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Georgia starts Spring Football. It's about to begin. 3 articles in one thread.


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ATHENS In college basketball, March traditionally is the month of One Shining Moment the now-famous song that caps the NCAA Tournament championship game.

With all due respect to the Big Dance, Georgia s football team is going to borrow the theme as it begins spring practice this month. The Bulldogs, who will hold the first of 15 practices this afternoon, are expected to be ranked at or near the top of every preseason ranking when the real season rolls around this fall, but for now they are hoping to focus on more immediate issues.

What we have decided to do is just focus on the moment, head coach Mark Richt said. We can t control where we re voted preseason. We can t control a lot of things. We can only control how hard we work each mat drill, each weight lifting session, each spring practice. We re really trying to break it down into one day, one play, one moment..

That won t be difficult despite the hype, junior cornerback Asher Allen said.

Since I ve been here, we ve always had the same goals -- beat the first team we play, win the SEC championship, win the national championship, Allen said. This year is a lot more hyped up, but I think the attitude of the team has been the same since I ve been here.

Spring practice will culminate with the annual G-Day game, which will be played April 5 in Sanford Stadium.

There are few tangible questions to be answered this spring. Eight starters return on offense, and nine return on defense.

The biggest question we have is who s going to be our kicker, and I don t know how much we re going to find out in the spring, Richt said. That s something that is going to have to wait until the fall (when freshman Blair Walsh arrives).

Most of Richt s other questions center around leadership and the intangibles that give each year s team its identity.

I know maybe 70 percent of our team is back, but it has a whole new personality, he said. It has a whole new leadership component, and it makes it fun. It makes it exciting.

The defense will be looking to replace Kelin Johnson at safety and Marcus Howard at defensive end, and an heir apparent awaits at each position (Reshad Jones and Jeremy Lomax), but minor changes could mean major differences in results, Allen said.

One, two people coming into the starting team, they can alter everything, he said.

The offense must replace offensive linemen Fernando Velasco and Chester Adams and wide receiver Sean Bailey.

Fullback Brannan Southerland (foot) and defensive tackle Brandon Wood (Achilles tendon) won t participate in spring practice but will be available in the fall, Richt said.

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Bulldogs get back to business Monday

Spring practice kicks off


The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Published on: 03/03/08

Athens When last everybody met Georgia was dancing in the confetti falling from the rafters of the Super Dome. Hawaii's Colt Brennan was searching for his spleen. Georgia's Knowshon Moreno was trampling toward the second best freshman rushing season ever (1,334 yards). The Bulldogs were No. 2 in the country.

Now they are together again.

"It came around quick," Georgia coach Mark Richt said.

Spring practice is here. It starts Monday and will culminate in the G-Day game April 5 in Sanford Stadium. The expectations are here too. Georgia is expected to be ranked in the top five nationally.

"One, two, three, four or five it's all good," quarterback Matthew Stafford said.

The key word there is good. That is what is expected of a team that is very nearly the same as when it last stepped off the field Jan. 1. Only five starters were lost.

Here are five things to look for this spring as Georgia starts down the path to a potential national title.

Big plays

Stafford had 20 pass plays of 25 yards or more in 2007 as opposed to eight in 2006. In 2008, the Bulldogs have a potential wide receiving corps, if they put three on the field, of Kris Durham (6-foo-5), A.J. Green (6-4) and Mohamed Massaquoi (6-2). Then there is Walter Hill (6-4), a redshirt freshman who is coming on strong.

Now, with the help of all the height, Stafford could be poised to build on those big-play numbers.

"As far as size out there we can pretty big across the board and then Tripp (Chandler) is a big guy too and Bruce (Figgins) as well, so I an definitely going to have some options that I am excited about," Stafford said.

Running backs

Moreno, like it or not, is not going to participate in too many of the spring drills. And most likely he is not going to like that, according to teammates.

Moreno is a player who he wants to prove himself on every play in practice.

"We already know what he can do," Richt said.

The player with more question marks is redshirt freshman Caleb King. King came to Georgia out of Greater Atlanta Christian with more hype than Moreno.

Now is King's chance to prove he is worthy of carries.

"I am more concerned to see what Caleb can do," Richt said.

So King, with true freshmen Richard Samuel and Dontavius Jackson, will get more work than Moreno.


Five seniors are gone from the offensive and defensive units. Two, safety Kelin Johnson and center Fernando Velasco, were the leaders on their sides of the ball. Now Georgia has to find some new seniors to step up.

"When you talk about leadership the senior year starts when the bowl game strikes zero," Richt said. "I have had a good talk with those guys during our character education time. ... We not only want to talk about theory of leadership but lets put it into action."

On offense one player to watch as a potential emerging leader is fullback Brannan Southerland. On defense linebacker Dannell Ellerbe could emerge as the leader.

Offensive line

After two years of questions and a lack of bodies on the offensive line, Georgia appears to have an embarrassment of riches. Two starters, Chester Adams and Fernando Velasco, are gone. But several young players, Justin Anderson, Josh Davis, Kiante Tripp among them, have matured.

Richt said this year's offensive linemen have proven themselves to be the most athletic Georgia has had in his years at the school.

"It does your heart good as a coach to watch the linemen doing mat drills," Richt said.

It does Stafford's heart some good to know he has plenty of linemen, many of whom are experienced, to work with in the spring.

"Our spring offensive line last year was way different than what we ended the year at," Stafford said. "It is more about those guys just getting work and if we can gel and get something going right now, great."

Unfamiliar faces

There could very well be several players who emerge this spring and top among them could be Hill, the wide receiver.

"Walter is different," cornerback Asher Allen said. "You have the tall, skinny guy, but he is a tall, big guy. He really understands positioning his body. I really think the way he was practicing last year, his attitude and he is a hard worker, scouts are going to be looking for him, most definitely."

Hill has a basketball background and at 6-4 has the ability to jump over or muscle past cornerbacks. Then there is his speed.

"I have seen signs of Walter hill in the offseason with much more quickness, a quick twitch which he needed," Richt needed.

Hill is buried on the depth chart but will be given the chance to prove himself this spring.

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Offseason? What offseason?

For big-time football programs like Georgia, there's very little, if any, of that.

"We don't get too many breaks around here," linebacker Darius Dewberry laughed. "We stay pretty busy, pretty much year round. But if we want to get where we want to be at the end of the year we know we've got to work hard."

That's just what the Bulldogs have been doing.

After the Bulldogs arrived back from New Orleans where they dispatched Hawaii in the Sugar Bowl, Georgia players spent January hitting the weights, followed by February's mat drills leading up to spring practice which kicks off Monday afternoon at the team's Woodruff Practice Facility.

"I'm excited about it. If you asked me a week ago I'm not sure I could have said that, just trying to get a little bit of a rest or catch your breath," Georgia coach Mark Richt said. "After watching our guys in the off-season and mat drill program, I'm really encouraged by everybody's attitude and effort. I'm getting a lot of good vibrations on our leadership. I think we are ready to move into the next phase which is spring football."

The Bulldogs will practice four times this week (Monday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday) before taking 10 days off for spring break.

Georgia will resume workouts March 17 leading up to the annual G-Day game at Sanford Stadium April 5.

"What is exciting about the job is every year there is a new group of guys. It's a new team. I know maybe 70 percent of the team is back, but it has a whole new personality. It has new leadership component, and it makes it fun, makes it exciting."

The Bulldogs return 17 starters from last year's 11-2 squad.

"There are still a lot of battles going on, a lot of battles for starting positions, a lot of battles for playing time. I'm most concerned No. 1 that we don't forget our fundaments. It's the time of the year where you slow down and teach everyone how to block and tackle safely," Richt said. "It's a time to compete for jobs; time to compete offense versus defense. As far as any particular positions, we don't have that many guys that we are replacing as starters."

Of the few, center, right tackle and defensive end are certain to receive the most attention.

Redshirt sophomore Chris Davis, who started at left guard last fall, is listed at No. 1 on the depth chart at center, with Ben Harden, Kevin Perez and early enrollee Ben Jones spelling him.

Meanwhile, the right tackle spot appears to redshirt sophomore Kiante Tripp's to lose, while Jeremy Lomax will get the first crack at replacing 2007 sack leader Marcus Howard at one of the defensive end spots, along with Jarius Wynn, Demarcus Dobbs, Justin Houston and Neland Ball.

"I thought last year we did a great job of substituting, playing a lot of guys, which kept us healthy and kept us fresh down the stretch," Richt said. "A lot of players played real strong down the stretch, and unless we have a lot of injuries I think we will have that same luxury and that is exciting."

Also exciting is Georgia's prospects for fall.

After finishing No. 2, the Bulldogs are being mentioned as a possible national title contender. Richt knows the hype such talk will bring.

"What we have decided to do is focus on the moment. We can't control where we are voted preseason. We can't control a whole lot of things. We can only control how hard we work in any given matt drill, in any given weight lifting session, and spring practice," Richt said. "I think every player knows with the schedule we have year in and year out, and this season's schedule seems a little more daunting than most seasons, that its going to take an awful lot of work and preparation just to get to the point where we feel like we're even in a position to be able to compete at that level. So we're really trying to break it down to one day, one play, one drill, one moment that we can control. I think that its' just much more healthy to think that way in terms of handling it in terms of little pieces instead of chewing an entire season up."

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