THE TEN AT 10:
1. I was exchanging texts the other day with 680 The Fan’s Buck Belue when he asked me, “how’s Lorenzo Carter looking?”
“Like a gladiator,” I replied.
And he does. The freshman outside linebacker from Norcross always has stood out physically. He stands a legitimate 6-foot-6 and has a wingspan from here to next week. But what’s different now is the size Carter has added since showing up last summer. He just looks a lot bigger. And when I finally got a chance to ask him about it, he is.
“I came in at 220 (pounds) and I’m at 242, 243 right now,” Carter told me. “So 20 pounds is a lot, and I put it on pretty well.”
That he did. And it’s no accident. The Bulldogs believe through their strength and conditioning program and training table, Carter will leave Athens as the physical equivalent of the best outside linebackers currently flourishing in the NFL.
“Lorenzo is absolutely a great looking player, no doubt,” Georgia coach Mark Richt remarked. “We want him to continue to grow and gain weight. He’s so long we think he can put more on his frame. He’s had a significant gain to this point but, I don’t want to say what it ought to be, but if he’s 243 right now, he could be 260 pretty easily in my opinion and still be athletic and be a lean-looking guy.
“I think he’s keeping his speed and agility and all that. I don’t think that will be a problem. I think he’ll only get faster and quicker and stronger.”
Carter claims he hasn’t lost a step so far, and he came in with sprinter’s speed. “I feel faster than ever right now,” he said.
At his previous size, the former 5-star prospect played in all 13 games, earned five starts and compiled 41 tackles and 4.5 sacks. At the time, he said he had 7 percent body fat. Now he’s at 11 percent and wants to get that to 15.
That doesn’t jibe with the rest of the world, but increased fat content is exactly what Carter and the Bulldogs are looking for.
“That’s the typical body-fat percentage in the NFL at outside linebacker,” Carter said. “That’s what we do; we look at the body-fat percentages at your position and try to get up there in that range.”
“N-B-T,” Belue texted back to me. As in, “next big thing.”
2. Richt, who generally spends more time critiquing players than praising them, caught himself gushing a little too much about receiver Isaiah McKenzie following this past Saturday’s scrimmage. So he looked straight into the Bulldogs’ in-house video camera that was chronicling his post-practice and spoke to McKenzie.
“I don’t want to brag too much on you, Isaiah,” Richt said with a grin, “because I want you to keep doing good.”
Apparently, the sophomore flanker from Miami is doing quite well. There was nothing on the stat sheet to suggest that McKenzie did anything extraordinary during the scrimmage (3 receptions, 43 yards). But there has been consistent positive commentary about McKenzie coming out of the Bulldogs’ spring drills, which reached the halfway point this past weekend.
“He’s a versatile receiver,” Richt said of the 5-8, 164-pound play-maker. “He’s just not very tall, bottom line. But he’s fast and he’s quick and he’s got good hands.”
Richt said McKenzie has been demonstrating that he’s more than a specialized receiver.
“He’s more than a guy you just throw a little bubble (screen) to or hand him a speed sweep,” Richt said. “A lot of those guys who are smaller in stature, jitterbug/speed guys, you kind of manufacture ways to get them the ball and they’re not really a legitimate, down-the-field receiver. He is. He’s a legitimate receiver. And I mean all the routes, the slants and the curls and the outs and the flags and the posts and the takeoffs and the dig route.”
McKenzie earned notice as a freshman last season primarily as a kick returner. He returned two punts and one kickoff for touchdowns (which tied a school record). But on offense, he had only six catches for 67 yards and seven rushes for 78 yards without a score.
The Bulldogs expect to get more out of McKenzie offensively this fall.
3. I wrote a story earlier this week on what the players say are the differences in new offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer and Mike Bobo, his predecessor. In course of reporting on that, it became evident that that the overhaul of the Georgia’s offensive system is more extensive under Schottenheimer than Richt and the Bulldogs originally let on.
Richt addressed that after Saturday’s scrimmage at Sanford Stadium.
“Yeah, I really wasn’t 100 percent sure what to expect on that part,” said Richt, who originally claimed Schotty would be learning UGA’s system instead of teaching a new one to 50 players. “My main thing was the philosophy, the way we think about running the ball, the way we think about protection, the way we think about concepts. That was more important to me than whatever we called it.”
Terminology is the primary area where the change has come, Richt said. They’re generally running the same plays and concepts, they’re just called something different by Schotty.
“Whatever you call something, if you call it that enough times in a row, everybody gets it,” Richt said. “If it’s the same concept with a different name, sometimes it’s wise to make sure the guy that’s going to be spitting out the plays is real comfortable, too. So there was a little give and take in there.”
4. The Bulldogs are practicing three times this week, which are numbers 8 through 10 this spring. The NCAA allots 15, so Georgia will scoot past the halfway point.
The Bulldogs will hold full team practices Tuesday and Thursday, then conduct another scrimmage on Saturday. Georgia held its first full-scale scrimmage this past Saturday at Sanford Stadium.
As ever, much of the focus was on the quarterback competition. There were no clear winners of the day. Sophomore Brice Ramsey got the majority of the work with the No. 1 offense and finished with 232 yards on 16-of-32 passing with two TDs and two interceptions. Working primarily with the 2s, junior Faton Bauta went 17-for-30 for 247 yards and two scores with one interception. Redshirt freshman Jacob Park got all his snaps with the No. 3 offense and completed two bombs to finish with 187 yards on 4-of-7 passing and one 69-yard TD.
Richt, master developer of quarterbacks, offered a critical assessment.
“I think they all have to learn that not every play is going to be successful and sometimes you’ve got to throw it away and sometimes you’ve got to throw to a check-down,” he said. “You can’t always try to make a play, because you’re going to get hit with a sack and a fumble or you’re going to get his as your throwing and throw a pick, like one did (Saturday) … There are times we’re holding the ball too long and either not throwing it away or not getting it to a check-down, which will get you beat.”
5. Georgia, which moved up to No. 21 in this week’s Collegiate Baseball rankings, plays host to rival Georgia Tech Tuesday night at Foley Field. You can read my story previewing that matchup HERE. The Bulldogs (18-11, 5-4 SEC) also have No. 1-ranked Vanderbilt coming in for three on Friday.
Here’s a few things to know about UGA baseball as it heads into an important week:
- Georgia is still missing two of its top three starters and two relievers from its pitching staff. Nevertheless, it still claimed the series over No. 7-ranked South Carolina Gamecocks (for the second straight year). It was the first over a top 10 team on the road since 2006.
- Georgia went 5-1 in back-to-back SEC road trips, which was its best showing in consecutive league road series since 2004.
- Georgia Tech (17-10) was swept on the road by No. 8 Louisville. Last year, Tech won the season series 2-1 with the Bulldogs’ victory coming 1-0 in Athens.
- Georgia coach Scott Stricklin played for Tech’s Danny Hall at Kent State from 1991-93 and served on his coaching staff in Atlanta from 1998-99 and from 2002-04 before being named head coach at Kent State in 2005. Stricklin is in his second season directing the Bulldogs.
- Georgia is batting .276 with 27 home runs and is 41-for-49 in stolen base attempts. The Bulldogs have a 3.89 ERA and are fielding .974.
- UGA sophomore centerfielder Stephen Wrenn (.319-4-17) has reached base safely in all 29 games this season. He is one of the top defensive outfielders in the SEC with a perfect fielding percentage in 86 total chances, and leads the SEC in stolen base with 16 this year. The past two Sundays on the road in the SEC, Wrenn has started the game with a leadoff home run. During his current eight-game hitting streak, he is batting .303 (10-for-33) with two home runs, five RBI and six stolen bases in seven attempts.
- Senior LHP/1B Jared Walsh (3-0, 1.87 ERA; .276-2-15) is one of the top two-way talents in the SEC and among the ERA leaders. With sophomore ace Robert Tyler sidelined, Walsh has taken over the Friday night starting spot in the rotation the past two weeks. Georgia is 2-0 in those contests.
6. Georgia’s basketball program put together a pretty cool video thanking its fans for their support this past season. And it was well deserved.
The Bulldogs’ success this season (21 wins, NCAA tournament berth) – plus an improved schedule – brought an average of 7,517 spectators to Stegeman Coliseum for Georgia’s 16 home games. That represents a 22 percent increase over 2014 and will rank among the nation’s largest jumps when the NCAA’s final tally comes out in April, according to UGA.
Within that was a huge spike in student attendance – 32 percent overall and a whopping 64.5 percent for Georgia’s nine SEC games. That was helped by the return to Stegeman of three traditional rivals Florida, Kentucky and Tennessee. Through a quirk of the newly-expanded schedule, none of them visited Athens in 2014.
7. The men’s basketball team plans to continue to engage its growing fan base by inviting them to attend the Bulldogs’ annual post-season awards banquet. Held next Tuesday at 6:30 p.m., there will be a reception, individual awards, video highlights from the season and coach Mark Fox will recognize each member of the team.
The Bulldogs in 2014-15 went 21-12 overall, 11-7 in SEC play, and earned the program’s 12th NCAA Tournament berth. Georgia racked up another series of landmarks during the season, including the following: a second straight 20-win season for just the second time in program history; eight road wins, including a school-record six in SEC play; two Bulldogs — senior Nemanja Djurisic and junior Charles Mann — went over the 1000-point marks in their careers.
Reservations for the banquet have to be made by the end of business today. Admission is $40 per person and all guests will receive complimentary parking. To register, email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling 706-542-8346.
8. It would appear that Georgia has finally reached the point of saturation when it comes to the acquisition of support staff for football. The Bulldogs this past week hired Brian Williams for the newly-created position of “player relations coordinator for defense.” They had previously hired former UGA and NFL offensive lineman Jonas Jennings as “player relations coordinator for offense.”
As has been the case for many of Georgia’s football hires the past year or so, Williams has a connection to defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt. He was a defensive quality control assistant at Florida State during Pruitt’s year there as defensive coordinator.
In addition to its 10 on-field coaches, Georgia now has 15 football-support positions (including the new special teams analyst), five full-time strength and conditioning coaches and 16 athletic training and one nutritionist.
9. Georgia’s Matias Koski won an NCAA individual national championship in the 1,650-yard freestyle this past Saturday at the NCAA Swimming and Diving Championships in Iowa. Koski’s title helped the Bulldogs claim seventh in the team standings with 208.5 points.
It was Georgia’s seventh top-10 finish in the past eight seasons. Team honors went to Texas with 528, followed by California with 399, Michigan with 312, Southern Cal with 278 and Florida with 248.
“I’m elated by the way our young men performed this week,” Georgia coach Jack Bauerle said. “These meets are never perfect, but they gave us everything they had. Finishing seventh and being back in the top 10 is no small feat. We had to work extremely hard to get back there, and I’m so proud of our guys for all they did.”
10. This & that: Congratulations to the UGA women’s golf team. After getting off to a horrendous start this season, the Bulldogs rallied to finish second in the prestigious Liz Murphey Collegiate Classic. Georgia finished seventh in the stroke-play portion of the tournament to reach the eight-team match-play rounds, which featured six Top-10 teams. The Bulldogs Georgia defeated No. 3 South Carolina and No. 9 Northwestern before falling to No. 1 Southern Cal by tiebreaker in the championship match. … Remember Kevin Bailey, the UGA football parent who vented his frustrations last summer about what he perceived was a lack of appreciation for the discipline and character-building Richt’s program provides? Well, Mr. Bailey is in the hospital. But he’ll be OK. He underwent knee-replacement surgery this past week.