Posted: 11:35 am Wednesday, August 13th, 2014

Preseason concerns about Dawgs shift as injuries mount 

By Bill King

Fullbacks Taylor Maxey (left) and Merritt Hall at one of this preseason's early practices. (Steven Colquitt / UGA)

Fullbacks Taylor Maxey (left) and Merritt Hall at one of this preseason’s early practices. (Steven Colquitt / UGA)

As Mark Richt’s Bulldogs approach the midway point in preseason practices, I decided to take stock of what parts of Georgia’s team have this fan feeling pretty good and what areas have me somewhat concerned.

The concerns actually have shifted a bit from before practice started. Yeah, I’m still taking a wait-and-see attitude on Jeremy Pruitt’s rebuilding project in the secondary as well as the reshuffling of the offensive line. And those still could prove to be the major points on which the Dogs’ early part of the season turns.

But as injuries have mounted and lingered, I’ve become more concerned about the receiving corps. The Dogs’ offense played grind-it-out in the first scrimmage at least in part because of a shortage of folks to throw it to, what with Malcolm Mitchell out for who knows how long and other varying injury problems limiting Chris Conley, Jonathan Rumph and Justin Scott-Wesley, among others.

Yes, the Dogs are loaded at running back — the aspect of the 2014 team that has most of us wearing a big smile — but we saw in the bowl game against Nebraska how the lack of a downfield threat can impact Hutson Mason’s play at QB and the offense’s overall effectiveness.

Now, add to that another new concern: fullback. True, Mike Bobo doesn’t rely on the fullback nearly as much as he used to, what with the increased use of spread plays, but with reliable blocker Merritt Hall sidelined with an undisclosed problem and Quayvon Hicks having moved over to tight end/H-back, we’ve wound up with little-used senior Taylor Maxey getting reps at FB with the No. 1 unit and freshman linebacker Detric Bing-Dukes suddenly being moved over to fullback because the team is too thin there. That has me a bit concerned about blocking for the running game.

As for other question marks concerning this team, I’d file the battle for backup quarterback behind Mason in that wait-and-see category, though from what I saw at G-Day I think frontrunner Faton Batau is probably the most game-ready if not the most talented.

We won’t know how much progress has been made in another big area of concern after last season, special teams, until we see how those units perform in real games, but I’m hopeful that the Dogs finally will have a return game thanks to the arrival of Isaiah McKenzie, who electrified everyone on hand at the scrimmage with a run back for a touchdown, even if the defense might have been in “thud” mode rather than tackling live, as Richt said. If he can hold on to the ball (a challenge for some potential returners in recent seasons), that will give Georgia a threat it’s been missing. The kicking game itself should be in pretty good shape. Now, if they can just keep punts from getting blocked and not give up any long returns.

The good news, of course, is that freshmen Nick Chubb and Sony Michel give the Dogs easily the nation’s best fourth- and fifth string tailbacks! Seriously, I’m expecting to see both of them get onto the field early on in special teams play, which could add yet another return threat for Georgia. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Michel getting some passes out of the backfield as well.

As for Pruitt’s work with the defensive backs, I’ll be pleased if they start out the season merely adequate, which would be a big step up from the disaster that was last year’s secondary under Todd Grantham. I’m encouraged that Pruitt is planning on playing more backs in passing situations (as opposed to Grantham keeping his confused base defense on the field), which should help on third down.

And Mason says he’s seeing more discipline on the defense and more concentration on stripping the ball, which would help with the Dogs’ previously unimpressive turnover ratio.

Those are the pluses and minuses I see so far. What are your thoughts?

A DAY FOR THE FANS

Saturday brings the annual Picture Day in the Reed Plaza area at Sanford Stadium, with the football team, Richt, Uga IX (“Russ”), the cheerleaders and other UGA athletes on hand.

Coupons are required to meet Russ and Richt, and those tickets will be distributed to the first 150 fans at 10 a.m. from the East End ticket windows on East Campus Road. Stadium gates will open at 2 p.m. (enter through Gate 2 across from the Tate Center or Gate 4 off East Campus Road) and the Georgia cheerleaders, Dance Dawgs and Hairy Dawg will be available from 2-6 p.m. Russ and other UGA sports teams will be available 2-4 p.m. Ticket holders to see Russ must be in line by 2:30 p.m. The football team will be on hand for autographs 4-6 p.m., which is also when Richt will be available for those with coupons. You must be in line by 4:30 p.m. to meet the head coach.

No outside items for autographs will be allowed. The athletic association will provide each fan with two free schedule posters, which are the only items that will be signed.

Parking will be open to the general public in all campus lots surrounding the stadium. Handicapped parking will be available in the Tate Center lots.

This Munson bulldog is up for auction. (Suits & Sneakers)

This Munson bulldog is up for auction. (Suits & Sneakers)

Also Saturday, the UGA basketball program’s fifth annual Suits & Sneakers Gala to raise money for cancer research will be held at Stegeman Coliseum, with sportscasters Rece Davis and Brad Nessler and ABC News anchor Amy Robach (a UGA alum) among the special guests. One of the biggest draws will be the auction, which has a wide array of offerings, ranging from a dinner for 10 cooked by celebrity Athens chef Hugh Acheson at Mark and Cindy Fox’s house to a Larry Munson-style stone bulldog!

My friend Sravanthi Meka, who’s involved with the fundraiser, reminds that tickets are still available through Friday. You can get two tickets for $300 here.

Go Dogs!

JUNKYARD MAIL CALL

Got something you want to discuss concerning UGA athletics? Or a question for the Junkyard Blawg? Email junkyardblawg@gmail.com.

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— Bill King, Junkyard Blawg

58 comments
DawgVoiceofReason
DawgVoiceofReason

With the exception of Paul Finebaum, I've enjoyed the SEC network so far, although they are very heavy on self-advertising (every commercial is an ad for the network itself;  what it the point of that?).  It is fun and interesting to learn more about the other schools in the conference.  It is good seeing Maria Taylor as one of the lead commentators/announcers.  So far, so good, but I will be paying close attention to the commentators they have, listening for too much bias (some is inevitable) and am looking forward to seeing some of the various telecasts of actual sports, not just the talk.

DawginCO
DawginCO

Here is the scoop on injuries during camp.  Many of the guys sitting now would not even come out of the game during the season.  The staff has the luxury of sitting some guys to make sure they get to the 1st game  totally healthy.  Coach Richt is tired of being asked about every little booboo and it almost always turns into a distraction because it gets blown out of proportion.  The time to pay attention to injuries is the week before Clemson.  If guys are sitting then you know they are hurt.

DirtyDawg
DirtyDawg

Has anybody mentioned that it's entirely possible that this most recent concussion that has, apparently, ended young Mr Hall's playing career, was from the 'blow' young Mr. Chubb delivered on him during a pass-blocking drill...if you didn't see the replay of it you should...and if you did you'd gave to say that it very could have been the 'one'. Whether it was or wasn't, it's good that they've caught it now and that Merritt will finish his degree and have a long and healthy life...and he'll always be a DGD.

HotDawg
HotDawg

Bill,

Is this camp different from other camps in being less accessible to reporters?

Seems to be a lot of hearsay reporting of practices. Or very limited actual viewing of practices? Not a very good feel of who's consistently shining or not. Added to that, there is the new policy of limiting information on injuries. Which is silly, in most cases, because It Is neither an advantage or disadvantage to anyone.

Of course fans want to know everything.

But are we getting less information this year?

Watsonone
Watsonone

Reports continue to list injured receivers and available receivers. Nobody has mentioned Michael Bennett for days. What gives?

JimODawg
JimODawg

Comcast is channel 300 for SECN

HotDawg
HotDawg

Ok. Georgia's on at 7:30. Not much till then.

Marcus Spears didn't appear very comfortable or professional as one of their hosts(?). Does not speak very well.

HotDawg
HotDawg

PROGRAM ALERT FOR THOSE WITH COMCAST: SEC NETWORK IS ON 281 AND 1738......NOT 740.

HotDawg
HotDawg

A person at comcast told me channel 281.

Somebody is gonna be wrong.

Try it if ya'll have a problem finding on other channels given.

PigIron
PigIron

Should be a very interesting season for CFB this year, what with so many unknowns. New QBs, very interesting new assistant coaches at many schools. This may be the most wide open season we've seen in quite a while for the SEC, and for CFB overall. I'm ready for some football !!!

BillKing
BillKing moderator

Please refrain from political comments on this blog. They will be deleted, and if you persist, you will be banned. Thank you.

HotDawg
HotDawg

Get ready for your SEC Network today.

We'll see if the supposed, published channels are correct.

I don't feel like surfing 900 channels to find!

Dawg350
Dawg350

16 more days to we send the tigers back home a crying! Go dawgs!

RED DOG 77
RED DOG 77

Bill, I get a funny feeling this year, for the most part our beloved DAWGS will be just fine!.........Like you I too have had my concerns, but by now something just feels different........it could be coach Pruitt has brought in an all new attitude...........I'm a big believer in chemistry, Bill and I think something special is brewing in Athens Georgia...........GO DAWGS........RED

HotDawg
HotDawg

Welcome back Bill.

That Suits & Sneakers Gala sounds like a great time. Mark Fox is a good guy. I want him to succeed here. Not just for Georgia. But also for himself, because he is such a good guy. And I believe a very good coach.

OkieDawg
OkieDawg

Also, CMR has decided to not comment on player injuries. As a result, we get our info on player injuries from the players, mainly Mason. CMR may want to take a lesson from Coach Saban and another short guy (hint Germany) and take control of the communications. "He who controls the communications, controls the populace".

OkieDawg
OkieDawg

My worry about the QB position has nothing to do with this year; but next year. I have not heard any hype about Ramsey, Batau or Parks. The players, coaches or media have not praised a single one of these guys. They seem to just "be there". Oh no, maybe I should worry...what if Mason goes down?

Dawg350
Dawg350

Trenton Thompson baby!!!! Commit to the G! Let's go dawgs! I feel really bad for hall...hope he has a full recovery!!!

BillKing
BillKing moderator

@HotDawg Same access for reporters as usual, but Richt has discontinued the past practice of providing the media with an injury update list every day. And, in fact, he isn't even commenting on injuries. So, yes, we're getting less information, but only concerning injuries.

HotDawg
HotDawg

Hopefully a "no news is good news" situation.

HotDawg
HotDawg

Checked. 300 is HBO sir.

HotDawg
HotDawg

Jimodawg...300 was HBO on my comcast.

Cable went out about an hour ago. I'll have to check later.

I did have SEC Network on 281, 795, and 1738 earlier.

If you live in the metro Atlanta area, we should have same programming channels.

HotDawg
HotDawg

Maria's doing a good job.

Go Dawgs!

PigIron
PigIron

@HotDawg


I know this much. SECN doesn't yet show up as a channel on my TV. Charter has a website that showed that the SECN will be on a certain channel, and I'm just hoping that it shows up by this evening. There's nothing there yet.

HotDawg
HotDawg

Supposedly 740 and 1738 on comcast.

My listings have 740 as The Movie Channel and 1738 does not exist.

Would have been simpler if they put it on old CSS channels. Was around all the other channels many people used more frequently.

I'll be interested in reading others comments concerning the new network after 6 today.

HotDawg
HotDawg

J Scott-Wesley is in middle of serving his suspension. He has already served one game and will be suspended for Clemson next.

Then he will be back.

Chip Towers said his GUESS for best scenario on M. Mitchell will be back for SC.

I think that is a good guess.

Dawg350
Dawg350

I dunno know. I hope JSW and Mitchell can play august 30. That enhances our chances greatly at beating clemsux. I still think we beat them without them. But we are a much better team when they are healthy and can play.

HotDawg
HotDawg

RED, I enjoy your posts also.

Go Dawgs!

RED DOG 77
RED DOG 77

@HotDawg  You're a good guy too HotDawg...........your positive posts and general good humor are good for Bulldog sites like this. There is way too much venom in the cyber world for me, it's refreshing to read positive people.............Thanks, RED

NoAxeToGrind
NoAxeToGrind

@OkieDawg  Reichminister for Propaganda and Cultural Enlightenment Dr. Joseph Goebbels

FlatTire
FlatTire

That is pretty much going on in our country now

FlatTire
FlatTire

They will hype whoever wins the starting job next year. I'm wondering if we play some them this year to give them experience

BillKing
BillKing moderator

@Dawg350 It's great news, though I'll save my celebration until he signs on the dotted line.

HotDawg
HotDawg

Pigiron....I thought so, but wasn't sure. Either way, it's a pet peeve of mine to hear someone that is paid to speak on tv/radio, that doesn't speak well.

One would think that should be a requirement for the job.

It is unpleasant for the viewer/listener. Most of the culprits are ex-jocks, without any broadcast credentials.

Many of the sport "shows" have become so unprofessional, they're unbearable to listen too or watch.

There are plenty of ex-jock, analysts that handle our language well. There isn't a good reason to hire ones that can't speak a complete sentence.

"I mean", "you know", "bro", "man", etc., etc.

Can do without the fist bumps and hugs while reporting, also.

PigIron
PigIron

@HotDawg


I'm sure it varies from location to location, but my cable provider did place them on the same channel that previously carried CSS.

ColumbusDawg
ColumbusDawg

@HotDawg It seemed odd to have a bye in the second week, now that week off has become HUGE!

Dawg350
Dawg350

True....but you know he is all dawg. He will be coming home in 2015

DawgVoiceofReason
DawgVoiceofReason

@HotDawg HotDawg, I agree with you about the need for professional commentators but I'm willing to cut Spears some slack, initially.  He seems to provide some genuine enthusiasm and a little different perspective.  He will have to continue to improve his "game" and can't always be about LSU.  So far, what do you think of Tebow?  I've noticed he is respectful of his fellow commentators and provides some knowledgeable insight.  He has not been all-Florida although certainly you can still tell where his loyalties lie. 

Dawg350
Dawg350

I will celebrate now if that's ok master? Lol! Thompson is more of a dawg then some of the guys on the team. He isn't going any where! Go dawgs!

FlatTire
FlatTire

@Dawg350  then if he's all dog then why not sign instead of waiting?  

HotDawg
HotDawg

Just let the guy be happy.