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Old Dogs and New Dogs, and That’s About All, Compete For D-Line Jobs

Consisting of the young or old, it's crowded along Georgia's defensive line entering the 2015 season.

ATHENS—While observing eight Bulldog defensive linemen go through tackling-dummy drills on Tuesday afternoon, a few things are rather apparent: for one, defensive line coach Tracy Rocker can be quite challenging, once hollering at a large lineman to hit the bag harder, adding “I bet you would if I put a piece of [food on the bag]!” Nevertheless, there’s more so an intriguing mix of players evident heading into the 2015 campaign, most of which are essentially newcomers, or well-seasoned seniors, and very little in between.

Currently on the Georgia roster, there are four senior defensive linemen: Sterling Bailey, Chris Mayes, Josh Dawson, and James DeLoach—all except DeLoach having started at least five games for their careers. There are four newcomers: redshirt freshman Kenyon Brown, who was moved from outside linebacker, true freshmen and early enrollees Jonathan Ledbetter and injured Michael Barnett, and Joseph Ledbetter, Jonathan’s older brother who was moved from tight end after transferring from Pfeiffer University (Misenheimer, N.C.), where he played basketball for two years.

Considering there are four others listed as defensive tackles or ends due on campus for fall camp, including much-heralded Trenton Thompson and Chauncey Rivers—both of whom were considered by Rivals among the top-10 overall prospects in the state—there are eight newcomers along the Bulldogs’ defensive line.

Finally, there’s redshirt sophomore John Atkins, who totaled nine tackles in 10 games last season—the only defensive lineman out of 13 this season who is not either a senior or a newcomer to the program.

“Everyone’s on the same playing field, and it’s all about making plays, whether it’s a freshman or senior,” Dawson said concerning the dynamic between the new and experienced linemen. “It doesn’t matter who is on the field.”

Bailey added, “I don’t see any difference [whether a new or experienced lineman sees significant playing time]. If you can play football, you can play football.”

Dawson has appeared in more games at Georgia (38) than any of his fellow linemen, including four starts at defensive tackle a year ago. It appears he is currently battling Bailey, however, for the starting defensive end spot vacated by the departed Ray Drew. Playing in 29 career games, Bailey has started the most amongst the group (nine career starts), including once last season at defensive tackle.

“Both those guys are going to play,” head coach Mark Richt said regarding the competition between Dawson and Bailey for the starting defensive end position. “Somebody’s going to start, [but the other is] going to get reps.”

Besides two defensive ends, or what could be considered an end and a defensive tackle, Georgia also employed a nose tackle last season for a three-man front. However, the Bulldogs often started a third outside linebacker or fifth defensive back in 2014, resulting in three starting linemen for five games, just two starters for the other eight contests. More of the same unusual defensive alignment is expected this season.

Richt stressed, “We’re going to roll people [along the defensive line], and they’re going to get snaps.” However, as little as six defensive linemen are anticipated to be “rolled,” or rotated this season—or, the same number which appeared in at least 10 games a year ago—and certainly no more than eight. Therefore, fewer than half of the 13 defensive linemen expected to report in August could see significantly playing time in the fall.

Who will be left out of the rotation? With unpredictable, defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt calling the shots, it could be anyone’s guess.

“That’s the one thing, there’s never a spot locked down in this defense,” Dawson said. “Coach Pruitt and all the defensive coaches, they coach on competitive nature, and if you’re not being competitor out there everyday [in practice], someone can take your job.”

Someone—that is, whether it’s a senior, a newcomer, or Atkins, and evidently that’s all—will take your job. And, along Georgia’s defensive line in 2015, there are very limited spots for the taking.

Who’s the (Next) Boss?

ATHENS—Entering spring practice, it was likely the biggest question mark for the Georgia Bulldogs besides who was going to start at quarterback: who is going to be the starter snapping the ball to the unknown starting signal caller?

With the departure of standout center David Andrews, nicknamed “Boss,” there is a void to fill along Georgia’s offensive line, which returns the other four starters, and emerging are three prime candidates: a senior with some experience at the position, a junior who started at guard last season, and a sophomore who actually has never played center before.

Each of the three candidates has been getting reps with the first-team unit through 10 spring practices, including two scrimmages. Regardless, unlike the quarterback position, where who will start still seems somewhat up in the air, it is rather clear who is currently the top candidate as the Bulldogs’ starting center.

“You gotta ask Coach Richt that,” Hunter Long answered, smiling when asked if, like the quarterbacks, the centers were rotating from the first through the third-unit offenses with each practice. “But, we’re basically all competing together.”

Long, a fifth-year senior who has appeared in games dating back to the 2011 season, has played in 14 career contests as a reserve, including last season when he came off the bench against Florida for an injured Andrews. Heading into winter workouts, Long seemed the logical choice to be the team’s starting center under the direction of newly-hired offensive line coach Rob Sale.

Sale, who started at both offensive guard and center for LSU during the early 2000s, asked junior Brandon Kublanow in the spring to also give center a shot. Kublanow started all 13 of Georgia’s games a year ago at left guard and likely will remain at the position in 2015, while appearing to be a distant third at the center spot.

“[Coach] Sale is more of technical guy than Coach Friend,” said Kublanow, when asked to compare the Bulldogs’ new offensive line coach to the one from before—Will Friend, who left for Colorado State. “They’re both great coaches.”

Last week, although Sale indicated the competition for the top spot was “close between the three,” the coach only spoke of one individual when asked if he had a better feel for what Georgia “had” at the position.

“He did a good job in the [first] scrimmage,” said Sale regarding sophomore Isaiah Wynn, who currently appears to be the top dog at Georgia’s center position. “He kept moving forward; you want to constantly see him get better from the week before, and he did that.”

Wynn played admirably in a reserve role primarily at guard in 11 games last season, including one start as an extra tight end when Georgia lined up in a jumbo set for their first offensive play against Tennessee. He has never played center—that is, until now.

“I knew it would be a lot of responsibility,” said Wynn regarding the extra obligations the center position carries compared to the guards and tackles. “[I would hear] it from Boss (Andrews); he would always tell me that eventually I probably would be moved to center. It’s a lot of work.”

Wynn added the biggest difference between playing center compared to the other offensive line positions is having the responsibility of communicating more to teammates. He says the best advice Andrews gave him regarding preparing to be a center is “stay in the film room.”

Wynn worked with the first-unit offense at center for both of Georgia’s spring scrimmages, and seems likely to do the same for this Saturday’s G-Day Game. Nevertheless, Sale stressed his philosophy for not only spring practice, but fall camp as well, is “all jobs are open.” Therefore, although Wynn seems to be the lead candidate to take over for Andrews in 2015, it appears who will become the Bulldogs’ next “Boss” is far from a certainty.

Bulldogs Scrimmage At Sanford Stadium

ATHENS, Ga. — The Georgia Bulldogs conducted a two-hour, 120-play scrimmage at Sanford Stadium on Saturday morning, their 10th of 15 spring practices.

Georgia’s leading passers and rushers completed the session with statistical similarities. Quarterbacks Faton Bauta and Brice Ramsey both completed 17 of 28 pass attempts. Tailbacks A.J. Turman and Brendan Douglas recorded 22 carries apiece.

Bauta compiled 250 yards passing, with two touchdowns and an interception, while Ramsey ended the day with 219 yards and a touchdown.

“I thought they both had some good moments and a couple bad moments again,” head coach Mark Richt said. “I couldn’t tell (the completions and attempts were the same) until I looked at the stats. I wouldn’t have been able to predict that. As it went, Faton was a little hotter on the front end, and Brice was a little hotter at the tail end of the scrimmage. They’re getting there. They really are. We’re learning a lot. Of course, the better you protect, the easier it is to prove that you know your progressions and you can get to your second and third guy.”

Turman rushed for 140 yards, with two touchdowns including a 40-yarder. Douglas finished with 99 yards and a touchdown on the ground and four receptions for 39 yards. No other running back had more than three attempts.

“It was a long scrimmage,” Douglas said. “It was a little tough toward the end, but it was fun to get out there and play football and go live and really tackle to the ground. Our offensive line did a good job today. They really made me look good. Give them all the credit. They did a great job opening holes.”

Malcolm Mitchell was the top receiver on the day with six catches for 88 yards, while Isaiah McKenzie, Justin Scott-Wesley, Jay Rome, Jackson Harris and Jeb Blazevich all had three receptions.

Jake Ganus was the Bulldogs’ leading tackler with nine stops. Chuks Amaechi posted eight tackles, including four tackles for loss for 26 yards, three of which were sacks for 24 yards. All told, Georgia compiled 14 tackles for loss and 10 sacks. Following Amaechi, Lorenzo Carter had two TFLs, and Tim Kimbrough, Quincy Mauger, Reggie Carter, Chris Mayes, Sterling Bailey, Josh Dawson, Johnny O’Neal and Jonah Guinn each had one.

“There were some sacks,” Richt said. “There were 10 out of 120 plays, about one every fifth attempt, sixth attempt. That’s not ideal, but overall there were times we did protect well, guys were open and we stuck it on them. We hit some checkdowns. We did some good things.”

Bailey had three tackles, a sack for six yards and two pass break ups on the day.

“I think we went out there and executed, but we still have a lot to work on and fine tune,” Bailey said. “Overall, I think we did a good job of getting out there and getting after the offense. (One of the PBUs) was a third down opportunity for the defense to get off the field. We needed someone to make the play and I just got back there and put pressure on the quarterback and got my hand up to knock the ball down.”

The Bulldogs are a week away from their annual G-Day Game next Saturday at 2 p.m. at Sanford Stadium. There is no cost for admission, but fans are encouraged to bring canned goods for the Food Bank of Northeast Georgia. Donations will be accepted at Gates 2, 4, 6 and 9.

The G-Day Game will air on SEC Network + with Dave Neal (play-by-play), Matt Stinchcomb (color analyst) and Maria Taylor (sideline). The game also will be broadcast on the Georgia Radio Network and GeorgiaDogs.com by Scott Howard (play-by-play), Eric Zeier (color analyst) and Chuck Dowdle (sideline).

Georgia will kick off the 2015 season against Louisiana-Monroe in Athens on Sept. 5.

Despite Their “Silence,” Early Enrollees Impressive Thus Far

UAB transfer Jake Ganus (No. 51) continues to impress his coaches and teammates this spring.

ATHENS—Entering the eighth practice of the spring, it had been customary for Georgia’s early enrollees not to be available for post-practice interviews. The interviewing guideline has been especially unfortunate this spring since the newcomers have seemingly practiced well, and because there are so many of them—eight early enrollees (compared to only one a year ago) with all but one playing on the defensive side of the ball.

The Bulldogs’ seven early defensive enrollees are freshman linemen Michael Bennett, linebackers Jake Ganus and Chuks Amaechi—both transfers—and freshmen Natrez Patrick and Jonathan Ledbetter, and freshmen defensive backs Johnathan Abram and Jarvis Wilson.

Since the early enrollees are not available for interviews, the media is often updated, like tonight, regarding their spring performances by the individuals who know them better than most—their teammates.

“That’s one of the hardest things—to transition from high school to college,” said junior safety Quincy Mauger, who’ll enter the 2015 season with the most career starts (14) of any member of Georgia’s young, but rather experienced secondary. “I think [the early enrollees] have done a great job [this spring]. … It’s our job to teach them the ‘Georgia Way.’” Mauger added when the remaining freshmen enter the program in the summer, it’ll then be the early enrollees’ turn to teach them the “Georgia Way.”

“They’re getting it; they’re working hard,” sophomore cornerback Malkolm Parrish said specifically about defensive backs Abram and Wilson. He then admitted the two players were “a lot better” than he was at this time during his initial season as a Bulldog. Both hailing from Mississippi, Abram was a late bloomer in high school, gaining little attention from major southern programs until his senior year. Wilson was a standout during Saturday’s scrimmage, totaling five tackles, including one for loss, and two pass breakups.

Linebacker Natrez Patrick, a defensive end at Mays HS in Atlanta, where he was considered by Rivals as the seventh-best prospect in the state, was moved to outside linebacker upon his arrival at Georgia, and since has moved to inside linebacker, all while making quite an impression on some of his elder teammates.

“He can play outside, he can play inside; that kid is a baller,” junior linebacker Reggie Carter declared regarding Patrick. “Even today, he didn’t know [all the plays], but the feeling he had for [playing the position] was natural—unreal.”

As far as if any of the three early enrollees at linebacker will contend with Carter and junior Tim Kimbrough for the two starting inside linebacker spots vacated by Ramik Wilson and Amarlo Herrera, the most experienced Georgia defender offered his opinion:

“I’m as impartial as ever [as far as who’ll start at inside linebacker],” said senior linebacker Jordan Jenkins. “All of them guys keep making plays. I’ve seen Tim and Reggie for the longest [time], and now add in Ganus and Chuks, I still don’t know—that’s how intense [the competition has] been this whole spring.” Junior Chuks Amaechi was considered one of the top JUCO linebackers in the country, whereas Jake Ganus was a standout for three seasons at UAB prior to the school’s football program discontinuing. Ganus also had perhaps the best defensive performance in the Bulldogs’ first scrimmage of the spring.

Towards the end of the interviewing sessions, one of those early enrollees at linebacker contending for a starting spot was surprisingly made available for questioning—Ganus. The senior transfer claimed although UAB had some players who could play anywhere in the country, the overall depth, size, strength, and speed of the players were the biggest differences he has encountered as a member of the Bulldogs.

As far as what Ganus believed he needed to do to indeed win one of those starting spots, “I just got to keep doing what I’m doing,” he said. “I’m going to leave [who sees significant playing time] up to the coaches. I completely trust them with that. I’m just going to keep working hard, keep making plays, and learning the defense.”

Georgia’s Shattle Fenteng Sidelined With Rib Injury

Georgia junior Shattle Fenteng has been sidelined from spring football practice with a rib injury, according to UGA Director of Sports Medicine Ron Courson.

Fenteng, a defensive back from Loganville, Ga., sustained the rib
injury during last Friday’s practice. He will miss the remainder of spring practice and a full recovery for the fall season is anticipated.

Fenteng graduated from Grayson High School before playing two years at Hutchinson (Kan.) Community College. He played in one game for the Bulldogs during the 2014 season.

Despite Injuries, Offense Productive in First Scrimmage of Spring

ATHENS—For the seventh practice of the spring, the Bulldogs held a scrimmage closed to the media, while no players were later available for comment. However, the head Bulldog of them all eventually addressed the press, detailing his team’s initial scrimmage of the year.

Head coach Mark Richt first mentioned leading all rushers with 87 yards on 15 carries was A.J. Turman, a sophomore who has yet to see playing time while redshirting in 2013 and missing all of last season due to toe surgery. Richt promptly followed Turman’s stat line by explaining the unorthodox spring scrimmage might have produced some “skewed” statistics primarily because of the abundance of players featured, and offensive production.

“Let me just say this, we had ones, twos, and threes (offensive and defensive units),” Richt said. “We had a lot of plays—more plays than we had a year ago the first [scrimmage]. So, we scrimmaged a long time.”

Senior fullback Quayvon Hicks, who has carried the ball only 19 times his entire Georgia career, was the scrimmage’s second-leading rusher with 71 yards on 9 carries. Hicks, who also saw time at tight end last spring, has recently been lining up at tailback since the recent loss of sophomore Sony Michel to a shoulder injury. Even sophomore quarterback Brice Ramsey, who remarkably didn’t have a single rush (carry, scramble, or was sacked) last season even though attempting 39 passes, “scrambled a couple of times.”

Richt added junior Keith Marshall didn’t play at all because of a “hamstring issue,” while sophomore Nick Chubb had “no stats” and was used only on third-down plays to focus on his pass protection.

“Earlier in the spring, we had a bunch of jumping offsides offensively,” Richt said. “But today, [the offense] cleaned it up really, pretty good. … The offense cleaned up a lot of the things that’ll get you beat—those self-inflicted wounds.”

As far as the passing game, Ramsey, who worked with the first unit, completed half of his 32 passes for 237 yards, two touchdowns, and two interceptions. Redshirt freshman Jacob Park, the third-unit quarterback, attempted just 7 passes, completing 4; however, because he was allowed to attempt “a couple of bombs,” he passed for 187 yards, including a 69-yard touchdown to Matt Price. Price, a redshirt freshman from Snellville, Ga., was also on the receiving end of a 60-yard completion from Park.

Still, at least by the numbers and although Richt said the team’s top three quarterbacks displayed “flashes [of brilliance] by all of them at times,” perhaps the best passing performance was by the Bulldogs’ second-unit signal caller, junior Faton Bauta.

“Your quarterback has to be a leader—there’s no doubt about that,” Richt responded when asked if the leadership Bauta has displayed in the spring helps him in the competition for the starting position. “Faton is a good leader; he’s a hard worker.” Bauta completed 17 of 30 passes for 247 yards, two touchdowns and one interception.

The scrimmage also featured the team’s eight early enrollees, who had performed well as a group during the spring entering today. “I’ll say this about the mid-year kids, they’re talented guys,” Richt said of the early enrollees. “Do we think they have the tools to be really good players? We really do. But, they’re heads are still spinning right now—dealing with a bunch of newness.”

Defensive standouts included two of these newbies, linebacker Jake Ganus and defensive back Jarvis Wlson. Ganus, a senior transfer from UAB, totaled a scrimmage-high 10 tackles, including one for loss, one interception, and a pass breakup. Wilson, a true freshman from Tupelo, Miss., had five tackles, including one for loss, and two pass breakups.

Still, on this sunny afternoon, it was the offense which shined—an offense which, Richt admitted, had struggled in the spring while hindered by injuries at the receiver position. The head coach noted that during the first three practices, the Bulldogs had dropped “like 90 balls” from pass attempts; however, there were “only a couple” today. Senior Justin Scott-Wesley had a scrimmage-high eight receptions for 127 yards and a touchdown.

According to Richt, Scott-Wesley is one of just seven or eight healthy receivers on the entire squad, which had to be spread amongst the three units. “We’re really hurting at receiver right now—just numbers,” Richt said. “We may have to enlist a defensive back [at receiver] or something, just to kind of help us get through practice right now.”

Despite the injuries, Richt appeared upbeat and pleased about his offense’s performance this afternoon: “We looked more like an offensive unit today [than before],” he remarked. Beginning Tuesday, or the next time the Bulldogs take the field, and especially a week from today, or their next scheduled scrimmage, Georgia, and certainly its head coach, hopes to keep up its springtime offensive prowess.

Who Knows? Rome Knows.

ATHENS—It’s been 14 years, or Coach Mark Richt’s first season at Georgia, since the Bulldogs have had as much competition during a spring practice for the starting quarterback position.

In 2001, after redshirt freshman David Greene, true freshman D.J. Shockley, and junior Cory Phillips, who had two 400-yard passing performances the season before, battled it out for the top signal-calling spot, Greene and Phillips emerged from the spring as “co-No.1” quarterbacks. This spring, redshirt freshman Jacob Park, sophomore Brice Ramsey, and junior Faton Bauta are engaged in perhaps even more so of a competition for the starting slot. Which of the three will be the No. 1 quarterback in 2015 is anyone’s guess—at least, through the first four practices of the spring.

Meeting with the media Tuesday night were all three quarterbacks, beginning with the only one yet to see the playing field, but the signal caller many say is actually the odds-on favorite to eventually win the job—Park, who last year became the first Georgia quarterback signee from the state of South Carolina (Goose Park, S.C.) in more than 20 years (Brian Smith, 1992).

“As far as playing time and the opportunities out there, yeah, it’s a pretty equal chance,” Park said regarding the quarterback competition. As far as who has been under center for which particular offensive unit, Park added the three have been rotating with each practice: quarterbacking the first-team unit one practice, working with the second team the next, the third team the following, and repeat.

Similarly to 2001 with the arrival of Richt, a wrinkle, so to speak, thrown into the competition is the fact the three quarterbacks are having to learn a new offensive system under first-year coordinator Brian Schottenheimer.

“We’re picking up the offense petty quick, having a lot of fun out there with Schottenheimer,” Park said. “We’re enjoying it, getting better every day.” He added although it was difficult to fully compare the two systems through only four spring practices, and different terminology is used with the new from the old, there are similarities between Schottenheimer’s offense and the previous one coordinated by the departed Mike Bobo.

“Anytime you have a different offensive coordinator come in, you’re really going to have to switch a lot of things up,” said fifth-year senior tight end Jay Rome, who figures to be a frequent target of the starting quarterback, whoever that may be. “But, everybody’s attacking [the new offensive system] with enthusiasm. I feel like the offense being implemented here will work really well.”

When asked what he “brought to the table” over the rest of the competition if chosen to be the Bulldogs’ starter for the season opener, Park, as he exhibited the entire interview, didn’t differentiate himself from the others, but was confident: “[I bring] the same thing everybody else brings to the competition: I’m a competitor. I want to play, and I want to win—that’s what I bring.”

In 2001, Greene and Phillips remained “co-No.1” quarterbacks (Shockley would be redshirted) until towards the end of summer practice when Greene was solely named the No. 1, yet curiously not recognized as “the starter.” “It’s that close,” Richt said at the time. The head coach kept quiet for the rest of the summer until finally giving the starting nod to Greene just one day prior to the season opener, reportedly, because the redshirt freshman had picked up the Bulldogs’ new offense faster than the others.

“It’ll definitely be interesting to see [which quarterback] comes out on top,” said Rome. Then, when asked which quarterback he believed would prevail, the tight end took a page out of the book of his tight-lipped head coach, predicting, “I think Jay Rome is going to win,” Rome joked. “Definitely.”

Who actually wins Georgia’s starting quarterback job for the 2015 season could be determined similarly to how it was settled 14 years ago: which of the three can pick up the Bulldogs’ new offense the fastest. But, as Park indicated, the competition is only four practices old.

So, for now, who knows who’ll come out on top?

3/19 Spring Practice Report: OFFENSE Slips & Slides While DEFENSE Shines

Brian Schottenheimer works with the Bulldog quarterbacks during Thursday's rainy practice.

ATHENS—On Thursday afternoon, the Bulldogs practiced in jerseys and shorts in chilly, rainy weather in temperatures nearly 30 degrees cooler than their initial spring practice two days ago. From what the media observed, the unfriendly conditions apparently hindered the Georgia offense to some degree, and head coach Mark Richt agreed.

With new offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer overseeing the drills, the Bulldog offensive unit first had its issues with the quarterback-wide out ball exchange on a series of wide receiver reverse-type plays. With a rain-soaked ball not doing the offense any favors, next, the quarterbacks and tight ends had a difficult time connecting on passing routes, missing on five consecutive pass attempts at one point.

The offense’s struggles prompted Richt to turn his attention from the field to the sideline, where the media stood including several cameras, and say, “I hope y’all videoed that! It’ll give [opposing teams] a lot of confidence when they play us!”

On the defensive side of the ball, the weather evidently had no effect. “In fact, defensively, we love this weather,” said linebacker Lorenzo Carter. “It creates more turnovers, and that’s what we really try to do under [defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt].”

Working on “getting the basics down again”—footwork and technique—defensive lineman Josh Dawson was somewhat in agreement with his teammate regarding the weather conditions. “I kind of like the heat [more so than the rain], so when I place my hands [on the field], they’re not sliding everywhere,” Dawson said. “But, it wasn’t too cold out there.”

Carter said the entire team “ended practice on a high note” despite the offense’s earlier struggles. “We had a lot of energy, even when conditioning at the end, we were ready for more—fourth quarter and then some.”

Notably, starting his day by watching film on his own beginning at 6 a.m., the high-energy Carter seemingly had been ready before the “fourth quarter”—and then some.

UGA PRO DAY: Gurley Supporting His Teammates

ATHENS—This afternoon at the UGA football practice facilities, the Bulldogs held their annual “Pro Day” in front hundreds of media, guests, and NFL scouts. Twenty-nine of the 32 NFL teams were represented by at least one scout.

Seventeen Georgia players participated in the broad and vertical jumps, agility and position drills, performed the bench press, and the 40-yard dash. A handful of former Bulldogs participated as well, notably, linebackers Rennie Curran (2007-2009) and Michael Gilliard (2009-2012), hoping to regain the attention of the pros.

Two players from last season’s squad participated, so to speak, but were injured and here entirely in support, including the most sought-after Bulldog of them all—NFL-Draft-bound Todd Gurley, who is rehabbing his torn ACL.

“I’m keeping [NFL teams] up with my rehab,” Gurley responded when asked about his recent contact with the league. The star tailback mentioned he has been visiting the renowned Dr. James Andrews—the orthopedic surgeon who performed Gurley’s surgery—at the Andrews Institute in Pensacola, Fla. As far as today’s Pro Day, “I’m here in support for my teammates,” he stated.

Receiver Michael Bennett was also present but not participating due to a torn ACL he suffered in the Belk Bowl.

For those performing, they were encouraged, primarily by the new Director of Strength & Conditioning, Mark Hocke, and defensive graduate assistant Kelin Johnson, with shouts of “Seize the moment!” and “Everyday is an interview!” among numerous others.

Safety Corey Moore shined, running the fastest 40-yard dash of everyone (4.53) while having the longest broad jump (10 feet). Center David Andrews had the best bench press (27 reps of 225 pounds), followed closely by nose tackle Mike Thornton with 26 reps. Of the 12 competing in the vertical jump, linebacker and special-teamer Kosta Vavlas clearly had the highest mark by three-and-a-half inches with a jump of 36 inches.

A number of the guests even received some attention at today’s event, like former Georgia coaches Mike Bobo and Will Friend, both coaching now at Colorado State, returning to Athens to observe their former players. Colorado State had its Pro Day on March 10th.

Notwithstanding, the individual drawing the most attention was the standout player who was there simply for support.

“Good thing I’ve got a little film to prove something,” Gurley said of his inability to perform in front of today’s NFL scouts. The projected first or second-round selection has already visited with the Detroit Lions and is planning to meet with the Carolina Panthers this week. The Lions and Panthers pick 23rd and 25th, respectively, in the first round of the NFL Draft.

As far as if Gurley was planning on meeting with any other NFL teams in his immediate future, “I really don’t want to comment,” he said. However, the sense is one of the greatest players to ever don a Bulldog uniform still has a number of stops to make before hearing his name called during the upcoming draft.

3/17 Spring Practice Report: PRUITT HITS GROUND RUNNING (and RAVING)

ATHENS—For the Georgia Bulldogs’ first spring practice of 2015—the first of two without pads and in shorts before full pads this Saturday—all eyes might have been on the three quarterbacks competing for the starting position under center, new offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer, and star tailback Nick Chubb; however, most ears, at least when I was observing practice, were surely tuned into defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt. There was really no other alternative.

While working with the secondary, Pruitt repeatedly commanded loudly for the Bulldogs’ defensive backs—all 100 of them, it seemed—to “do it again!” among several other firm orders. The booming directives were somewhat ironic coming from a coach who gives few interviews and has hardly been heard from by a good portion of Georgia fans.

Last season, Pruitt inherited a defensive unit that had been arguably the worst in Georgia history the year before. The pass defense had been especially weak in 2013. In addition, starting from the time Pruitt first set foot in Athens a little over a year ago, the Bulldogs began losing defensive backs at an alarming rate due to various reasons, especially due to transferring out of the program. Still, filled with primarily question marks and hardly any standouts and with Pruitt personally coaching the secondary, Georgia’s pass defense last season yielded a passing efficiency rating of only 105.79, or the second-lowest at the school in eight seasons.

Still, the Georgia secondary certainly has some room for improvement in 2015.

“The big thing is to get to the point where every man plays his job—his responsibility—and plays it well,” said head coach Mark Richt this evening regarding his desire for Pruitt’s defense to improve this upcoming season. “We feel like if everyone understands their role, their job, we have a chance to be pretty good.”

So, what can the Georgia defense improve upon the most in 2015?

“Turnovers,” it was declared without hesitation by cornerback Dominick Sanders, who started all 13 games last season, intercepting three passes as a true freshman. “Turnovers—I feel like we’ll force a lot of them in all the games we play [in 2015].”

Sanders, who routinely answered questions asked by the media with a “yes, sir” or “no, sir,” might be the best of a number of examples of young members of Georgia’s secondary who have excelled in part because of Pruitt’s strict discipline and structure. Many of the other defensive backs should eventually follow suit, and Georgia’s secondary—once considered a weakness not long ago—could be one of the best in the SEC this year.

Finally, as I moved on to watch another unit practice on this inaugural practice of the year, I heard Pruitt’s voice above all others again. This time, he went off—I mean, really exploded—on a second-year cornerback, displaying a “do it or, if you don’t like it, get out” attitude.

While some may find Pruitt’s discipline harsh, it’s a sight, and sound, welcomed by those, even as early as the first spring practice, once accustomed to a disorderly and overmatched Bulldog secondary.