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Notebook: Murray's accuracy improves

8/11/2012

ATHENS, Ga. -- Mike Bobo has established an exact completion percentage that he wants redshirt junior quarterback Aaron Murray to hit this fall. If Murray’s progress from August practices carries over into the season, it shouldn’t be too difficult.

Bobo, Georgia’s offensive coordinator, credited Murray’s improved footwork for his substantially improved accuracy during preseason camp.

“His accuracy has improved I think as of yesterday almost 14 percent compared to what it was last camp,” Bobo said after Saturday morning’s special teams practice. “That’s a credit to his footwork and a credit to a lot of other things. But the No. 1 thing you look at with accuracy is the footwork and he’s done a nice job.”

Murray fell a bit below Bobo’s goal of a 62-percent completion percentage in 2011, hitting 59.1 percent (238 of 403) passes while throwing a school-record 35 touchdowns. Bobo still raised the goal for Murray incrementally to 65 percent entering the 2012 season.

“He’s a fourth-year guy in the system,” Bobo said. “I just want to set the standard a little bit higher than 62. I think we’re capable of reaching that. To be the elite quarterback that he wants to be, we’ve got to complete our passes at a higher percentage.”

Swann song: Georgia didn’t lose much from its 2011 defense that ranked fifth in the nation in yards allowed, but one hole the Bulldogs must fill was Brandon Boykin’s spot at cornerback and nickelback.

Defensive coordinator Todd Grantham said Saturday that he is excited about sophomore Damian Swann’s work in that role following Swann’s adding bulk during the offseason in order to play more physically.

“He’s physical and he’s a really smart player that has the instincts to understand where I need to be based upon the release of the receivers,” Grantham said. “And when you play that position, the closer you get to the ball, the quicker things happen so you have to have a little bit of quick reaction and he has that.”

Grantham said Malcolm Mitchell -- who practiced in a green non-contact jersey on Saturday -- backs up Swann in the nickel role.

Star in the making: Grantham compared freshman Josh Harvey-Clemons’ starting his career at safety to a similar arrangement with Alec Ogletree in 2010, when he played safety as a freshman before moving to linebacker last year.

It was easier for Ogletree to learn how the defensive scheme works, Grantham said, by starting at the back end and moving forward.

“When he moved, he knew where the pieces around him fit so it made his learning curve less,” Grantham said. “So I think by playing Josh where he is right now, it gives him a better feel for the whole body of work. And then when he gets to his position, he kind of knows where everybody fits.”

Grantham said Harvey-Clemons has focused largely on playing the “star” position, which he described as an “underneath zone player.” He said Georgia’s safeties, outside linebackers and cornerbacks all practice in that role so they can be prepared to play it depending on the situation.

“It can be a corner, it can be an outside backer, it can be a safety and we’ve worked all those guys at that position just to mix and match and see what they do,” Grantham said.

Pyke’s preparation: Georgia’s offensive line coach Will Friend was amused when asked whether he has ever coached a player who played lacrosse in high school.

“No, I’m from Mississippi, man,” Friend chuckled.

He has now.

True freshman Greg Pyke was an accomplished lacrosse player, ranking as Inside Lacrosse’s No. 8 overall prospect as a junior at Boys Latin in Baltimore. And Friend can see where Pyke’s experience in the sport might have helped him as a football player, although he doesn’t know much about it.

Friend touted Pyke’s athleticism, footwork and stamina when discussing his work thus far in camp, which likely improved by playing a different sport that requires such qualities.

“I don’t know nothing about lacrosse, but I know you’re running and you’ve got to have good hand-eye coordination and run and be athletic to do it,” Friend said. “That’s probably helped him. It couldn’t have hurt him.”

Friend said Pyke, fellow true freshman John Theus and junior college transfer Mark Beard have all made progress during preseason camp, with Theus already moving into a first-team role at right tackle.

“[Theus is] a competitive kid and a tough kid. He’s got a ways to go,” Friend said. “Pyke’s competed well. Mark Beard’s competed well. But all three of them have got a ways to go.”

Hall still leads: Bobo said redshirt freshman Merritt Hall remains Georgia’s top option at fullback, ahead of Quayvon Hicks, Zander Ogletree and Richard Samuel.

Mimicking what he said of Hall’s head-turning performance during spring practice, Bobo again said Hall has fared well in August, although he still needs to improve his blocking.

“He hasn’t gotten to the point where we’d like for him to sustain blocks,” Bobo said. “He needs to get better bringing his hands and bringing his feet, but he’s really done a nice job and even made a couple of catches out of the backfield in some 11-on-11 situations. It’s a pleasant surprise for us offensively.”