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Ten@10: Merritt Hall’s injury creates shake-up at fullback

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Merritt Hall (43) has proven to be an extremely effective lead blocker for the Bulldogs. He is currently sidelined with an undisclosed injury. (UGA photo by Ted Mayer)

Merritt Hall (43) has proven to be an extremely effective lead blocker for the Bulldogs. He is currently sidelined with an undisclosed injury. (UGA photo by Ted Mayer)

THE TEN AT 10:

1. Georgia’s fullback situation is starting to get real interesting.

Junior Merritt Hall is the undisputed starter at that position and his unique abilities there is what allowed the Bulldogs to develop an H-back/tight end role for Quayvon Hicks. A former walkon out of the Wesleyan School in Peachtree Corners, Hall has played in 25 games at Georgia with seven starts.

But Hall is suddenly sidelined, and while it may have seemed like small, insignificant injury news when it first appeared on Monday, there are indications Hall could be out for an extended period.

Georgia has not said what the nature of Hall’s injury is, but one can only hope it’s not another concussion. Hall has been out at least twice at UGA with concussions. Once a player suffers a certain number of those during his career, it raises the medical protocol. If it’s deemed a chronic situation, he could be asked to give up football.

Nobody’s saying that’s the scenario Hall is currently facing – UGA is not providing injury reports this season and limiting comments on the subject — but the Bulldogs made some big moves Monday at fullback.

2. First, Taylor Maxey, a 5-foot-10, 220-pound senior out of North Oconee High School, moved up to work with the No. 1 offense on Monday. To date, Maxey’s playing time has been to one game against Georgia Southern in 2012.

Secondly,  Detric Bing-Dukes was moved to fullback from linebacker on Monday. The 6-foot, 232-pound freshman signed with Georgia out of Tucker High as a 4-star defensive prospect. His UGA bio does not mention him having any experience in that position. But he was getting plenty of work on Monday, and lots of attention from the coaching staff.

Georgia has two other fullbacks on the roster in walkons Cameron Faulkner (5-11, 240, Sr.) and Dominic Bryan (6-0, 236, RSo.). Neither has played in a game.

3. Of course, the Bulldogs have other options as well. They could decide to convert others to the position. If freshman tailbacks Nick Chubb and Sony Michel continue to show promise and prove to be quick studies with the playbook, Georgia could consider moving Brendan Douglas to fullback. The 6-foot, 213-pound sophomore is currently running third-string behind Todd Gurley and Keith Marshall.

Then there is always the prospect of utilizing Hicks again at fullback. The 6-2, 257-pound junior has worked almost exclusively with the tight ends in camp, but always was intended to be cross-trained at the position.

Hicks started six games at fullback last season and proved very effective as a runner, averaging 7.2 yards on 10 carries and scoring a 37-yard touchdown against Clemson. But he struggled as a lead blocker, which is the primary role of the position.

Running backs coach Bryan McClendon (R) has liked what he's seen from freshman tailback Sony Michel. (UGA photo by Bryan McClendon).

Running backs coach Bryan McClendon (R) has liked what he’s seen from freshman tailback Sony Michel. (UGA photo by Steven Colquitt).

4. As for Chubb and Michel, the freshmen have made quite a splash during their short time on Georgia’s team. They’ve been impressive on the football field so far and, speaking to the media for the first time on Monday, they were saying all the right things as well.

Now comes the hard part. How do the Bulldogs blend in these tremendously talented individuals at a position in which they already are so bountifully blessed? Georgia seeks to get at least 20 touches a game for Gurley, which doesn’t leave a lot left over for Marshall and Douglas, never mind the newbies.

For what it’s worth, the two freshmen don’t seem too concerned about it.

“The relationship is great,” Michel, a 5-star recruit out of Fort Lauderdale, said of his running mates. “It’s one brotherhood. We’re all one family. I don’t think carries matter in that running back room. We’re all here to help the team.”

Said Chubb: “I guess we’ll just play behind them and play with them and keep them going and, you know, keep pushing them and make them better and them the same for us.”

Both players also said they’re getting work on special teams, so they figure to get onto the field somehow.

As for the move of Bing-Dukes to fullback, Chubb and Michel like it. The three have become close friends since arriving at UGA this summer.

“It was a fast change,” Chubb said of Bing-Dukes joining the running backs. “Me, him and Sony are real close, so bringing him in just made it better chemistry wise. We hang out, us three and some other boys. So it’s great to get him in the room with us.”

Chubb said Bing-Dukes “was switching in and out, offense and defense,” on Monday.

5. The positive developments at tight end for Georgia are helping keep the fullback situation flexible. At this point, the Bulldogs have to be pleased about what they’re getting out of starter Jay Rome at tight end. The 6-6, 250-pound junior’s availability was a concern coming off winter foot surgery. But Rome has been able to be on the field for most of Georgia’s practices in unlimited status, including this past Saturday’s scrimmage, in which he led the tight ends with three catches for 39 yards.

Meanwhile, the Bulldogs like what they’ve been seeing from freshman Jeb Blazevich. The 4-star prospect from Charlotte is slowly starting to catch on in camp.

“The technique especially, the footwork, has been (difficult),” said the 6-5, 232-pound Blazevich, who had 32 catches five touchdowns as a senior at Charlotte Christian. “That’s something coming out of high school I’ve figured out I’m not very good at. And I’m thinking too much sometimes. That’s something Coach (John Lilly) has been telling me about. I just need to slow it down and do what I need to do.”

6. Blazevich is one of two tight ends the Bulldogs brought in this season. Junior Joseph Ledbetter is the other. Ledbetter transferred to Georgia to play football after playing basketball exclusively for the past four years, including the last two at Pfeiffer University and the two years before that at Oak Hill Academy and Tucker High.

Speaking to media for the first time on Monday, Ledbetter said he feels “kind of lost (as a football player) but I’m getting the hang of it slowly.” That’s understandable given the circumstances. He has three years to play two, so a redshirt year very likely.

In the meantime, everybody wants to know whether Ledbetter’s presence in Athens will dissuade his younger brother – highly-touted defensive line prospect Jonathan Ledbetter – from his commitment to Alabama.

“I would hope so,” Ledbetter said. “It’d be nice to play with him. But that’d be something you have to talk to him about.”

Of course, being brothers is certainly no guarantee they’ll want to play together. It was not enough to get Dillon Lee to come to UGA from Buford to play with his older brother Dallas Lee. Dillon Lee is now a junior linebacker at Alabama.

7. In case you missed it, there’s a lovely in-house video feature on Georgia flanker Malcom Mitchell posted on georgiadogs.com. It’s about how Mitchell met a middle-aged woman at a Barnes & Noble bookstore earlier this year and became a member of what until then was an all-ladies book club. CLICK HERE to watch it now.

UGA alum and ABC News correspondent Amy Robach will be the featured speaker at UGA's Suits & Sneakers Gala on Saturday.

UGA alum and ABC News correspondent Amy Robach will be the featured speaker at UGA’s Suits & Sneakers Gala on Saturday.

8. Tickets are still available through Friday for UGA’s fifth annual American Cancer Society Suits & Sneakers Gala. Hosted by basketball coach Mark Fox and his wife Cindy this Saturday night, the event has raised more than $500,000 since 2010 through live and silent auctions and tickets for the dinner and dancing event at Stegeman Coliseum.

For the second year in a row, ESPN’s Rece Davis will emcee the dinner and fellow sportscaster Brad Nessler and coach Mark Richt will be special guests. But most of the buzz is about this year’s featured speaker — ABC News anchor Amy Robach.

Robach is a UGA alumnae and who was very publicly diagnosed with breast cancer last fall and since has undergone a double mastectomy and completed chemotherapy treatments – all while continuing to fulfill her job responsibilities. You can read about her incredible journey HERE.

9. Five players with connections to the Georgia golf program are competing in the U.S. Amateur Championship this week at the Atlanta Athletic Club.

Senior Mookie DeMoss, junior Lee McCoy, incoming freshman Zach Healy and former Bulldogs Butler Melnyk and Keith Mitchell all qualified. The field of 312 players was playing 18 holes of stroke play on Monday and Tuesday before it gets cut to the low 64. Six rounds of match play begin on Wednesday and the championship concludes with a scheduled 36-hole championship match on Sunday.

Vinny Giles is the only Bulldog to win the U.S. Amateur (1972).

10. This & that:  I mentioned last week the recent graduations of former Bulldogs Brandon Boykin and Jarvis Hayes, who came back to UGA to finish their degrees. I failed to mention that five football players off this past year’s team also walked in the summer commencement ceremonies. They were Brandon Burrows, Marc Deas, Kenarious Gates, T.J. Stripling, and Parker Welch. … Congratulations to Georgia sophomore Lindsay Cheek, who won the limited non-professional division of the Dixie Reining Horse Show with a score of 72 this week. … For what it’s worth, college football prognosticator Phil Steele has projected Georgia will end up in the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl this year, where it will face Michigan State. Steele makes picks for all the bowl games, including the college football playoff finalists.

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