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Blog: Eight takeaways nearing midway point of UGA spring practices

Georgia will pass the midway point of spring football practices when it holds its eighth workout on Tuesday afternoon.

Here are eight takeaways from what’s transpired so far:

1. Offensive tackles are solidifying their jobs

There’s been change at both left guard and right guard this spring with Mark Beard giving way to Zach DeBell and Greg Pyke moving ahead of Brandon Kublanow. Those positions seem up for grabs, although center David Andrews said he thought Pyke had a good scrimmage Saturday.

Meanwhile, John Theus moved from right tackle to left tackle before the spring and has worked in that spot the entire way. Kolton Houston has stuck at right tackle, where Watts Dantzler was behind him but missed the last two practice days after sustaining a concussion.

“There’s several guys on that o-line that have one or two years left,” quarterback Hutson Mason said. “I can appreciate the situation they’re in and all the effort and the practice reps that they’re giving. I’m sure they want to get out there on Saturdays, too.”

2. Moving J.J. Green from tailback to defense could have a big impact

The sophomore tied for the team lead with seven tackles in the first spring scrimmage on Saturday from his “Star” nickel back position.

“He’s very tough, very physical,” coach Mark Richt said. “For a guy who hasn’t played defense in a while, I really like what he’s doing.”

Said receiver Michael Bennett: “He just has a good feel for the game. He’s a ball-player. It doesn’t matter what side of the ball he’s on.”

Sheldon Dawson is backing up Green at nickel.

3. The defensive line is making it hard for the offense to run the ball

According the statistics provided by Richt, there were 98 rushing yards on 33 carries in the scrimmage. That’s 2.97 yards per carry. It was more of the same in Thursday’s practice that was entirely open to the media. When Todd Gurley isn’t carrying the ball, no surprise there’s an obvious drop-off.

“He busted a couple on screens, but on the run we were stopping him,” Green said of the scrimmage.

Defensive linemen James DeLoach, Ray Drew, Mike Thornton and John Atkins were credited with five tackles for loss in the scrimmage.

“Chris Mayes had a heck of a day,” Drew said. “The entire segment had a pretty good day.”
Green basically said the same thing.

“It’s way harder to run on them,” he said. “I was thinking, ‘If I was on offense, I’d be so mad right now.”

4. Gurley is getting more work than expected

Georgia needs to have its star running back ready to roll against Clemson and still fresh as the grind of the season rolls on. That doesn’t mean that Gurley is coasting this spring after battling injuries as a sophomore. He’s practiced every day and hasn’t been in a non-contact jersey yet. Brendan Douglas is easing his load by getting plenty of first-team reps , but Gurley is still going hard when he’s out there.

5. There’s a considerable gap between Mason and the other quarterbacks

That’s not a big surprise considering Mason is in his fifth-year in the program, but offensive coordinator Mike Bobo and Richt wanted the guys competing for the backup job to have the mindset of pushing Mason, not just trying to win the No. 2 job.

The Faton Bauta-Brice Ramsey competition looks like it could go deep into August.

“Bobo’s trying to do a great job of getting them reps, an equal amount of reps with the ones and the twos,” Mason said.

6. Just a tinge of fatigue on all the talk of the new defensive coaches and changes on defense

One prominent player from last year’s defense seems to have tired of the constant talk of the new coaches and the defensive changes. He said before showing up for interviews one day last week that he knew he would get a steady diet of questions on what he thought of the staff.

That seems to be an exception.

Cornerback Damian Swann was gushing about the differences the new coaches have brought.

“It’s constant coaching,” he said. “Everything is fast-paced. There’s really not a break. You’re going from field to field and drill to drill and it’s competition.”

7. Leonard Floyd is still doing Leonard Floyd things

In case you missed this that I tweeted out the other day, Bennett was talking up the playmaking outside linebacker late last week.

“You all already know how good he is,” Bennett said, “but I blocked him today and he threw me around like a rag doll. He’s a freak.”

8. Drew continues to be full of surprises

We may not hear from the senior defensive lineman again this spring.

“Final interview,” Drew told reporters after the scrimmage. “I will not be doing any more. For the rest of the year.”
He was laughing.

“I’m retiring,” he said.

Drew has worked on the second and third team, a bit of a surprise. Cornerback Shaq Wiggins also has been working second-team. Of the depth chart, Drew said coaches “have already made the statement that things are going to change a little bit again here in the upcoming week.”

He did his interview and left saying something about that was his last interview. We shall see.

–Please follow me at Twitter.com/marcweiszer