March 19, 2010

Does Bobo see progress with offense?

When Mike Bobo surveys the situation as it pertains to Georgia's offense for 2010, he does so with a wary eye.

That obviously includes the current quarterback battle where Aaron Murray, Zach Mettenberger and Logan Gray continue to battle it out for the starting job.

Despite Mettenberger's recent arrest, Georgia's offensive coordinator said the plan for spring won't change when it comes to the mount of reps that each receive.

"Each guy will rotate in with the ones every day," Bobo said. "One guy may start with the ones but all guys will get snaps with the ones."

For example:

On March 4, it was Gray who was the first on the field with the ones with Murray taking his turn on Tuesday. Thursday, Mettenberger was to get his chance to open with the first-team offense.

All three quarterbacks bring something different to the table.

Mettenberger's strong right arm and improving footwork continue to keep him in the conversation, as does Gray's athleticism and speed.

Although not as quick as Gray, Bobo believes Murray's mobility could be an asset as well.

"A lot of it is just mobility within a pocket, being able to move a little bit right or left, sidestep a rusher or find a throwing lane," Bobo said. "If a defense loses contain, he'll (Murray) be able to make plays with his legs, not necessarily designed runs, but there will be times when guys are covered when that happens and the ability to make plays with our legs is big. You see that happen all the time when you watch football across the country, a guy where everybody is covered and he makes a 5- or 6-yard scramble to move the chains."

But Georgia's ongoing quarterback saga isn't the only competition going on this spring. Unlike the former, the battle to start at running back is being waged by two relatively proven young stars in Washaun Ealey and Caleb King.

So far, Bobo said the competition between the two is everything he anticipated it would be.

"There's competition at the position and both of those guys are competing hard. Like any player, there's a guy who wants to start and wants to get out their first and be the starter," he said. "I think that's healthy but I also think you need more than one back in this league, and another one before the season is over. But every day there's competition to see who goes in there first."

Bobo isn't ruling out redshirt sophomore Carlton Thomas eventually playing a key role, too.

Thomas enjoyed a solid spring last year for the Bulldogs but became lost in the shuffle after Ealey and King began to establish themselves midway through the 2009 campaign.

"It is tough for him but Carlton has a great attitude. He's working extremely hard," Bobo said. "Taking care of the ball was a little bit of an issue for him last year but he's worked at that very diligently and he's gotten stronger. But we like what we see out of Carlton and would be great to add him to the mix, too."

Bobo was asked if Thomas could possibly be used as a wideout to help shore up the Bulldogs' wide receiver corps.

"He possibly could be, but it's not something that comes very natural. He does a good job of catching the ball out of the backfield but lining up out of the slot is something that he hasn't done," Bobo said. "But a role for him on special teams as a return guy is very possible. He's a hard worker, been very productive in practice and if he continues to do that he'll get an opportunity in the fall."

Bobo also had encouraging words for redshirt sophomore A.J. Harmon, who has received considerable work this spring at left tackle.

"AJ is working at left tackle. We need to provide some depth and he's one of those guys we need to provide that depth up front. We're rotating him in a lot with the ones just to give him the experience with those guys and get him some confidence," Bobo said. "Y'all know he moved over from defense at the end of his redshirt freshman year, this is his second spring so he is a little bit behind and learning what to do from a confidence standpoint. But there's no doubt he has some ability, he's just got to be able for him to take it on the field and be able to execute what we need him to do offensively."

Overall, Bobo believes the offensive line is ahead of where it was this time last year.

It certainly should be.

All five starters return for Georgia, and if Tanner Strickland and Trinton Sturdivant are able to return from last year's injuries, the Bulldogs' depth would receive a considerable boost.

Strickland is practicing with the team with Sturdivant hopeful of being ready for the start of preseason drills.

"We still have to play some guys in some different positions. But I feel good where we are at right now as a unit. Those guys who finished the season played well together, communicated well together and are taking a lot of pride in how they're leading the football team right now," Bobo said. "That's good to see. There are a lot of guys who care and have a lot of ability, and that's usually a good recipe."

Of course, trying to find ways to cut down the turnovers that plagued last year's squad will remain a spring-long chore.

Not only did the Bulldogs lose 11 fumbles last fall, but quarterbacks Gray and Joe Cox were intercepted 17 times, numbers that must change, even with a new quarterback running the show.

"Talking from my position it's about taking your drop, going through your progression and your letting your feet tell you when you've got to get rid of the ball. Sometimes you have to eat it and you have to throw it away," he said. "You've got to learn that sometimes you have to punt the football and it's not always bad. You're going to coach those things and you're going to coach them hard but you don't want to take the aggressiveness away from a player. There's going to be tight throws and tight windows where we're going to have to throw the ball in there. I don't want to make them scared or afraid to make a mistake. We've just got to be disciplined with our fundamentals and I think that will help more than anything."

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