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Bulldogs hold first preseason practice

POSTED: August 4, 2009 8:47 p.m.
John Kelley | Times regional staff/

Georgia linebacker Rennie Curran (35), attempts to tackle running back Carlton Thomas, right, at a team practice Tuesday in Athens.

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ATHENS — A year ago, Georgia was at the center of the college football universe, eventually entering the 2008 season with a No. 1 ranking. Since then, Bulldogs coach Mark Richt has watched the hype dissipate as his team slid to a relatively disappointing 10-3 finish, followed by the early departures of stars like Matthew Stafford and Knowshon Moreno.

It’s been a quieter offseason for the Bulldogs in 2009. One thing that hasn’t changed, though, is Richt’s preseason practice plan, which began with Georgia’s first practice Tuesday.

“The plan is the same,” Richt said during Tuesday’s press conference. “There is always a little bit of adjustment here and there as we look through things. I think you have to look in the eyes of you players, gauge where they are, and make the right adjustments as you go.”

Richt has kept the team’s schedule flexible in order to address the many questions that have followed his team to practice. The most significant: can the Bulldogs find a comfort zone now that the spotlight of being the country’s top team in the preseason has been lifted?

For some players that comfort has already been felt.

“It’s not so much that we like it, but I feel like it’s better for us as a team,” linebacker Rennie Curran said. “We can focus more, and there’s not all the craziness going around with the fans asking how we feel about being No. 1 and so forth.”

But whether or not Georgia can climb back up the ranks and stay competitive in the SEC may depend on how the replacements of Matthew Stafford and Knowshon Moreno fare this year.

Stafford’s replacement at quarterback, Joe Cox, received praise from Richt, who said the senior has “prepared for this moment” after waiting patiently for four years to earn the starting job. Cox has only one start in his career, coming in 2006 against Ole Miss.

“As the quarterback, I have to make sure I know what to do,” Cox said. “I want to be able to make quick decisions and right decisions all the time. You can talk all you want about how you feel, but the main thing is playing the game. I am looking forward to it.”

While Cox’s status as the team’s opening-day starter has been solidified, who will play behind him at running back has yet to be decided. Georgia has several candidates for the position, which may leave Richt to alternate between a series of running backs throughout the season.

Redshirt sophomore Caleb King and sophomore Richard Samuel appear to be the frontrunners for the job, but four other running backs sit behind them in depth chart and could see carries this year.

“We are right at the point where we are going to find out who is the best back, if there is such a thing,” Richt said. “We might have a situation where two or three are the best back. I doubt one man will get every carry. More than likely it will be by committee.”

Richt also addressed the current status of Georgia’s offensive line, which has battled through a string of injuries the past year. Already, the Bulldogs have lost guard Tanner Strickland to season-ending shoulder surgery, but regain a healthy Trinton Sturdivant, who missed all of the 2008 season with a knee injury.

Guard Chris Davis, a Jefferson High graduate, and tackle Vince Vance both missed spring practices while rehabilitating from surgeries, but are expected to participate in preseason drills.

“We are counting on the offensive line to perform well,” Richt said. “I really believe they will perform better, and they are used to working together.”

Georgia’s preseason practice schedule continues through August and ends Sept. 3. The Bulldogs open the regular season two days later, when they visit Oklahoma State.


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