Georgia Bulldogs: Chase Vasser

Todd Gurley, Trey DePriestKevin C. Cox/Getty ImagesTodd Gurley had 105 total yards and two touchdowns in Georgia's scrimmage Wednesday, part of a much more focused effort by the Bulldogs' offense.
ATHENS, Ga. -- Since his team will open the season at night against Clemson, Georgia coach Mark Richt wanted his team’s final two scrimmages to be under the lights.

Richt got exactly the conditions and energy level from the team that he was hoping for in Wednesday’s second scrimmage of the preseason -- a marked difference from the Bulldogs’ listless effort a week ago.

“I thought it would be a good idea to do it this week because I just wanted it to be a nice, cool night, I wanted everybody to be well-rested and I just wanted to see a lot of energy out there,” Richt said. “It was like night and day from the first scrimmage as far as just the energy level out there.”

Georgia’s coaches got what they expected from their starting units, as well, with those groups mostly having their way against the backups in traditional series and situational scenarios.

“When you scrimmage like this and you go ones versus twos, you hope that your No. 1 offense is going to have a pretty good go against your No. 2 defense and vice versa. And that’s about how it’s gone,” Richt said. “If your second offense was just thrashing your No. 1 defense, then you’ve got a really, really serious problem. But that’s not the case. I thought both No. 1 units played pretty good.”

Several of Richt’s assistant coaches said recently that they would begin narrowing the field of candidates for playing time after Wednesday’s scrimmage so that they would have defined roles when they hold their third and final scrimmage next Wednesday. Richt said the coaches would grade film of the scrimmage within the next 24 hours, but their personnel decisions will likely take at least a few days.

“It’ll be maybe a day or two before we start trying to figure out ... and it won’t be exact until probably next Wednesday,” Richt said. “I would think by next Wednesday when we have that practice game, we’ll have a really good idea of our lineup.”

As for statistics, there were no particularly eye-catching numbers on Wednesday -- unlike last week’s scrimmage, when starting quarterback Aaron Murray threw three interceptions. Murray bounced back to go 14-for-18 for 173 yards, one touchdown and one interception on Wednesday, with backup Hutson Mason finishing 9-for-19 for 107 yards, one touchdown and one interception.

All-SEC tailback Todd Gurley was the offensive star of the evening, rushing five times for 33 yards and two touchdowns and adding three receptions for another 72 yards. Tailback Keith Marshall had six carries for 39 yards and freshman Brendan Douglas added seven rushes for 50 yards and two catches for another 31 yards.

“[Douglas] was very impressive today,” Richt said. “He ran the ball well, he ran with power, he ran with some vision, he continued to pass [block] pretty good. He’s not perfect in that area.”

Blake Tibbs and Michael Bennett caught the two touchdown passes and Malcolm Mitchell led the receivers with four catches for 58 yards.

Josh Harvey-Clemons, suspended for the opener at Clemson, led the defense with seven tackles and three pass breakups. Amarlo Herrera had five tackles and two pass breakups, while T.J. Stripling, Connor Norman, Garrison Smith and Leonard Floyd all had four stops. Floyd also made a tackle for a loss and would have recorded a sack, Richt said, if not for being blatantly held by an offensive tackle.

Defensive end Toby Johnson recorded the one official sack.

Freshman cornerbacks Shaq Wiggins and Brendan Langley both made interceptions, with Langley returning his interception 48 yards for a touchdown. Richt said Langley also broke up a pass at the goal line to prevent a touchdown.

The two freshmen are not just competing to be the backups at cornerback, Richt said, they’re competing with Sheldon Dawson to win a starting job alongside junior Damian Swann.

“I’d say they’re all still competing, other than Swanny’s going to be in there,” Richt said. “But who the other starter will be, it’s just a matter of watching what happened in this scrimmage and what happens between now and next Wednesday, probably.”

Kennar Johnson and Lucas Redd also intercepted passes.

The Bulldogs are still contending with a number of injuries, as 15 players appeared on Wednesday’s injury report -- including safeties Tray Matthews (shoulder/hamstring), Corey Moore (knee sprain), Shaquille Fluker (illness), Marc Deas (elbow sprain) and Paris Bostick (foot surgery).

Nose guard Chris Mayes (concussion), linebackers Tim Kimbrough (knee sprain) and Chase Vasser (ankle sprain), receivers Reggie Davis (knee sprain), Rhett McGowan (ankle sprain) and Rantavious Wooten (hamstring strain), tailback A.J. Turman (knee/ankle) and tight end Jay Rome (ankle sprain) were also sidelined.

The good injury news, Richt said, was that he did not believe the team suffered any new injuries during the scrimmage.

“It was a good day. No one was banged up today,” Richt said. “Sometimes the next day you hear something, but today Ron [Courson, Georgia’s director of sports medicine] came to me and said everything looked good, so that’s a blessing.”

Thumb surgery for Leonard Floyd

August, 6, 2013
ATHENS, Ga. -- Yet another left thumb injury will cost a Georgia outside linebacker some practice time.

For the third time in two days, UGA announced on Tuesday that an outside linebacker -- this time freshman Leonard Floyd -- underwent surgery to repair an injured thumb. Floyd fractured the thumb in Monday’s practice, but should return to practice in a cast shortly.

“We’re hoping that everybody [returns] early next week,” Georgia coach Mark Richt said.

Georgia announced on Monday that sophomore James DeLoach -- the projected starting strongside linebacker -- and freshman Davin Bellamy both underwent thumb surgery that day. As with Floyd, both players should return to practice within a few days and work for an undetermined length of time with a cast covering their surgically-repaired hands, but be back in time for the Aug. 31 opener at Clemson.

Richt was unaware that all three linebackers had injured their left thumbs -- a seemingly freak occurrence for so many players at the same position in such a short period of time.

“But it is hand-to-hand combat,” Richt told a reporter after Tuesday’s evening practice. “You can strengthen just about everything in the world -- you can strengthen your grip a little bit, but I don’t know if you can strengthen your hand for if your thumb gets bent back or your hand gets cracked.”

Floyd, who signed with Georgia in 2012 and spent last season at Hargrave Military after failing to qualify, has been one of the freshman standouts so far in the Bulldogs’ preseason camp. The pass-rush specialist earned praise from coaches and teammates almost immediately once camp started, with Richt remarking that “you see big upside” from the freshman in his first post-practice comments of the preseason.

“He’s a really good player,” Richt said Tuesday.

Strongside linebacker Chase Vasser also missed Tuesday’s practice with a sprained left ankle, making the fifth-year senior one of a whopping 17 Georgia players listed on the day’s injury report.

Versatile sophomore Josh Harvey-Clemons practiced with Georgia’s outside linebackers during the portion of Tuesday afternoon’s practice that was open to the media -- a move that Richt described as “a quick fix” because of the numerous injuries at strongside linebacker. Although Harvey-Clemons is expected to predominantly play safety and nickelback, Bulldogs defensive coordinator Todd Grantham has insisted for months that Harvey-Clemons -- who is suspended for the Clemson game for violating team rules -- will also see some time at outside linebacker.

“Part of it is just the sam linebacker position is depleted enough where we’ve had to figure out how we were going to line up, and that was part of it,” Richt said of Harvey-Clemons’ move. “The reason why he’s a natural for that position is that the nickel position or … the star position … they are very much alike in assignment.”

Recapping UGA post-spring reviews 

April, 29, 2013
ATHENS, Ga. -- Over the last two weeks, we reviewed the competition for playing time at each position on Georgia’s depth chart and identified a player to watch at each position.

A defense that lost 12 significant players will be a focal point well into the fall, and it was in our post-spring recaps. Let’s take a look at the defensive positions first:

Post-spring position review: OLB 

April, 24, 2013
Editor’s note: Our DawgNation post-spring positional analysis continues this week after focusing on the offense last week. Today we examine the outside linebackers:

Returning players/stats: Jordan Jenkins, So. (Six starts in 2012, 31 tackles, eight tackles for loss, five sacks, one forced fumble, one fumble recovery); Chase Vasser, Sr. (Two starts, 19 tackles, four TFL, 1 FF); T.J. Stripling, Sr. (Eight tackles, one TFL, one sack, one FF); Brandon Burrows, Jr. (No tackles); Josh Dawson, So. (five tackles, 1.5 TFL); James DeLoach, So. (four tackles)

Newcomers: Davin Bellamy, Fr. (ESPN’s No. 299 overall prospect, No. 25 defensive end. Expected to enroll this summer); Leonard Floyd, Fr. (The four-star prospect had no position rating as a player from Hargrave Military Academy. Expected to enroll this summer); Shaun McGee (No. 43 DE. Expected to enroll this summer.)

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UGA OLB to watch: James DeLoach

April, 24, 2013
ATHENS, Ga. -- James DeLoach wasn’t the highest-rated player in Georgia’s 2012 signing class.

Heck, he wasn’t even the highest-rated player from tiny Jenkins County High School (enrollment of approximately 400) to sign with the Bulldogs that year. That honor went to defensive lineman Jonathan Taylor, who was ESPN’s No. 53 overall prospect. But DeLoach is on the verge of making an impact alongside the more heralded members of his crop of recruits.

[+] EnlargeJames DeLoach
Radi Nabulsi/ESPNRising sophomore James DeLoach will be expected to make more of an impact after a couple of cameo appearances as a freshman.
DeLoach played sparingly last fall as a freshman, but has an opportunity to become a starting outside linebacker this season. If DeLoach’s progress from a strong spring continues, he’ll prove that even if he didn’t receive as much attention as some of his fellow 2012 signees -- particularly one from his own Class A high school -- he was far from being just a throw-in to secure Taylor’s signature.

2012 review: DeLoach drew consistent praise from defensive coordinator Todd Grantham starting in preseason camp, but the freshman barely made an impact on scrimmage downs. He played in 13 games and totaled just four tackles and two quarterback pressures in limited work.

2013 preview: With veteran pass rushers Jarvis Jones and Cornelius Washington out of the picture, DeLoach stands to figure more heavily in Grantham’s plans this fall. DeLoach was the starting strongside linebacker in the base 3-4 package during spring drills and will battle for that honor this fall.

Spring prospectus: By all accounts, it was a productive spring for DeLoach. With Chase Vasser still sidelined by his recovery from shoulder surgery, DeLoach got a long look at SAM linebacker and finished second on the starting defense with six tackles and a sack in the G-Day game. He’ll have to compete with Vasser and others once the team returns to the practice field in August, but DeLoach seemed to help his cause this spring.

Career potential: Georgia had no idea what it had on its hands when DeLoach signed with the Bulldogs, only that he had a future as a defensive player. He had played multiple positions on either side of the ball in high school and Georgia’s coaches thought he could become a defensive end, inside linebacker or outside linebacker depending on how his body filled out over time. DeLoach has found a home at SAM, although at his listed weight of 270 pounds, he can always slide down to end in certain situations. That versatility is going to make him a valuable player for Georgia over at least the next two seasons.
ATHENS, Ga. -- Week two of Spring camp had the Georgia Bulldogs hitting the practice field in full pads while preparing for a scrimmage on Saturday. Position battles and projected performances dominated the questions we received for this edition of the DawgNation Mailbag.

Adam (Charlotte): What is your view on the post-Aaron Murray quarterback position battle? Brice Ramsey comes out very highly recruited but played in a pure running team and didn't really showcase his talents. Could the big bad SEC be too much for him?

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Editor’s note: Each day this week, we’ll ask a question that Georgia’s football team faces this spring as it moves toward the 2013 season. Today’s question: Who will supply the pass rush now that two-time All-American Jarvis Jones has entered the NFL draft?

ATHENS, Ga. -- Replacing the nation’s leading sack artist and most effective pass rusher in the Georgia program’s history is not going to be easy. It might be impossible.

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Georgia Class of 2009 review 

January, 24, 2013
ATHENS, Ga. -- In reviewing Georgia’s seven recruiting classes since 2006 -- when ESPN entered the recruiting game -- last week, we opined that the Bulldogs’ 2009 haul was the best of the bunch. As the various member sites from Recruiting Nation collectively review their schools’ 2009 classes today, let’s take a closer look at what made that group so special.

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ATHENS, Ga. -- This won’t be the most crucial offseason of Todd Grantham’s relatively brief time at Georgia -- that honor goes to 2010, when he started installing his 3-4 scheme shortly after joining Mark Richt’s staff in January -- but it might be the one with the most roster uncertainty.

The Bulldogs will lose 11 key players off its 2012 defense, and that number could grow to 12 if junior nose guard Kwame Geathers declares for the NFL draft, so spring practice will feature major competition within every defensive position group.

“I kind of put them up on the board the other day and we’ve got some talented guys. It’s just a matter of developing them and working them and filtering it,” Grantham said. “Our depth is going to be better than it’s been the last couple of years, but it’s going to be young. So there’s a little bit at every spot.”

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Position scouting report: Outside LBs 

December, 27, 2012
Editor’s note: Over the next several weeks, we’ll take a look at each position on Georgia’s depth chart and project how it might look in the future. Today we examine Georgia’s outside linebackers.

Current two-deep depth chart:
Jarvis Jones (Jr.), Ramik Wilson (So.)
Jordan Jenkins (Fr.), Josh Dawson (Fr.)

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Returning defenders ready for bigger roles 

December, 5, 2012
ATHENS, Ga. -- When Georgia’s seniors lingered on the field to accept the Governor’s Cup from Gov. Nathan Deal after beating Georgia Tech, reality began to sink in for Amarlo Herrera.

[+] EnlargeGarrison Smith, Jeff Driskel
Sam Greenwood/Getty ImagesJunior DE Garrison Smith prefers to let his play do the talking, and that will be expected much more next season.
Looking around the half-empty dressing room, the sophomore linebacker realized how many of his veteran defensive teammates won’t be around the next time the Bulldogs take the field at Sanford Stadium.

“We saw that when they weren’t in the locker room, when they were out on the field,” Herrera said about the moments after the 42-10 win last month.

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DawgNation Q&A 

November, 9, 2012
We asked for questions on The Pound, DawgNation’s message board, and our readers had quit a few. From coaching hot seats to hot recruits to ice cold players, we touch on a little bit of everything.

[+] EnlargeReuben Foster
Alex Scarborough/ESPN.comWould Georgia handing Auburn another loss put LB Reuben Foster, the No. 24 prospect nationally, back in play?
Bullpup969:- Do you know if Reuben Foster (Auburn, Ala./Auburn) is still solid on Auburn? Would a coaching change play into the picture?

Radi Nabulsi: Coaching changes always have consequences and if Gene Chizik and, more importantly, Trooper Taylor were no longer with Auburn, then I would expect Foster to take some official visits. He would likely check out Georgia, LSU, Alabama, Oregon and Washington. The Tide coaches have never stopped recruiting him. Some of Georgia’s commits would try and sway Foster to Athens since he is so close to Tray Matthews (Newnan, Ga./Newnan) and Shaq Wiggins (Tyrone, Ga./Sandy Creek). The last time I spoke to Foster, he was solid to Auburn. He has a good family situation living in Auburn, Ala. But things change in recruiting. Here is one angle that I have not seen mentioned. If Chizik were fired and Auburn hired a new, exciting coach, the prospects committed to the Tigers might become more enthusiastic. I can see them lining up to play for a Charlie Strong or a Jon Gruden.

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Mailbag: Florida-Georgia 

October, 25, 2012
Georgia and Florida will vie for first place in the SEC East race this Saturday in Jacksonville, Fla. With a win, the Gators will clinch the East and Georgia will fall to third place. A Bulldogs' victory would be the program’s biggest win in years. With the stakes this high, our readers have many questions they want answered. Here are a few of them:

[+] EnlargeChristian Robinson
Darrell Walker/Icon SMIChristian Robinson wasn't a big fan of Shawn Williams' comments on the defense Monday.
jeverett10: I just saw the article about how the defense needs to toughen up and the comments from Christian Robinson. What are the coaches and other players saying about "THE RANT" which, in my opinion, was gone about totally wrong in aspects? But I honestly can’t fault Shawn Williams for saying what he did.

Radi Nabulsi: jeverett10 is referring to Williams addressing reporters on Monday when he called the Bulldogs’ defense soft and stated that linebackers Alec Ogletree and Amarlo Herrera should never come off the field because they hit hard. Our own David Ching had a response from defensive coordinator Todd Grantham here and responses from many of Williams’ teammates here. I spoke to Garrison Smith and Herrera and they both believed that Williams’ comments would provide a spark to the defense. Robinson and Mike Gilliard took offense to hearing that Herrera should play more in their place, but Williams did get a chance to explain his comments to the defense at Tuesday’s practice.

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Safety Williams: Georgia defense 'soft'

October, 22, 2012
ATHENS, Ga. -- Shawn Williams didn’t mince words when he met with reporters after Georgia’s Monday evening practice. The senior safety thinks his fellow defensive players aren’t playing with any toughness -- and he’s had enough of it.

[+] EnlargeShawn Williams
Darrell Walker/Icon SMI Shawn Williams had some pointed words for his defensive teammates after Monday's practice.
“I’m trying to see if I have to just take somebody’s helmet off and slap them and say, ‘What’s going on?’ We’re not playing with any emotion right now, period,” Williams said.

Frustrated by yet another flat performance in the Bulldogs’ 29-24 win against Kentucky last Saturday, Williams said Georgia’s defense is “soft” after ranking among the nation’s top units a season ago.

The Bulldogs lost only two starters from that group, cornerback Brandon Boykin and defensive end DeAngelo Tyson, so this season’s defense carried sky-high expectations into the fall. But the group that started the season without four suspended starters -- All-America safety Bacarri Rambo, cornerback Sanders Commings and linebackers Alec Ogletree and Chase Vasser -- struggled from the outset and Williams thinks their collective effort level has actually decreased.

He used the opening drive against a Kentucky as an example, when the Wildcats immediately drove 84 yards for a touchdown after going 20 games without a first-quarter offensive touchdown.

“In the Kentucky game after the first series, I told them we played soft. They got the ball at the 20 and ran 80 yards right up the middle and I told them when I came on the sideline, I said, ‘Y’all are playing soft as … heck.’ ”

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ATHENS, Ga. -- One of the key factors in Georgia’s defensive resurgence a year ago was the Bulldogs’ ability to pressure the passer -- and the opponent mistakes that came as a result.

That element was largely absent in the first half of this season for No. 11 Georgia (5-1, 3-1 SEC), and Bulldogs coach Mark Richt is looking for it to return down the stretch starting Saturday night at Kentucky (1-6, 0-4).

“We’re break even in turnover ratio, which isn’t awful, but we need to get more turnovers,” Richt said. “We need to protect the ball a little bit better. We’ve still got some things we need to clean up.”

Richt hit the nail on the head regarding that statistic, as Georgia has committed the exact same number of turnovers (10) as it has forced. That 50-50 turnover margin leaves the Bulldogs tied for 60th nationally and eighth in the SEC, a season after their turnover-happy defense helped them rank 26th nationally in that key statistic, behind only LSU and Alabama in the conference.

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