The “edge” that Georgia coaches are seeing so far this preseason from sophomore Watts Dantzler could be attributed to that highly-regarded freshman he’s splitting time with on the starting unit at right offensive tackle.
“When you get a young guy like (John) Theus behind you, it probably is motivation,” head coach Mark Richt said after the Bulldogs’ second practice on Friday.
Dantzler didn’t think that was necessarily the reason. The Dalton native said he’s just more confident this year because “I know the playbook in and out. I’m very confident up there making calls whereas last year I was hoping the guard knew what to do.”
With Kolton Houston still ruled ineligible by the NCAA because he’s tested positive for a performance enhancing substance, the 6-foot-7, 313-pound Dantzler and the 6-foot-6, 309-pound Theus are in a battle at right tackle.
Richt said offensive line coach Will Friend “thought Watts has definitely made improvement from what he remembered from him in the spring from a focus. There’s just like an edge to him mentally where he seems like he’s very serious about wanting to play and wanting to win a job.”
Dantzler said he’s trying to help Theus, from Jacksonville, Fla., out with the playbook.
“We need as many offensive linemen as possible to play,” Danztler said.
So far, Richt sees six offensive linemen poised to play: left tackle Kenarious Gates, left guard Dallas Lee, center David Andrews, right guard Chris Burnette and Theus and Dantzler.
Richt said Theus or Dantzler could play right guard. That could happen if Burnette replaced Andrews at center. Theus and Dantzler are not getting left tackle reps yet.
“Theus is certainly a guy who has the physical ability and he’s pretty conscientious as well,” Richt said. “We think he’s learning pretty quick.”
Dantzler said he and Theus are getting about equal reps.
“We’re battling,” Dantzler said. “He gets after it. He’s a good player.”
Strong early impressions for freshmen
The 17 players from Georgia’s signing class that are now practicing have impressed the coaching staff.
“Everybody’s pretty pleased with the talent base that we brought in and the attitude, the willingness to learn and be coached, a lot of things that you know are going to be important if a guy’s really going to become a good player one day,” Richt said. “The skills sets are outstanding. The athleticism is outstanding. A lot of coaches are talking about the explosive ability of the defensive players that play on or near the line of scrimmage. I think we did a really good job of bringing in some outstanding freshmen.”
Richt said most have “a very good chance of contributing this season. Time will tell if all of them will play. We feel like they’re all in the running for helping us win this year.”
Josh Harvey-Clemons is playing safety because he’s not yet ready for outside linebacker at 6-foot-5 and 207 pounds.
“His body right now is more ready to do that,” Richt said. “I don’t think he’s really thick enough at this moment and strong enough to play the outside linebacker position. He could do it athletically without question. He could play safety without question. I think he could play the nickel, I think he could play corner. … He has very good ball skills. He’s got a lot of quickness and burst. I imagine he could be a pretty good receiver if he wanted to be. He’s about what we thought he was, but he’s just not thick enough yet I think to jump inside.”
RB Thomas not transferring
Running back Carlton Thomas, who left the team before spring practices with the intention of transferring, probably is done with college football.
Thomas hoped to graduate from Georgia by the end of the summer to be able to transfer to another FBS program, but now will try to complete his degree in the fall semester.
He will remain in school at Georgia, said Brad Metheny, who coached Thomas at Frostproof (Fla.) High School.
“He wanted to get his degree at Georgia instead of dropping down to Division II,” Metheny said.
Thomas was Georgia’s second leading rusher last year with 361 yards in 10 games.
This and that
Former Ole Miss and Arkansas coach Houston Nutt was at practice while in town for a Sirius XM radio show. He interviewed players and coaches Friday, including quarterback Aaron Murray, who threw a pair of touchdown passes and ran for another against Nutt’s Rebels last season in a 27-13 win in Oxford.