At Dawg Sports, we don't have a beat reporter ourselves, so we are dependent on the usual sources to garnish information about players, practice and camp. What we can do, however, is bring you some summaries and analysis, so I spent the weekend reading just about everything I could; let's get on with it.
On Mark Richt: He was all over the practice field, and in everyone's grill. To steal from a staff email from MaconDawg, "I think his hip replacement helped with that....I didn't expect him to be jumping up and down at practice like he's been doing though." Mark Richt is definitely on his A game, making it clear to the underclassmen they "have to do it the Georgia way", which can mean everything from hustle on the field, to how they dress and how they act. I like the fire Mark Richt is showing, and it just doesn't put fire in the players, it puts it in the coaches. The players are getting motivated and becoming a team. And although I have been critical of the recreational days "pool day" in the past, that was because we stopped two a days and working in the heat. I like it that Mark Richt didn't announce pool day, forced hot two a days, and rewarded the team with pool day as a surprise. Actually, I'm liking everything Mark Richt right now, and I was already a fan. Side note - we have a hella nice natatorium. Be nice to pair a nice field and court with that. (you know I had to sneak that in somewhere)
On the injuries: I admit, I was a little freaked out with the injuries, because for whatever reasons, we seem to lose players by position group, not scattered amongst the team. Having several LBs and CBs hurt put the fear in me. After study and listening to Dawg Sports opinions, I am firmly convinced the injuries are because of hard, aggressive practice. In fact, my take is this was a very physical, rigorous camp. That's a good thing because we're going to need it in Death Valley. It's going to be hot and hostile. I hope this translates to us stepping off the bus ready and not star struck. Aggressive, hungry, team play is the difference maker where we have more limited experience.
On the D line: I am also impressed with Coach Chris Wilson. It seems the players were resistant to change from Coach Garner, but as I have often argued, fresh blood has been a good thing. Coach Wilson emphasizes "effort and technique" and where there is a lack of technique, he fully expects effort. Let's face it, we needed that on the line. To quote DE Ray Drew, "Effort is what you call a non-negotiable in his room." Can I get an Amen from the Choir? I don't just like it, I love it. UGA is always going to have big NFL turnover, there will always be underclassmen we need to step up. We don't have too many 5th year seniors. So, I'm happy to counter the lack of experience with a heaping dose of motivation. Hungry Dawgs are good Dawgs.
On a full roster: Another one of my long standing arguments is the lack of 85 kept us from having competition per position. That has changed, and changed all for the good. John Theus has been fighting for left tackle, pushing Kenarious Gates to fight to keep that slot, and Kolton Houston has been pressing Theus. This is what we needed. I wish we had more of it on the DB chart, but it's a whole lot better across the board. And Hutson Mason is getting more vocal and practicing hard knowing Brice Ramsey is right behind him. We speculated 85 was a big issue, and the proof is in camp this year. The players know there is someone else ready to take their spot if they aren't GATA. Let's get another Amen.
Back to the Defense: Not to hate on Rodney Garner, but his departure is a blessing. Coach Todd Grantham has full control of the D now, with several of his picks on staff. There seems to be a real nice coaching synergy. Expect the D line to rotate and rotate often. This is to keep fresh legs on the line at all times, as well as building that experience. We all know how the Grantham likes to move people around, and he seems to be in good concert with Coach Wilson with this. Although those first two games are going to be tough, it's just going to get better and better on D through this fall and easily carry over into 2014. Coach Scott Lakatos is the silent yet huge difference maker. He is mostly quiet as he usually is, but his proof is in coaching up his position group. He's already proved he's got it, and with the speed the DBs have, his technique coaching is going to be a little easier.
On the O Line: Coach Friend has said this squad is, "Better than last year." I don't imagine he has to say that just to be motivational or build hype. A grown O line both in experience and depth is clearly a good thing, and there's not much more to say than let's hope the holes are 5 yards wide and the RBs are gone, gone, gone. And we know if Aaron Murray has a true pocket and 5 seconds, the chains are moving.
On Coach Bobo and the O: Coach Bobo hasn't had as much to say this year, at least it strikes me that way. It is his year, however. There are fundamentally not many offensive plays we can't run now. As much hell as I have given him, I hope he is Coordinator of the Year this year. He has all the tools, lots of time in the program, and the sky is the limit. With UGA averaging an unsung but astounding 39 points a game last year, while fighting through line problems and losing a few critical receivers, it could simply be jaw dropping this year. Coach Mike Bobo seems to be focused and energized, and you know I'm going to say that's a good thing.
TL; DR: I am overall very happy with this camp, the adjustments being made with a newer set of players and a position coach. I loved Mark Richt's energy, attention to detail and making it clear how things were going to work as a team. I have been highly critical of camps and strength and conditioning in the past, but this year, I almost feel too good. That's not to say we don't have a very tough test to start, but it is to say it is the right and proper foundation to a good year and growing into next year. It's great to be in the reload not rebuild position, and it's great to be a Georgia Bulldog. I'll see you in our regular preseason features, until then, let me know your thoughts on camp, injuries, coaches and as always,