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Chip Towers

Ten@10: Brendan Douglas trying not to be Dogs’ forgotten man at tailback

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THE TEN AT 10

ATHENS – After a long hiatus, “The Ten at 10″ is back. No fooling.

The Ten is an aggregation blog that was developed to keep Georgia Bulldogs’ fans informed about everything that’s going on in UGA athletics during the warm months. We all live for football in the fall and basketball during the winter, but when this time of year comes around, you need 10 items just to get around to everything that’s going on. As ever, there are a ton of things happening on Georgia’s athletic grounds.

Of course, spring football tops that list. So with that, let’s get to The Ten . . .

Georgia Football Spring Practice1. When the conversation turns to Georgia’s tailback situation, you generally don’t hear a lot of chatter about the guy who is getting the most reps in spring camp.

That’d be sophomore Brendan Douglas. He’s currently No. 2 on the Bulldogs’ depth chart behind a fellow named Todd Gurley. But while Gurley is getting more action than most anticipated this spring, it is the 5-foot-11, 220-pound Douglas that is getting the majority of snaps when Georgia “goes live” in practice.

“It’s a lot of reps, but it’s going to be good for me in the end,” said Douglas, who played in 12 games as a freshman backup last season. “Todd’s with the ones most of the time and he’s doing a good job and staying healthy, so that’s good.”

Georgia is being understandably cautious with the injury-prone Gurley. He missed three complete games and big chunks of three others due to thigh, ankle and hip injuries as a sophomore last season. He also sat on the sidelines for the Bulldogs’ annual mat drills in February as he recovered from unspecified “leg problems.”

But to his credit, Gurley answered the call of offensive coordinator Mike Bobo and has been on the field for every practice this spring. He even got some work in Georgia’s first scrimmage this past Saturday at Sanford Stadium. He had 14 yards on three rushing attempts and caught two passes for 28 yards.

“I think he’s feeling good,” said Douglas, who led the way with 36 yards on 8 carries. “He certainly looks good.”

2. Of course, it will get much more interesting in the offensive backfield later this summer when three more tailbacks join the competition.

First and foremost, it’s becoming increasingly clear that sophomore Keith Marshall wants to be in the mix. Despite coming off of double knee surgeries, Marshall is already on the practice field running through most of the drills and unit work. At one point there was discussion that Marshall might consider a redshirt year to better recover from his injuries. But he’s proceeding as if he plans to be part of the plans.

Meanwhile, a pair of 5-star signees will be arriving in Athens in June in Nick Chubb of Cedartown and Sony Michel of Ft. Lauderdale. In fact, Michel was at one of the Bulldogs’ practices this past week and physically looked ready to compete. Both those kids signed with UGA with the intention of contending for playing time right away.

Douglas is excited about seeing what the young bucks can do as well. He has met them both and been duly impressed. But he also wants to remind people that he knows a thing or two about playing the position, too. He had 517 all-purpose yards and scored four touchdowns last season.

“It’s definitely better than it was entering camp last year,” Douglas said of his mastery of the offense. “Just knowing things and knowing the plays and having the experience that I had in the season has definitely helped me out a lot.”

As for the growing competition in August: “We’ll see,” Douglas said. “Camp will come around and we’ll just have to compete and see what happens and see what Coach wants to do with it.”

3. The first season under coach Scott Stricklin has gotten off to a bit of a slow start for the Diamond Dogs (16-12-1, 3-5-1 SEC). But the future looks bright as they have one of the league’s hottest young pitchers in their midst.

Freshman right-hander Robert Tyler earned SEC freshman of the week honors for the second time this season after mowing down Texas A&M with eight scoreless innings to record a 6-1 win this past Saturday. The 6-4, 210-pound product of Cordele did not walk a batter, scattered seven singles and registered six strikeouts.

And while he heads into this weekend’s series at Missouri with a modest 2-2 record, it’s not from a lack of good pitching. Tyler leads the club with a 1.54 ERA in eight appearances including five starts. In 41 innings pitched, he has 27 strikeouts and seven walks and opponents are batting .184 against him. Tyler has a 2.08 ERA in three SEC starts and they have all been Top 25 opponents.

Tyler earned his first SEC honor in early March after pitching a total of nine scoreless innings against Georgia Tech and Western Carolina. His next start will be Saturday afternoon against Missouri (13-13 overall, 3-6 SEC). The Bulldogs open a three-game series there Friday night at 7 p.m.

Jarryd Wallace trains on the UGA track prior to competing in the 2012 Paralympic Games in London. (AJC photo by Brant Sanderlin)

Jarryd Wallace trains on the UGA track prior to competing in the 2012 Paralympic Games in London. (AJC photo by Brant Sanderlin)

4. Anybody who has read this blog regularly knows I’m an admirer of Jarryd Wallace. I know him as the son of UGA women’s tennis coach Jeff Wallace and an Oconee County neighbor. But the rest of the world knows him as a Paralympian and world champion. If you don’t know who he is, you can read all about him on his website ALegInFaith.com and I wrote a piece on him a couple of years ago for The AJC.

Anyway, Wallace is always helping out good causes and he’ll be doing that again this coming weekend. Wallace is serving as host of the “Chick-fil-A Half” , a half-marathon in Athens. In fact, if you’re thinking about running in the 45th AJC Peachtree Road Race or just getting serious about running distances, this might be an excellent opportunity to hear from a running expert.

Wallace will be conducting Q&A with runners and guest to talk about how to train and prepare on Friday evening at 6 p.m. at the Classic Center. Before his leg amputation four years ago, Wallace was a state champion distance runner. And, of course, he has perfected many training techniques as a world-champion para-athlete.

The Chick-fil-A Half is a family-friendly race that offers cash prizes as well as free Chick-fil-A chicken sandwich meals for a year. Prizes will also be offered for the best cow costumes. You actually can still sign up for Saturday’s race up until midnight Tuesday night RIGHT HERE.

5. Not sure if folks have been paying attention to the job Wayne Norton has been doing with the Bulldogs’ track program, but if you haven’t, you should. The women’s team is coming off the second-best NCAA indoor finish in school history (a tie for third) with a program record 40.5 points in mid-March.

And it would appear that the future is bright as  all four of its individual national champions over the past two years have been freshmen: 2013 Indoor – Shaunae Miller (400m); 2013 outdoor – Freya Jones (javelin); 2014 Indoor – Leontia Kallenou (high jump) and Kendell Williams (pentathlon, World Junior and collegiate record score of 4,635).

6. Another program with its arrow pointing up is UGA women’s soccer. Coach Steve Holeman and his staff have been wreaking some havoc on the recruiting trail, and that trail extends overseas.

The Bulldogs signed nine players on Signing Day – -including three players from the U.S. U-18 National Team pool (Delaney Fechalos, Natalie Goodman and Becca Rasmussen) and one player from her country’s U-19 squad (Shayna Raekelboom of Belgium) — and that group was ranked No. 10 in the nation and No. 3 in the SEC. But Georgia as since added three more top-notch prospects to the class: former Sweden U-19 goalkeeper Louise Hogrell, who will battle for the starting goalkeeper spot; Eli Martinez (Florida native) from the U-20 Honduras team; and Alex Pallo, another Florida kid who is a standout on the club and ODP scene down there. In all, the class includes five players with international experience.

Rasmussen is definitely one to watch in the group. The Colorado native is one of three freshmen already on campus and played with the U.S. U-18 team in the Ten Nations Tournament in Spain, scoring a goal and earning a starting spot. She then had four assists last Saturday in Georgia’s recent spring wins over Wake Forest and Mercer.

Meanwhile, these decorated freshmen are joining an already competitive team. The Bulldogs have three seniors, six juniors and 15 sophomores coming back from last season’s squad. A 3-1 win over Wake Forest in a spring game this was definitely a good omen. The Demon Deacons are a perennial NCAA tournament team.

7. Georgia’s No. 7-ranked men’s tennis team had its nine-match winning streak halted by No. 12 Texas A&M in College Station, Texas, this past Saturday. The loss came just 16 days after the Bulldogs knocked off then-No. 1-ranked Ohio State. But the teams this weekend played a special made-for-TV format in which doubles was competed only if needed after singles. In a normal dual match the teams conduct three doubles competitions to determine one doubles point.

The Bulldogs (12-6, 7-1 SEC) remain in a tie with Kentucky for first place in the conference with the Aggies (17-5, 6-1) close behind. But fear not, Georgia is still expected to be among the favorites when the NCAA Championships return to Athens May 16-26.

8. Talk about disheartening. The UGA equestrian team had to give up the SEC Championship trophy over a half-hour after having it presented to them at conference championships this past Saturday in Blythewood, S.C.

The No. 2-ranked Bulldogs reached the finals and faced off against the No. 1-ranked South Carolina Gamecocks in their backyard. At the end of the competition, Georgia was declared the winner by the slimmest of margins: 136.5 to 136. But that was based on the “unofficial scoring” on the scoreboard. Afterward, the judges convened and determined there had been a scoring error. Turns out the error worked in South Carolina’s favor and the Gamecocks were declared champions by the “raw score” of 4,040.45-4,036.75. UGA literally had to hand over the hardware to the Gamecocks.

“The scores that are posted are unofficial scores that the judges have to keep tabulated until the very end of the event. Ninety-nine percent of the time they are correct,” UGA head coach Meghan Boenig told The Red and Black. “There was a point-tabulation mistake in the last event with the scores. There was a change in the scores and we didn’t find out until about half an hour after the meet. I believe we won the SEC championships. We are ecstatic, then, we realized, later, that we weren’t. It was a very tough pill to have to swallow.”

The Bulldogs will have a chance for avenge the loss. On Monday, they received a No. 3 seed for the NCEA National Championships, which will be held April 17-19 in Waco, Texas. South Carolina is the No. 1 seed.

9. Hard to believe they’ll be conducting the annual Liz Murphey Golf Tournament at UGA for the 42nd consecutive year this coming weekend. And after all these years, they’re changing the format.

They’re switching from the traditional 54-hole stroke play tournament to 18 holes of stroke play followed by three rounds of match play. That’s a precursor to the switch to a stroke-play/match-play format at the 2015 NCAA Championships next season. It’s the way the men have been doing it for a few years now.

One of the oldest continuously-played competitions in women’s athletics, the Liz Murphey this year will feature 16 teams from all over the country, including five from the SEC (UGA, Alabama, Auburn, Mississippi State and Texas A&M). Here’s another interesting dynamic: No. 1-ranked Southern Cal will be in the field. That’s the former team of current Georgia coach Josh Brewer, whose Lady Dogs are presently ranked 50th by Golfweek.

Stroke play begins Friday with three match-play rounds being competed Saturday and Sunday.

Stafford-Hall(@KellybHall)

Stafford-Hall wedding in plans.

10. This & that: Hey, did you see that Detroit Lions’ quarterback Matt Stafford got engaged to his longtime girlfriend Kelly Hall recently? They met at Georgia and she was a UGA cheerleader.  … The sixth-ranked Georgia gymnastics team will be the No. 1 seed in the NCAA Athens Regional meet on Saturday at 4 p.m. The field in order of seeding includes No. 7-ranked Michigan, No. 18 Central Michigan, No. 22 Ohio State, N.C. State and Rutgers. … Washington State hired Ernie Kent as its men’s basketball coach on Monday. The Cougars were said to have contacted Georgia’s Mark Fox about their vacancy, though that hasn’t been confirmed. … The 13th-ranked UGA softball team improved to 30-5 (6-3 SEC) when Alex Hugo hit her NCAA-leading 15th home run on the way to a 6-2 win over the No. 16 Missouri on Sunday. Now the Bulldogs play host to arch rival Georgia Tech (19-11, 8-8 ACC) on Wednesday at 6 p.m. … The Georgia men’s swimming team placed fifth at the NCAA Championships on Saturday to  its second-best finish ever at the national meet. Only the third-place Bulldogs in 1997 had a better effort at the NCAAs. Georgia now has finished in the top 10 six out of seven years and 15 times overall. Highlighting the meet was sophomore Chase Kalisz repeating as 200-yard IM national champion.

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