior year. But with the tailback spot crowded and fullback a bit thin, he has reconsidered.
“There’s a chance of that too,” he said.
Richt also said last year’s special teams woes would be attacked not by switching around coaching assignments but by tinkering with units and using starters.
Other news from Richt:
Starting cornerback Sanders Commings was suspended despite charges not being filed because of Richt’s information. The senior is out for the first two games of the season after a misdemeanor domestic violence arrest.
“There’s always circumstances that people know or don’t know,” Richt said. “I mean, I wasn’t there. I don’t know exactly for sure what happened, but I’ve got enough information to feel comfortable that he didn’t behave as well as he should. And he’s going to have to live out a consequence for that.”
Richt said he expects his contract extension to be finalized “in due time.” School president Michael Adams said a couple weeks ago that the extension, expected to carry him through at least 2015, was “98 percent” done.
“I don’t have any anxiety at all,” Richt said. “There’s some different language in there. I don’t know how to describe it. When you re-write a contract, everyone’s got to feel comfortable with that. So we’ve got to iron all those things out.”
The door is not closed on the three freshmen dismissed from the team last month -- but it’s not open yet. Chris Sanders, Nick Marshall and Sanford Seay were dismissed last month after a theft in the dorms; Sanders and Marshall are headed to junior colleges.
“I’m not going to sit here and say 100 percent yes or 100 percent no,” Richt said when asked whether they could return eventually. “But, right now, they’re on this journey where they got to take care of business. So, maybe later on, we can talk about the possibility of that, but I’m not really in position to say.”