Posted: 11:19 am Wednesday, August 20th, 2014

Revelations aplenty at Georgia’s open scrimmage 

By Chip Towers

To me, the biggest surprise of Georgia's preseason camp is this guy -- freshman defensive back Dominick Sanders of Tucker. He's currently slotted to be the Bulldogs' stating nickelback. (UGA photo by John Kelley)

To me, the biggest surprise of Georgia’s preseason camp is this guy — freshman defensive back Dominick Sanders of Tucker. He’s currently slotted to be the Bulldogs’ stating nickelback. (UGA photo by John Kelley)

ATHENS – OK, so yesterday was a little unusual in terms of practice coverage. Normally Georgia would conduct a workout, I’d attend the media observation period early on along with other reporters and file a quick report afterward based on what I’d seen, then write some stories based on post-practice interviews.

As coach Mark Richt said, the Bulldogs “tried something different” yesterday. They practiced at Sanford Stadium and invited the UGA student body to come to watch. Thankfully, they invited the media to come as well, but that came with several preconditions. We could not  take pictures or video, we could not put what we were seeing on Twitter or other social media and we couldn’t write about what we’d seen until after we met with Richt.

Unfortunately, we didn’t get to meet with Richt until about 8:30 last night. UGA had us conduct pre-requested player interviews before we met with Richt, and that delayed further getting the news of the day out to you guys quicker and put me firmly on deadline to get something filed for print.

That’s probably more than you care to know about the behind-the-scenes workings in the sports communications business. I just wanted to share it to explain the lack of information flow late yesterday afternoon.

So now, let me share some more of the observations from yesterday’s rare opportunity to see some extensive 11-on-11 work by the Bulldogs:

  • First, with regard to the student participation, I was surprised there weren’t more there. Of course, it was just the second day of fall semester, and Georgia didn’t give them much notice. The Bulldogs sent out an invitation via email blast Tuesday morning. They enticed them with the promise of t-shirts water and pizza. I can’t vouch all that was delivered but I assume it was. … Based on crude estimates, I would say several hundred to 1,000 students came out. But it was hard to tell. Most of the students wisely sat in the shadows at the top of the sun-scorched lower-level stands on the north side. And a relatively small crowd like that gets swallowed in a 92,000-seat facility.
  • After the practice, Richt was handed a microphone. He thanked the students for coming out and encouraged them to come early and be rowdy for the Aug. 30 season opener against Clemson. “Let’s give Clemson the same kind of welcome they gave us last year,” he said, referring to last year’s 38-35 loss at raucous Memorial Stadium. Then they watched a highlight video on the jumbo-tron.
  • The obvious news of the day was Georgia’s defensive personnel and the makeup of the secondary in particular. As I detailed in yesterday’s report, the Bulldogs’ had three rookies and a walk-on in their starting lineup.
  • Aaron Davis, a redshirt freshman walkon from Locust Grove, lined up at free safety with the No. 1 defense. Davis has been one of Georgia’s big stories for 2014 and is not your ordinary walkon. He exited spring practice as the starter at boundary corner, moved to safety early in preseason camp and presently is a starter there.
  • Shattle Fenteng was the starter at the boundary corner. This is less of a surprise. Fenteng, a graduate of Grayson High School, was rated the No. 1 cornerback in junior college when he was at Hutchinson Community College last year. There was some question if he was going to come through when he was sidelined for a week with a shoulder injury the second week of camp. But the 6-foot-2, 187-pound athlete appears to have rebounded nicely and certainly looks the part of an SEC cornerback.
  • The big surprise, certainly for me, was the presence of Dominick Sanders as the starter at the “Star,” or nickelback, position. Sanders was probably the least heralded of Georgia’s four defensive back signees. He came from Tucker as a 3-star prospect and was actually rated the 73rd-best recruit in the state of Georgia by 247Sports.com. But the buzz about this 6-foot, 187-pound athlete began back in the summer and has continued throughout camp. Interestingly, he has emerged at a position that at one time appeared to be locked down by converted tailback J.J. Green. Green’s now working at second-team safety, while also getting some work at Star.
  • To no one’s surprise, seniors Damian Swann and Corey Moore hold down the other two secondary positions. Freshmen Rico Johnson and Malkom Parrish were working with the second-string defense at cornerback and appear slated for playing time. In fact, Johnson, a converted wideout, had a pick-six late in the practice.
  • Sophomore Leonard Floyd was one of very few players in a green non-contact jersey but still participated in most of the practice. Normally the starting outside linebacker opposite of Jordan Jenkins, Floyd was instead replaced on the No. 1 defense by the Lorenzo Carter. Carter is, of course, the 6-6, 237-pound 5-star signee out of Norcross. Floyd’s backup this season was expected to be Davin Bellamy and may still be. But Bellamy will miss the first two games due to a suspension for a DUI arrest this summer. However, Richt said, “either way Lorenzo is going to play. He’s had a good camp.”
  • The defensive line situation was kind of hard to figure. I hardly ever saw the Bulldogs line up in a traditional three- or four-man front, with a nose, tackle and end. Sometimes Jenkins was in a stance at an end position and often an end like Sterling Bailey or Josh Dawson was lineup inside as a 3-technique tackle. The one consistency I saw was senior Mike Thornton was almost always the nose with the No. 1 defense and looked very quick and effective in that role. Big John Atkins also stood out and even came up with an interception off a batted pass at one point. This is going to be a very interesting group to watch under Tracy Rocker’s tutelage.
  • Offensively, I didn’t think there were that many revelations. Richt talked afterward out the offensive line still being unsettled, but it appeared pretty settled to me. Junior John Theus was entrenched at left tackle with the No. 1 unit, with sophomore Brandon Kublanow at left guard, David Andrews at center, Greg Pyke at right guard and Kolton Houston at right tackle. Your main subs appeared to be Watts Dantzler at right tackle and Mark Beard at left tackle, with Houston moving over to left guard. To me, Houston at left guard and Dantzler at right tackle looks like a more formidable SEC line. But you can be certain coach Will Friend is going to put the best five on the field.
  • Yesterday at least, Quayvon Hicks was the starter at tight end, with Jay Rome running second team and freshmen Jeb Blazevich and Jordan Davis switching in and out after that. Richt made it clear that the Bulldogs have been very pleased with what Hicks, a converted fullback, is bringing to that position as well as the hybrid H-back role they’ve built for him. He also emphasized that Rome is “fighting for playing time.”
  • Who the No. 2 quarterback is remains unresolved, based on what I saw. Redshirt sophomore Faton Bauta and redshirt freshman Brice Ramsey were fully alternating reps with the Nos. 2 and 3 offenses and I saw nothing to distinguish one as better than the other. It’ll probably come as no surprise to know that Ramsey throws a very impressive ball, while Bauta looks like he could be a real threat to run the ball.
  • I’ll also say this: Don’t sleep on Hutson Mason’s ability to move with the ball in his hands. He looks more comfortable and confident in the pocket and showed some genuine elusiveness, I thought.
  • Based on what I saw, Georgia plans to play all those tailbacks. Todd Gurley, Keith Marshall, Brendan Douglas, Sony Michel and Nick Chubb — in that order — all got carries with the Nos. 1 and 2 offenses. How that might translate to an in-game rotation, I couldn’t tell you and I’m not sure the coaches could either, at this point. I’m telling you, Michel and Chubb both look really good when it comes to quickness and vision. I can’t vouch for their grasp of the playbook, but they flat out look good carrying a football.
  • Marshall looks really good, too, like his old self. He is somebody I’ve requested to talk to the entire preseason. But I’m told he simply doesn’t want to do any interviews as he prepares for the season just eight months after major knee surgery and I respect that. Maybe he won’t have a choice but to talk after having a huge day against Clemson.
  • It was evident that kicker Marshall Morgan has improved a lot on kickoffs. He was sending every one I saw high and seven or eight yards deep in the end zone. He’s also had a great camp on placement kicks. He was 9-for-9 in Friday night’s scrimmage, with another plus-50 field goal. Looks to be quite the weapon for the Dogs this year.
  • I was not very impressed with Collin Barber’s punting Tuesday, or Adam Erickson, for that matter. Barber had regained his starting job from Erickson after losing it the last half of this past season. But it looks to me like he still has some kinks to work out.
  • Freshman Isaiah McKenzie was the first up on kickoff returns but second on punt returns behind sophomore Reggie Davis. Even though the Bulldogs weren’t tackling live on special teams, you could see the electricity everybody refers to when the little guy from Fort Lauderdale starts up the field. He’s going to be a fun one to watch.

So that’s a little bit more of a comprehensive review than I was able to give under last night’s harried conditions. Feel free to ask some questions in the comments section and I’ll try to provide an answer.

On that note, remember that I’ll be conducting a live “UGA Mailbag Chat” — brought to you by Kroger — here on the website tomorrow at 11:30 a.m. And I’ll be doing that every Thursday throughout the season.

See you then.

156 comments
greenedefense
greenedefense

Mathews, Clemons, and Wiggins will be remembered with laughter by the 3rd game.

greenedefense
greenedefense

Ok Chip, you have just told the evil genius all that he needs to know!

birdrow
birdrow

Wow, their "Stating Nickel Back"  that is impressive.  So does that mean that he can pronounce the words Nickel Back better than the other kids, or that he is from Georgia, and thus a "Stating Nickel Back"?

TrueDawg1986
TrueDawg1986

Chip...Great write up. A friend who has been at several practices keeps saying how impressive Blazevich has been...much more so than Rome. Keeps saying his hands, routes and speed remind more of Bennett than of Lynch. Your thoughts?

DawgGoneIt
DawgGoneIt

So am I right on this chip? The depth chart?


DE: James Deloach

NG: Mike Thornton

DE: Sterling Bailey


OLB: Leonard Floyd

ILB: Ramik Wilson

ILB: Amarlo Hererra

OLB: Jordan Jenkins


CB: Shattle Fenteng

FS: Aaron Davis

SS: Corey Moore

CB: Damian Swann

Nickel: Dominick Sanders


(I know this is 12 men and not 11 but I included Sanders since we could run a lot of nickel)

DawgGoneIt
DawgGoneIt

I'm so excited! I can hardly wait! I think this could be a special year as long as Hutson Mason doesn't turn into Joe Cox we'll be alright! I think this defense will surprise a lot of people next Saturday and beyond. I like the secondary. Aaron Davis, good for him to earn a starting position as a walkon. Hard work beats talent. I think Fenteng will shine at one corner spot and Pruitt tabbed Swann as "ready to play winning football" so maybe he turns a corner. Corey Moore gives us that veteran presence at safety and that freshman Sanders just might turn into a star. Let's go!

DawginCO
DawginCO

I think that the good folks at Sanford Stadium should make use of the new relaxed rules on use of the PA and find several great soundbites of a Bulldog growling and maybe even the sound of one actually biting and blast it before each snap the opponents take between the hedges.  That might rattle a few folks.


Talking about pumping up the intimidation factor.

Phillipdj
Phillipdj

Dang good update Chip. Impressive.

Reaganite
Reaganite

It's Saturday in Athens and that kindred spirit with a heart warming, raspy voice is saying -


””Glory, glory to ole’ Georgia. Heroes have graced the field before you. Men with hearts, bodies and minds for which the entire Bulldawg Nation can be justifiably proud. The tradition of unbridled excellence demonstrated by these individuals and many others spans more than a full century. And now a new breed of Bulldawg stands ready to take the field of Battle. To assume the reigns of the Georgia program. To continue that tradition. Understanding that there is no tradition more worthy of envy. No institution worthy of such loyalty as The University of Georgia. As we prepare for another meeting between the hedges let all the Bulldawg faithful rally behind the men who now wear the red and black with two words. Two simple words that express the sentiments of the entire Bulldawg Nation … GO DAWGS”

ALB-Dawg
ALB-Dawg

It's a tough schedule.  We have a first year starting QB, a first year D-coordinator and coaches, and a patched together d-backfield.  Lots of offensive weapons, but D wins championships.  I will say this, this is going to be an exciting team to watch. I am impressed with the sense of camaraderie and  teamwork reflected in interviews.  Who knows? Maybe the D will rise to the occasion.  The Dawgs won some big ones last season, and the D looked like the Keystone Cops.

AtlDawg27
AtlDawg27

Chip, Not a mention of Quincy Mauger anywhere and that's alright by me!

Birdhair
Birdhair

Was not very impressed with Collin Barber’s punting Tuesday, or Adam Erickson, for that matter. Barber had regained his starting job from Erickson after losing it the last half of this past season. But it looks to me like he still has some kinks to work out

-Chip Towers

I think you need to suggest to Mark Birdhair Richt that during his walk around the intramural fields picking up twigs for his nest that he should take note of the unreal soccer talent walking around and find a real punter.

Dawg143
Dawg143

Thanks for the report, good job. Sanders, thanks to his brother Chris who is playing at Baylor. Having nothing but great things to say about Richt and Georgia. He encouraged  him to be a Dawg. As with Davis great story and many Dawg greats in the past, personally evaluating talent and not just going by how many stars they have, pays off in big ways! Thomas Davis, Terry Hoage, David Pollack were all 2 stars.These U.G.A. Coaches have a great eye for these sleepers,coach them up, and get them ready. As in John Ledbetter's brother. They gave no auto scholarship until they saw what he could do and his  potential.With the many great players we are so glad to have coming, it's always good to have some of the lesser regarded rise up and become outstanding players with them.Richt has had several 3 star linemen be starters in the N.F.L. And has more former player starts in the last 5 years in the N.F.L. than anyone. Only Alabama is close. Go Dawgs!

greenedefense
greenedefense

@DawgGoneIt Hutson Mason did more in 2 games against Tech and Nebraska than Joe Cox did in his entire career at UGA!

DawginCO
DawginCO

@DawgGoneIt Swann got a bad rap last year.  He was burned trying cover up for the young guys mistakes.  You'll see what I mean.  Pruitt will yank him if he tries to cover up their mistakes this year.

greenedefense
greenedefense

@DawginCO I think they need to take half of the student game tickets and sell them to the general public! This way all the seats will be full during the games!

gtcaryd
gtcaryd

@Reaganite " No tradition more worthy of envy" ............two words........Good Grief!

FlatTire
FlatTire

@Reaganite  I wonder when we can see another Herschel highlight instead of the Bill Bates run; he had much better runs than that; and I think that highlight has been played enough

TampGator1
TampGator1

@Reaganite 


Dang....after reading that, I want to head to Iraq and fight ISIS all by myself.  Probably would win by a field goal and an atomic bomb. Seriously, why does not the civilized world just ask for a "get out of jail" card and just nuke the entire Middle East and start an entirely new civilization over there.....excuse me.....create one to replace all the 13th century, uncivilized morons over there now.....with absolutely no religion allowed in the area of any kind for 200 years.     

TampGator1
TampGator1

@Reaganite 


Dang....after reading that, I want to head to Iraq and fight ISIS all by myself.  Probably would win by a field goal and an atomic bomb.

ARdawg
ARdawg

@ALB-Dawg Honestly, I don't think the D can be much worse than we've seen the last 2 years, maybe much longer

DawginCO
DawginCO

@ALB-Dawg Well the reason for the fire drill thankfully left town.  The D will be better.  The question is, will it be good enough?  I'm not worried about Mason.  If we stay relatively healthy on offense, they will score points.   The question, as it has been for several years, is the defense going to stop people when they have to?  Will the defense allow our offense to provide some cushion?  If they can reduce the PPG to 21-22 then the Dawgs will have double digit wins and a probable date in the SEC CG.  They have to win that game to make the playoffs.  That is a given.

dawginbama
dawginbama

@AtlDawg27 watch out for mauger at the star position.  he will play a lot.  don't really understand everyones angst against mauger.  he looked better than the golden boy matthews all last season, and he took his starting position toward the end of the year.

dawginbama
dawginbama

@Birdhair who is the last soccer player to step on a football field and punt?  place kick... yes

punt... no

dawginbama
dawginbama

@Dawg143 you should thank pruitt.  he wasn't offered until we hired him

DawginCO
DawginCO

@KeepOnSmilingWetWillie  Yep.  They play tiger roars don't they?  Imagine being on the field with a Bulldog growling at 100db?  You can't tell that wouldn't get under your skin.

greenedefense
greenedefense

@ARdawg @ALB-Dawg I think this will be a better D than the 2012 bunch! They will be good! They will be able to stop the run better than the 2012 squad!

DawginCO
DawginCO

@ARdawg  The 2011 defense was passable.  2012 underachieved and well 2013, we'll just let the stats speak for that train wreck.  Before that the 2008 was ok but not enough.  2007 was pretty stout later in the year.  I'd take that defense to go with this offense.  Beyond that you have to go back to 2005.  I don't think we'll get that this year but maybe I am just tempering my expectations too heavily.

Reaganite
Reaganite

@DawginCO A good running game will be a huge boost in defense this season.  UGA will absolutely own the clock this season, 5-6-7 yards and a cloud of dust. 

With the defense not being on the field as much this season they will perform better.  Pruitt and company will make great adjustments.  More opponents will be playing from behind so our young secondary will be tested but they will pass. In predictable passing situations the D-front will put a lot of pressure on opposing QB's. 

gtcaryd
gtcaryd

@DawginCO Might want to hope Richt and Bobo don't take there foot off of the gas when they get a decent lead, they have been known to do that.

DawginCO
DawginCO

@dawginbama @Birdhair What do you expect from a troll?  What a waste of blog space.

Phillipdj
Phillipdj

Dawginbama took the words from me. He's exactly right.

TrueDawg1986
TrueDawg1986

@gtcaryd What business is that of yours TROLL? You GED diploma toting GaTech Pretending UGA Obsessed TROLLS should be over on the dead insects page talking about that high school offense and pathetic defense....not over here demonstrating your ignorance.

Oh, by the way....learn English..."take THEIR"...not "there"....LMAO....mama must have gone nuts when you were a child!

DawginCO
DawginCO

@gtcaryd  That's probably my biggest pet peeve with our offensive brain trust.  Richt believes in the old school " don't humiliate your opponent" sportsmanship model.  I used to think that way too.  But I soon realized that telling your opponent that in effect "we don't have give you our best to beat you" is as humiliating as continuing to score.  And you are also asking your players to not give their best as well.


I say just tell everybody that it is your offense's job to score points and play as hard as they can until the clock shows zeroes.  Now you may want to put your 2nd string in there to get them some experience but that doesn't mean running the ball up the gut 3 plays ina row and punting.  Let them run your regular offense and if the other team can't stop it, so be it.

DawginCO
DawginCO

@KeepOnSmilingWetWillie  Give me a break.  Friend asked and Pruitt jumped at the chnace.  Richt  worked out the deal in a couple of days.  Sorry but Mark Richt is not the doofus you always make him out to be.  Go ask Coach Saban about him.  I think you'll hear a little bit different story than you always paint.

TrueDawg1986
TrueDawg1986

Most have been flops...ESPECIALLY at QB and RB!

gtcaryd
gtcaryd

@TrueDawg1986 By the way, stroll down and see how many likes i have from dawg fans and see how many you have. You see nobody respects anyone who would make light of someones dead mother, i bet they wish you would just go away. Stay classy.

gtcaryd
gtcaryd

@TrueDawg1986 I was discussing football sally, why don't you try to come up with a new original thoughts. Bye stupid.