- David Ching, ESPN Staff Writer
ATHENS, Ga. -- Jay Rome realizes his best chance to play professional sports likely will come in football, but that does not mean he plans to step away from another of his athletic loves, basketball.
Although the redshirt freshman tight end figures to be much more heavily involved with the football team this fall, he still intends to return to Georgia’s basketball team after the season ends.
“I plan on playing, and Coach Fox plans on me to play, too,” Rome said after Monday morning’s practice. “But all of that is going to come around come January. My main focus right now is football. Even though I did do a bit this summer with the basketball team, it was mostly just for fun and to have a little extra exercise. But when that time comes, I do plan on playing again.”
Rome occasionally worked out with the basketball team once his summertime football workouts were complete, which he said helped him stay in good physical condition.
“I’d go over there and run pickup with them after I work out with football sometimes, just because I want to put myself in the best physical condition I can be in,” Rome said. “I didn’t see anything wrong with just running a few pickup games just to keep my wind up and be able to get up and down the field better.”
The basketball team is on a trip to Italy -- and Rome admitted feeling a bit of envy that he was not able to join his teammates -- where they are touring the country’s many historic sites, visiting the UGA study abroad campus in Cortona and playing a few exhibition games. But Rome, who averaged 0.4 points per game in seven games last season as a freshman forward, has other responsibilities to tend to with football season less than a month away.
“Who wouldn’t want to go to Italy and just explore the world?” Rome asked. “The guys are sending me pictures and everything. It looks beautiful over there. But as of right now, I have a job to do for the football team. That’s my first priority. I get back to basketball come January.”
Quarterback shuffle: At some point this preseason, Georgia’s coaches know they must allow Christian LeMay to begin taking the second-team reps behind Aaron Murray at quarterback.
But at this point, they continue to rotate practice reps between Murray, LeMay and junior Hutson Mason -- who plans to redshirt this season -- to give everyone a chance to sharpen their skills.
“It rotates randomly, honestly,” LeMay said. “None of us know who’s going in at any point in time. We just go in and try to run the assigned plays given."
The dilemma in the situation is determining when to make LeMay the official backup should Murray come out of a game for an injury or any other reason. Do they want to burn Mason’s redshirt if Murray gets hurt at midseason or later? Nobody has settled on an answer yet.
“I just think that the coaches -- just like me and Christian -- are in a difficult situation,” Mason said. “Usually you know who the No. 2 guy is and it’s set in stone, and he goes with the twos and he gets his reps, but right now me and LeMay are both preparing to be the No. 2 guy. So those coaches are trying to get equal amount of reps to get both of us prepared.”
Should that hypothetical injury to Murray occur, Mason said he would have to discuss the proper next step with offensive coordinator Mike Bobo and head coach Mark Richt.
“I’ll probably sit down with Coach Richt and Coach Bobo after camp ends and probably discuss if we can get a feel. Because we’re not going to 100 percent find out what the right answer is,” Mason said. “If we’re undefeated and Murray gets hurt and can’t play, that’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, maybe, to play in the SEC championship game or something like that. It’s just kind of something where we’ll cross that bridge when we get to it.”
Injury updates: For the first time, Georgia released a written injury report to media members on Monday, helping keep Richt’s coaching staff from having to address injuries when they might not have an accurate understanding of players’ ailments.
Georgia administrators brought the idea to Richt a couple of months ago, according to sports information director Claude Felton, as a means of better complying with health information privacy laws that govern what UGA can reveal about its athletes’ injuries.
“It wasn’t my idea,” Richt said. “It wasn’t my brainstorm, but I’m part of the team, and I think it’s just to give you guys exactly what we want to give you and when you ask me a question about it, I’ll say, ‘Just read the report,’ and that will kind of be the way to go. But if you want to ask me about, ‘How does that affect your depth chart?’ or something like that, that’s how it’s going to go.”
Six players appear on the initial report: offensive lineman Chris Burnette (illness, should return Tuesday), safety Marc Deas (right hamstring strain, day-to-day), defensive end Ray Drew (concussion), defensive end Abry Jones (left knee contusion), tight end Hugh Williams (broken left hand, had surgery Monday, expected back in 10-14 days) and receiver C.J. Wyatt (illness, should return Wednesday).
Getting their kicks: The Bulldogs will hold their first two-a-day workouts of the preseason on Tuesday with a special teams practice in the morning and a practice in shorts and helmets in the evening.
Richt said freshman kicker Marshall Morgan and punter Collin Barber have already gotten a chance to show what they can do.
Of Barber, Richt observed, “He’s got a knack for getting tremendous hangtime. Of course he can kick it for distance, as well. Even his kicks that aren’t just right, he gets plenty of hangtime to get our gunners underneath it and hopefully keep people from getting started, which I like that a lot about him.”
Richt said Georgia has not worked much with Morgan on kickoffs yet, “but we’ve done enough extra point/field goal to see that he’s what I thought, too, and that the ball gets up very quickly. He’s got just kind of a very strong leg, and he doesn’t have to give off a lot of effort to get the short to mid-range kicks and he’s been very accurate so far.”
The Bulldogs will hold their first team scrimmage on Wednesday, Richt said.
1dSam Khan Jr. and Derek Tyson