It's been an unsettling week of practice for the Georgia Bulldogs. Injuries abound. Suspensions continue. Brandon Miller starting at mike linebacker? Maybe it's not such a good idea. The offensive line in the kind of flux I've come to expect from my retirement account (which I now refer to as "the 401 (not-o)k. It's as if Larry Munson is using his semi-retirement to found a new church based on perpetual cynicism, and headquartered it on the front lawn of Butts-Mehre Hall. With all this bad news, I'm sure that like me you are looking for any good Dawg-related news you can find. Here are a few positives for you to chew on as we await the results of this evening's scrimmage.
1) The Kiante Tripp/Jarius Wynn moves. Some (like me) initially saw Kiante Tripp moving to offensive tackle as evidence that our offensive line is in shambles. I still think that's the case. But it's not surprising, and hopefully only temporary. They'll get better as a unit. But what the Wynn and Tripp moves do tell us is that Coach Fabris and Coach Richt must have an awful lot of confidence in the guys behind Marcus Howard and Rod Battle. We only have six scholarship defensive ends now: Marcus Howard, Roderick Battle, Jeremy Lomax, DeMarcus Dobbs, Michael Lemon and Neland Ball
I would just about be willing to eat my 2005 SEC Championship hat slathered in Johhny Harris barbeque sauce if Neland Ball does not redshirt. I just do not believe he is physically ready to play. What that means is that the coaches believe that Lomax, Lemon and Dobbs are each capable of playing significant snaps. While Wynn will "cross-train" at end and probably only be used at tackle this year in pass rushing situations, his future might be inside (especially if Jeff Owens enters the NFL Draft this spring). If those three backups develop well this season, we should be set at both end positions for the next two/three years. Good times.
2) Injuries? What Injuries? Perception is a funny thing. You see 20 names on the injury list and you get concerned. But by the end of two weeks of practice, everybody's hurt. Pitcher Curt Schilling was once asked if he felt "100%" after coming back from an injury. His response? "I haven't been 100% since the 8th grade". The same thing could be said for every college football player toiling on a practice field right now. Every guy on the team has some bump, bruise, tweak or twinge at this point. That's how football works. You run into people in hopes of knocking the crap out of them. Pain ensues. But we don't have anybody tagged to miss significant time.
In contrast, look at the list of Auburn players in the MASH unit over at The Joe Cribbs Car Wash. The Aubbies have significant players facing significant loss of time. I wouldn't trade places with them if you offered me Kenny Irons' luggage collection. We may have some guys hurting, but we don't have anybody who just absolutely couldn't go on September 1 if we needed them. That's a minor miracle.
3) Competition at receiver. Last week I noted Coach Richt's praise for Tony Wilson. Now it's Michael Moore who he says has made a big move. I believe we're going to see a lot more 4 receiver sets this year, especially since we're young and thin at tight end. What we're witnessing is a gaggle of experienced receivers competing for a limited number of snaps. The law of averages dictates that at least a couple of them are going to step to the forefront.
4) QB depth without controversy. If you heard the news that Coach Richt will be getting Joe Cox significant snaps this season and immediately thought "quarterback rotation", then you weren't paying attention. Coach Richt has made clear that Matt Stafford is the once and future starter. But the fact remains that our offensive line can't be trusted at this point to guard a keg, much less a quarterback. I think Coach Richt remembers 2003, and the sight of David Greene being tossed around like a 230 pound red and black pinata. And he knows that he needs somebody with significant snaps to come off the bench if the unspeakable happens.
Cox has made clear that he knows his role. The real story is that we have a qualified redshirt sophomore backup quarterback who our coaches have that much confidence in. This is never, ever a bad thing.
5) Trinton Sturdivant. I'm as nervous as anyone about the spectre of starting a true freshman at left tackle, guarding the ample blindside of Orson Swindle's favorite non-homeschooled SEC quarterback/race fan. But the fact that he's been in Athens since January makes me less nervous. He's bulked up close to 295 lb., and could be installed as the bell cow of our offensive line through 2010, unless some other younger badass supplants him. It's what your office's resident Lundberg would call a "win-win".
So cheer up, Dawgnation. It's not that bad.