April 2, 2013

New sheriffs in town

Last year it was Jarvis Jones and Shawn Williams who were generally credited for being the vocal leaders of the Georgia defense.

When something needed said, it was typically one of those two who spoke their mind.

This year, a new group of Bulldog upperclassmen is ready to take over the role.

"We're like the Knights of the Round Table, the Atlanta boys," senior defensive end Garrison Smith said, describing himself, junior linebacker Amarlo Herrera and cornerback Damian Swann.

"If I ever feel the need to say something, I'm going to say something; I'm going to speak up," Smith added. "That's my role, along with Damian and Amarlo. We've all got our own rolls and own ways to lead the team. If things are looking bad, somebody's going to say something."

Obviously, Smith hopes he doesn't have to say anything, other than to relay some of the knowledge he's picked up his previous three years with the Bulldogs.

"I've seen a lot. My freshman year we had a 6-7 season, I've been through 0-2 starts to begin the season. I've seen us start all kind of ways," Smith said. "I can use my experiences to help these young guys who have never been through that."

Head coach Mark Richt said he expects Smith will fit the role just fine.

"Garrison is a guy that is a senior on defense, and we have very few of those. His whole career he's been under the wing of these veteran lineman, and all of the sudden these veterans leave and he's it. He's had to be the teacher and the leader now. I think he's really tried to embrace that role. He's a guy that earned playing time when there were a lot of good veteran players because he played hard, and he's continuing to do that."

Smith said he and the defense are looking forward to getting off to a fast start on Saturday in the annual G-Day game (1 p.m., FSS).

"It's real important. We all want to play as hard as we can and try to dominate this offense," Smith said. "If we can play well against one of the top offenses in the country, then we can play good against anybody."

G-Day plans set

Offensive coordinator Mike Bobo and defensive coordinator Todd Grantham will lead the respective Red and Black teams, although Richt said Tuesday neither assistant will know what team he will coach until Thursday.

Richt said the contest will pit the No. 1 offense against the No. 2 defense and the No. 2 offense against the No. 2 defense.

"We're finalizing the roster, so I'll probably wait until Thursday to see which coach gets which team. We'll try to make the teams as even as possible, and then whichever coach wins the coin toss gets to choose which team he gets," Richt said. "When the "ones" are playing, they'll be going against the "ones", and the "twos" will go against the "twos," which makes for a pretty even ball game."

The contest will once again feature four 12-minute quarters.

"We'll have 12-minute quarters, but we won't take time off for kicks. We're not even going to kick-off; we'll just set the ball on the 25. When we punt, we'll line up in a punt set but we're not going to rush it," Richt said. "If the guy kicks it 80 yards, it's still going to be a 35-yard net punt. We're not going to cover it. We'll line up for PATs and field goals and go ahead and kick them, but we won't rush those either and the time won't run during that."

Richt acknowledges Theus getting look at LT

Richt said sophomore John Theus did in fact work at left tackle during Saturday's scrimmage, but insisted it was nothing more than building additional depth.

"We've rotated a bunch. We're experimenting right now. A guy like Xzavier Ward has really come along, so we might give him some shots at right tackle and move (John) Theus over to left," Richt said. "You've got (Mark) Beard and (Kenarious) Gates that can play tackle, but maybe they can play guard. We're trying to find who our best five is for next year. We know we don't have (Chris) Burnette practicing right now, but chances are he'll line up at number one when he's back. What's happening is that we are getting some of the younger linemen who are understanding more and getting in a better position to compete. We're rolling things around to find the best five."

Fans asked to bring their food donations for Saturday.

For the fifth straight year, the UGA Athletic Department will team up with the Food Bank of Northeast Georgia to alleviate hunger in northeast Georgia. The department asks that fans please bring a bag of food to gain admission to the annual G-Day game at Sanford Stadium this Saturday at 1 p.m.

The Athletic Department has set a goal of 15,000 pounds for this year's game. Over the past four years, the annual spring game has collected nearly 40,000 pounds of food. The greatest success came in 2010 when slightly more than 12,000 pounds were collected in one day.

This year, the Athletic Department has enlisted the help of several of the football players for the food drive. Fans can support their favorite player by bringing in the items listed next to each player's name: Aaron Murray (green beans and pinto beans), Keith Marshall (canned corn and sliced peaches), Todd Gurley (black eyed peas and chicken noodle soup), Malcolm Mitchell (early peas and canned pasta), Damian Swann (baked beans and sliced pears) and Michael Bennett (peanut butter and canned mixed veggies).

Donation stations will also be in place for monetary contributions, and just one dollar equals four pounds of food. All food and proceeds will go to assist families in Northeast Georgia.

Fans are asked to drop their bags of donated canned goods into the receptacles upon entering Sanford Stadium. Bins will be located at the Main Gate and Gates 2, 4, 6 and 9.

This and that

Richt said that freshman Tray Matthews continues to make a strong impression. "When a guy can tackle out in space like he does and just plays with speed and confidence, it's been impressive," he said. "He hasn't nailed down any particular job yet, but he's made a very strong impression on everybody. I think he's proved that he's earned playing time." … Richt said freshman J.J. Green will get looks returning punts and possible kicks for the Bulldogs next fall. "He's got great change in direction and good speed. As a runner, he's really got a little toughness about him," Richt said. "We really weren't sure how he was going to respond to everything, but so far, he's learned extremely well and he's competing hard. He has a long way to go, but he's making some progress."