- David Ching, ESPN Staff Writer
Georgia coach Mark Richt discussed a variety of subjects in an interview period with reporters after Monday's practice, including how the Bulldogs' tailback situation is shaping up and how the team is still waiting for left tackle Austin Long to become a more reliable backup to Kenarious Gates.
Here are some of the highlights from Richt's Q&A period:
On tailback Ken Malcome’s progress this preseason:
Ken’s doing very well. Coach [Bryan] McClendon made a comment today just about how diligent Ken has been to really make sure he understands every little thing about his job. He’s obviously learning how to function in the system. But really, I see guys at three levels of learning: you’re just trying to figure it out, you get to where you’re functional but you’re maybe not an expert at what you do and then you try to become an expert at what you do. We see him trying to make it to that level of really being an expert at what he’s trying to do and trying to master all the things mentally and physically that you have to do to be a great back. So we kind of see him wanting to get into that third phase, so that’s good. I like the way he runs the ball. He’s got good vision, he finishes runs extremely well. He’s just got a good body lean when he runs the ball. He protects the ball well. He’s a much-improved pass protector. So he’s doing well.
On whether there is any separation between the tailbacks yet:
Well, there’s not a lot of separation. I think they’re all really pretty good backs. I think they’re going to get their opportunity to play throughout the year. Who’s going to be the starter? I don’t know. We’ll be anxious to see all of them, really. I will be.
On freshman tight end Ty Smith’s role this season:
I don’t think we would try to redshirt him right now. He didn’t pull a hamstring, but it was getting fatigued and we were a little concerned about him pulling it, so we pulled him out a little bit. He’ll probably be back Wednesday. But he’s a guy that we feel like we’ve got to get ready. If we just have one injury at tight end, he’s got to be in there. And whether we have an injury or not, we still play three tight ends over the course of the season a lot so I think he’ll play.
On how Kenarious Gates is adjusting at left tackle:
He’s getting better. He’s really practiced well the last few days especially, or at least I think he’s become more comfortable there. He’s being a little bit more patient in his pass protection. Sometimes you just get so anxious to strike somebody or pass set quickly and you might set to where a guy beats you inside or you try to strike them too soon and you get overextended and a guy goes by you. But you’ve just got to be a little bit patient and you’ve got to time your punch and you’ve got to keep your inside-out leverage so a guy doesn’t beat you inside. When he tries to run by you, you’ve got to have confidence when he goes outside that you have the athleticism to run him past the quarterback. It just takes a little time and I think he’s becoming more of a patient pass protector. He seems more comfortable to me during this last week.
On how much they’re cross-training offensive linemen at multiple positions:
It’s not moving as much. Really, we don’t have anybody trying to learn left- and right-side anything. I think that Gates would be able to go to right tackle if need be, but the reality is we have a little more depth at the right side than we do at the left right now. We want Austin Long to become a guy we can be comfortable with at left tackle, but he’s not there right now. If something happened to Gates, that’s where we’d have to … either Watts [Dantzler] or [John] Theus would probably have to go out there. But we aren’t flipping guys around a bunch. Guys are staying put and I think it’s helping us.
On the advantage of having Mike Bobo in the booth during games:
For me personally, when I could see the big picture upstairs, it made all the difference in the world for me. I learned that I was probably more of a visual learner than anything else. When I was calling plays from the side, it was just a different vantage point and I couldn’t see the big picture. I didn’t feel like I had as good of a feel for what is happening even though I did have Mike upstairs describing everything in tremendous detail. It just wasn’t the same as seeing it. So for me, that’s what I liked. Other people sometimes like to get down on the field and look in their QB’s eyes and see what he’s thinking and see if he’s responding properly, and sometimes guys want to get in somebody’s grill and it’s hard to do it from upstairs. A lot of guys feel more comfortable being downstairs because of that. When Mike came downstairs, he wanted to add more energy to what was going on down there, so I know that was part of why he did it.
On what the experience of awarding a scholarship to a walk-on at Saturday’s team meeting was like:
Believe it or not, it’s a bittersweet moment for me because as many guys that are getting scholarships, there’s a lot that aren’t. And there’s a lot of guys deserving. It’s very difficult to narrow it down to the group that we narrowed it down to because there’s some other young men that really were probably just as deserving. So for me, I even debated if I should do it in a team meeting because I know as exciting as it is for the guys who get it, it’s kind of heartbreaking for the other guys. But when it happens, it is a very positive reaction from the team.
On what he wants to see from Wednesday’s team meeting:
Hopefully continued continuity on offense and defense, especially offensively, with the starting units. Defensively of course we want to play dominating football there, too. I do want the No. 1 units to dominate -- I hope -- and I want to see guys on the No. 2 unit making plays that make me think they’re ready to play SEC football. I hope we have a healthy day. That’s big. But it’s just another opportunity to play full speed, play fast. Defensive players have got to learn how to play the cut block. Offensive players have got to learn to cut block probably. And then sometimes when you’re competing without tackling to the ground, it’s hard to really see who’s doing what. It becomes a lot more clear when you scrimmage.
On Monday’s practice:
I thought it was not bad, not great, not good enough probably to become a champion today. But I think they’re still trying to get it done, but I thought I saw a little bit of guys not giving it every little ounce they had today. I wouldn’t say it was the whole entire team, but there was enough of it going on that it wasn’t really that exciting to me. It wasn’t an awful day by any stretch. We’re making progress, but we’ve got to create really good habits and I’m not sure we did that today as a unit, but we’ll get better.
35mGreg Ostendorf and Alex Scarborough