March 27, 2012

Ward pays a visit



The stranger talking to head coach Mark Richt looked vaguely familiar.

A closer look revealed it was indeed former Super Bowl MVP Hines Ward.

According to offensive coordinator Mike Bobo, there's a reason his former teammate spent the better part of Tuesday at Georgia's practice facility.

The 2011 "Dancing with the Stars" champion is trying to figure out if coaching might one day be in his future.

"He just wanted to come over and spend the day with me, just see what coaching is like," Bobo said. "He's trying to see if that's something he'd want to go into."

Ward has in the past spoken about one day getting into the coaching game.

"My wife said to tell him no," quipped Bobo, noting the long hours and time away from home.

Ward attended Tuesday's practice, too. Although NCAA rules prohibit volunteer coaches from helping on the field, Bobo said it was good to have him there.

"If I had put a jersey on him he might have blended in," Bobo said. "He was out there watching. I wish we could have him coach, but he's not allowed to do that."

Although he wasn't coaching, Ward certainly dressed the part as he donned a Bulldog coaching shirt and shorts.

"We got the equipment guy to give him some stuff," Bobo said. "But no, he's going to spend a couple of days here during spring ball to see what we all do, not just out there practicing, but what we do when it comes to things like recruiting, just to see if it's something he'd like to do."

McClendon likes the competition he's seeing

When it comes to his running backs, position coach Bryan McClendon said his biggest goal this spring is to build a culture of competition.

So far, he likes what he's seen.

"Right now we have a good, solid rotation with those guys. We rotate them based on where they were the day before," McClendon said. "The rotation is pretty much by drill. It's not specifically one guy all day long. If he does well that day, at that particular drill he'll be there the next day, so forth and so on. The biggest thing is just creating competition amongst all those guys and I think we're doing pretty well at that."

Thus far, Isaiah Crowell has received most of the reps with the first unit, but Ken Malcome, freshman Keith Marshall and senior Richard Samuel have had their moments as well.

Bobo said Marshall has come to spring camp extremely prepared.

"Keith has done a good job coming in to prepare for spring ball. Coach McClendon being able to be out there with him has helped him through some plays. There's just some uncertainty, not knowing what to do to compete, but he's learning," Bobo said. "Isaiah, Ken and Keith at times have all shown flashes. I think we've got some depth there. Three of the four are still relatively young, but they're showing a lot of promise."

Samuel, meanwhile, is getting a look at fullback in certain offensive sets.

"A lot of times, some of those big-body guys - and not just him - in the past have had to cross-train at both positions just because of pass protection, things like that," McClendon said. "But he's in the mix with both positions."

Nothing in stone regarding offensive line

During the four periods that the media was allowed to watch Tuesday's drills, Kenarious Gates (left tackle), Kolton Houston (left guard), Dallas Lee (center), Chris Burnette (right guard) and Austin Long (right tackle) made up the Bulldogs' first-team offensive line.

Long (left tackle), Mark Beard (left guard), David Andrews (center), Hunter Long (right guard) and Watts Dantzler (right tackle) made up the second unit.

Just don't write it down in stone.

According to offensive line coach Will Friend, just because certain players are lining with a certain group a particular way, that doesn't mean the same group will be out on the field first when Georgia opens the season against Buffalo.

"No, not at all," Friend said. "Nobody has separated themselves. With the exception of Gates, if we played tomorrow, he'd be in there. (Burnette) has done some good things, but as far as that (who is on first and second team) … don't read anything into that. We're just continuing to get all the pieces together."

Friend also had some positive words for Houston, who is able to practice despite his "NCAA issue" which kept him from playing last fall.

"Kolton is a good athlete. He's got good strength, he's a good athlete and he runs well," Friend said. "He's probably the best athlete of all the guards to be honest with you."

This and that

Offensive lineman Xzavier Ward, wide receiver Chris Conley, Zach DeBell and wide receiver Rhett McGowan remained in green non-contact jerseys after their respective off-season surgeries. Wide receiver Rantavious Wooten and outside linebacker Sterling Bailey remain out and Tuesday once again worked out with strength coach Joe Tereshinki in "the pit" adjacent to the practice field. … The Bulldogs worked out in shells for two hours Tuesday and once again, the defense prevailed during competitive drills, although head coach Mark Richt did see improvements on the offensive side of the ball. "The defense won the day again," Richt said after practice. "Still the offense is making progress. We still have a ways to go, but I am really pleased with everyone's efforts." Secondary coach Scott Lakatos agreed. "Coming off a weekend, scrimmage-type practice, I thought the players came out focused," Lakatos said. "Once the guys got it rolling, they maintained the competitive nature that they have about them. We finished practice stronger than when we started, and we are looking to carry that forward as we go into Thursday."