- David Ching, ESPN Staff Writer
HOOVER, Ala. -- Considering that the league’s media picked his team by a comfortable margin to return to the SEC championship game, Mark Richt’s trip through the SEC Media Days turnstile was mostly uneventful.
Richt publicly addressed running back Isaiah Crowell’s June 29 arrest and subsequent dismissal for the first time, but otherwise, Georgia’s coach and players Tavarres King, Jarvis Jones and Abry Jones were able to focus on their prospects for a promising season.
Among the highlights of Richt’s early morning visit with Bulldogs beat writers, he spent several minutes discussing the role receiver Malcolm Mitchell will play by splitting his time at cornerback.
“I think by time the season’s over, we’ll have seen a lot of Malcolm playing offense,” Richt said. “Early on, I don’t know how much of that we’ll see, for two reasons I see: One is the heat, the weather. It’s tough to play a lot of plays when it’s that hot and that humid. Guys might be susceptible to cramping and things of that nature.
“And just a need for him early on on defense. As the season goes on, the weather’s going to cool and Sanders [Commings] will be back after a couple of games. That will help the situation.”
Mitchell’s move to defense became necessary in the offseason when Richt dismissed two defensive backs and Commings was suspended for two games, followed by disciplinary infractions by other DBs.
Richt said Thursday that he knows the outcome of rulings regarding players like Branden Smith, Bacarri Rambo and Alec Ogletree who were reportedly facing suspensions, but would not spell out any details.
“I do know, yeah,” he said. “We’ll share it sometime, but not today.”
His mood was similarly disagreeable when asked about the perception that Georgia recruits bad people because of the number of disciplinary issues the Bulldogs have encountered in recent years.
“We’re not recruiting bad kids. We’re recruiting a lot of great kids,” Richt said. “We’re recruiting guys that everybody else in the conference, we’re recruiting for the same guys as just about everybody in the league, so I don’t think that statement’s true. I think we certainly are going to have an expectation of how we want our guys to behave and if they don’t behave, we’re going to discipline them.”
Disciplinary questions aside, Richt did actually spend the majority of his time discussing football, including some of the following subjects:
* The readiness of freshman kicker Marshall Morgan and punter Collin Barber to take over those jobs immediately:
“There’s no question in my mind they’ve got all the tools to get it done, but the first time you do anything, I’m sure they’re going to be a little nervous,” he said. “I’m sure they’ll be nervous in practice and certainly they’ll be nervous in the ballgames if they get the opportunity and they win the jobs. But they know they’ve got a good chance.”
* The team’s overall health with two weeks remaining until preseason camp opens in August:
“One good thing is we’re a very healthy team right now. We’ve got a couple guys that are coming into camp maybe not full speed -- [offensive tackle] Xzavier Ward is coming off an injury, and [defensive end] Sterling Bailey -- but just about everybody else is very healthy, ready to go.”
* South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier’s wisecrack that if he made the conference’s schedules, the Gamecocks would face Ole Miss this season and Georgia would face LSU instead of vice versa.
“I didn’t see that. I was busy,” Richt grinned. “But I’m sure there are years where he’ll be thankful for the schedule he has.”
* The Bulldogs’ offensive line situation as preseason camp approaches:
“I think [offensive line coach Will] Friend’s doing a good job with them. They all know they’re a little bit of a focal point as far as needing to prove that they can do it, and I think that’s added some incentive to their offseason from what I understand,” said Richt, who noted that he still remains unsure whether Kolton Houston will be available this fall after sitting out last season over an NCAA eligibility issue.
“But with offensive line play, just coordinating five guys to hit the right guy is big, and these guys are very sharp. If we can get five guys that will fight like mad and put their hat on the right guy, you can function pretty good if you’ve got the right skill in a veteran quarterback, which we do.”
* Freshman tailbacks Keith Marshall and Todd Gurley, who will likely play larger roles without Crowell on the roster:
“Keith’s the only one I can really say how ready I think he’ll be,” Richt said. “I think Keith certainly has been diligent to learn what to do and that’s more than half the battle. He’s lived through a spring. Even though he did have a hamstring injury, he got to practice. So he’s got a pretty good idea what’s coming. And then of course Todd, it’s hard for me to say. He’s just been working in the summer and I haven’t really been able to see all that. But the players say he works hard.”
* Senior Richard Samuel, a more important player at tailback again after spending some time at fullback during spring practice:
“[Crowell’s dismissal is] certainly going to change Richard Samuel’s role, I would think,” Richt said. “He was transitioning to at least a hybrid tailback-fullback for us, but I don’t think he’ll be getting an awful lot of time at fullback now. He’ll be ready to go if needed over there, but he’ll spend most of his time at tailback.”
2dSam Khan Jr.