The Georgia football team that reports on Tuesday and holds its first preseason practice Thursday will look different in many ways from the one that walked off the Sanford Stadium field after its spring game on April 16.
Georgia football coaches Mark Richt, right, and Mike Bobo, left, will have several new players at their disposal this week when the Bulldogs open preseason practice. Georgia plays its first game on Sept. 3 against Boise State.
There is a talent infusion from the “Dream Team” recruiting class featuring its share of marquee recruits, while some familiar players have left the roster in the last few months.
Nobody would have expected back on G-Day that the No. 1 tailback on the depth chart entering the preseason would be Richard Samuel, who moved to linebacker before redshirting last year. He’s back on offense, where his highlight was an 80-yard touchdown run against Arkansas two years ago.
Top recruit Isaiah Crowell from Columbus will have every opportunity to push for the starting job. There’s less competition for him now after Washaun Ealey transferred and Caleb King became academically ineligible.
“Nothing was promised to him,” coach Mark Richt said. “We didn’t promise him that he was going to start or anything like that. We promised to give him an opportunity to compete.”
The defense will be bolstered by junior college transfer nose guard John Jenkins, freshman pass rusher Ray Drew and several talented, athletic defensive backs.
“All those young guys are ballplayers,” junior receiver Tavarres King said. “It’s exciting to be around.”
Georgia is thinner than it would like to be on the offensive line, at tailback and at inside linebacker after injuries and attrition, but there is still work to be done.
“We have days scheduled where we’ll be in full pads and we’ll hook it up, tackle to the ground,” Richt said. “I’m hoping I don’t lose my nerve, I don’t get in a position to lose my nerve because of injuries. I pray that everybody stays healthy. But one of our issues a year ago was the fact that we didn’t compete hard enough and we didn’t finish well enough. In order to get good at those types of things, I think you have to practice that way. So that is the plan going in.”
The Bulldogs will continue preparations for their second season in coordinator Todd Grantham’s 3-4 defense.
“The second year, the second spring it was like light years ahead of where we were the spring before that,” defensive line coach Rodney Garner said.
“The goal is hopefully these guys are going to pick up this fall camp where we left off in the spring. If they do that, I think you’re going to see a tremendous amount of growth defensively overall.”
The offseason fuel has been lit by a 6-7 record in 2010 — the first losing season under Richt — and the opening opponent — Boise State in the Georgia Dome in the Chick-fil-A Kickoff Game.
Having the matchup on the schedule, Richt said, sent “a surge of energy into this program” at a time when his job security has become a hot topic.
Georgia has 29 practices now to gear up for the Sept. 3 game and prepare for what it hopes is a turnaround season.
“Losing to UCF (in the Liberty Bowl) and then having to go home and hear about it because I’m from Florida, I was very upset,” tight end Orson Charles said, “so I’m ready to hit somebody and get that pain out of my system.”