THE TEN AT 10:
1. Georgia’s ballyhooed freshman tailbacks Nick Chubb and Sony Michel will both play against Clemson this Saturday. How many actual rushing attempts they get – if any – remains to be seen.
Offensive coordinator Mike Bobo, echoing what running backs coach Bryan McClendon said on 680 the Fan’s “Bulldog Roundtable” radio show this past Friday, confirmed that all five scholarship tailbacks in Georgia’s offensive arsenal will get playing time in the opener.
“The game will dictate touches and plays,” Bobo said. “That’s really at any skill position. All five are doing well but we’ll know more (closer to the game) who will feel comfortable about playing in the game and who will get reps and touches.”
Junior Todd Gurley is, of course, Georgia’s undisputed starter at tailback. He’s backed up by junior Keith Marshall, whose availability is no longer in doubt after a remarkable recovery from knee surgery. Sophomore Brendan Douglas had the second-most carries on the team (84) as a fill-in when Gurley and Marshall were out with injuries last season.
Bobo said he can guarantee Chubb and Michel will get into Saturday’s game because they’re in the Bulldogs’ special teams plans. Michel and former American Heritage High teammate Isaiah McKenzie are slated to return kickoffs, and Chubb is on the two-deep of several special teams units, including punt coverage.
“All five are on special teams and all five will play,” Bobo said. “Offensive snaps are still to be determined.”
2. Probably underplayed during the preseason has been Marshall’s unwavering presence on the practice field. Just eight months ago, Marshall was actually in a wheelchair having had both of his knees operated on. But not only did he manage to get through the entire preseason camp without a setback, he did so the last two weeks under unlimited, non-protected status.
“I feel good,” Marshall said after Monday’s practice. “I made it through healthy. It was a blessing not having any setbacks or anything. So I’m happy. I’ve been working hard and I feel like I’m on track to be better than I was.”
Marshall has been just short of spectacular when he has been healthy. He has 1,005 career rushing yards and a 5.8 yards per carry average. He averaged 6.5 yards per attempt in 2012 when he also had touchdown runs of 52, 62, 72 and 75 yards.
3. Clemson has a decidedly different situation in its offensive backfield. The Tigers lost their three leading rushers from last year’s squad with the graduations of running back Roderick McDowell (78.8 ypg) and quarterback Tajh Boyd (30.8) and last week’s season-ending foot injury to junior Zac Brooks.
Clemson also is without redshirt freshman Tyshon Dye of Elberton, who remains sidelined following Achilles surgery. That leaves the Tigers with redshirt senior D.J. Howard and C.J. Davidson, who averaged 31 yards between them a year ago, and redshirt freshmen Wayne Gallman and Adam Choice, both native Georgians (Loganville and Thomasville, respectively).
Howard and Davidson were listed 1-2 on the depth chart that Clemson released Monday. But most seem to think Gallman, a 6-1, 205-pound graduate of Grayson High, will eventually take over at the position. He had a game-high 61 yards on nine carries and two receptions for 28 yards in the spring game.
4. The biggest news out of Georgia’s camp on Monday was the exclusion of linebacker Ramik Wilson’s name from the starters listed on the depth chart released on Monday. Wilson is, of course, a senior and consensus preseason All-SEC first team selection who led the SEC in tackles (133) a year ago. Tim Kimbrough, a sophomore who is currently occupying the Mike linebacker spot with the No. 1 defense, has five career tackles.
First-year linebackers coach Mike Ekeler, speaking before the depth chart was posted, insists that the Bulldogs aren’t trying to play any motivational head games with Wilson.
“We’ve got a lot of capable guys, a lot of guys who’ve been out there practicing the whole time,” he said. “The way Coach (Jeremy) Pruitt talks, it’s a week-by-week deal. You don’t rest on your laurels around here. You’ve got to earn it every week, every day in practice and we evaluate every rep in practice.”
Wilson missed nearly two weeks in the middle of camp with a concussion. Normally missing time due to injury won’t cost a player his injury. But Wilson has been slow to get back up to speed mentally and physically since returning. And Kimbrough is no also-ran at the position. He was a consensus 4-star prospect and considered one of the top players in Indiana when he signed with Georgia out of Indianapolis’ Warren Central High.
“I think competition brings out the best in everyone,” Ekeler said. “It adds a little bit of pressure, which is good. Pressure’s a good thing.”
5. Speaking of Ekeler, he and Clemson defensive coordinator Brent Venables are good friends.
“He was a teammate,” said Ekeler, who joined the Georgia staff after coaching at Southern Cal this past season. “We played together at Kansas State. I worked with him for a couple of years while I was at Oklahoma. He’s a good guy.”
Ekeler did not have anything to say about the video Clemson recently released of Venables doing yoga. “I don’t want to comment on that,” he said with a laugh.
6. We’ll be keeping a close eye on Chris Conley heading into Saturday’s game. The shoulder injury that has dogged the Bulldogs’ leading receiver the last half of preseason camp is potentially serious. Conley is dealing with a labrum issue, the extent of which is unknown outside the training room. But such injuries are always subject to the whims of contact and awkward landings during games.
After sitting out a couple of practices last week, Conley returned to the field on Monday under the protection of a green, non-contact jersey. That’s an encouraging sign for the Bulldogs, but the real test will come during the course of battle against Clemson.
7. Georgia’s situation at receiver is already somewhat precarious. The AJC’s Tanya Sichynsky did a nice job of illustrating in a recent story the extent of Malcolm Mitchell’s latest knee injury. The junior wideout had to attend a class on campus Monday in a metal knee brace and kept the leg elevated while sitting on the front row. Obviously he won’t play against Clemson on Saturday and his status for South Carolina on Sept. 13 is uncertain. With Mitchell’s history of injury, expect the Bulldogs to slow-play his comeback.
Meanwhile, junior Justin Scott-Wesley will also miss Saturday’s game. He, too, had knee surgery last year, but he will have to sit out against Clemson per disciplinary suspension. Scott-Wesley has been able to participate in most of Georgia’s preseason practices but is not 100 percent healthy, according to receivers coach Tony Ball. That was before he suffered an ankle injury in practice late last week.
The good news is Georgia has depth at receiver. Michael Bennett is solid as the starter at split end and will be backed up by surging senior Jonathan Rumph on Saturday. Sophomores Reggie Davis and Blake Tibbs are expected to get the majority reps at Mitchell’s flanker position, and walkon Kenneth Towns has out-played some scholarship players to earn backup status at Conley’s “Y” position.
Georgia’s situation will look a lot better if it gets back Scott-Wesley for South Carolina as expected. Also having Mitchell and Conley coming out of Game 1 healthy would be a boon.
8. The Bulldogs held their annual “Watermelon Cuttin’” after practice this past Saturday. Georgia normally renews that tradition when preseason camp actually ends and the players move back into the dorms. That actually happened on Aug. 16 but conflicted with Fans Picture Day. So they moved it back to this past Saturday after the Bulldogs held a private morning workout at Woodruff Practice Fields.
The Doug Coggins family, who have a farm in Franklin County, have been providing the watermelons for this occasion for 19 years. As a bonus this year, they brought along the Georgia Watermelon Queen Jennifer Eadie. Here’s a link to UGA’s video of the festivities.
9. With the start of the football season, the “Inside Georgia Football with Mark Richt” syndicated television show will resume. UGA recently released the networks and markets where that show can be viewed.
WSB-TV (Atlanta) and WALB-TV (Albany) and will again air the show on Sundays at midnight. WLTZ-TV (Columbus) will be first to air it at 11:30 p.m. Sunday after NFL coverage ends. Fox Sports’ SportSouth will provide regional coverage on Mondays at 6 p.m. The show will appear WPGA-TV (Macon) Fridays at 5:30 a.m. and Saturdays at 11:30 a.m. and Cox Communications will provide the show to the local markets.
10. This & that: Richt doesn’t expect the Tigers to look much different on offense under first-year starting quarterback Cole Stoudt. “Schematically (what they’re doing is) very, very similar but, you know, the style of play of the quarterback is a little bit different,” Richt said. “Stoudt doesn’t move quite as much, but he does stand tall in the pocket and throw strikes. That’s a great virtue in a quarterback with the skill guys they have and the scheme and passing concepts that they have. If you have a guy who can put it on the money and mot be rattled if he gets knocked down a couple of times, he can hurt you.” As for the tempo of Clemson’s offense, Richt said, “They’re going to go as fast as they can go. I’d be surprised if they didn’t go just as fast or faster.” … Pruitt, like Todd Grantham before him, will coach from the sideline this season. Bobo will again coach from the press box. … One positive about Davin Bellamy being suspended for the first two games of the season (he was arrested for DUI this summer) is the rangy outside linebacker is able to give Georgia’s offense some good looks from the scout team. He’s been wearing a No. 3 jersey and emulating Clemson’s sack-happy defensive end Vic Beasley. … Georgia’s captains for Saturday’s game are quarterback Hutson Mason, center David Andrews on offense, defensive end Sterling Bailey and linebacker Kosta Vavlas.