July 30, 2013

Pre-camp observations

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With so much going on before the start of fall camp, here's a quick list of what's making news for the Bulldogs and some things to look for come the start of fall camp on Thursday.

• It was interesting on Monday to hear Mark Richt call Jadeveon Clowney the "best football player in the world." There's no doubt that Clowney is among the nation's best - in the collegiate, and in time could become one of the best in the NFL. But he's got to get there first. While there's no doubt Richt was sincere with his comments, there's no doubt a little gamesmanship going on here, too. Kill 'em with kindness, perhaps?

• Was sorry to hear that freshman Davin Bellamy (shoulder surgery) likely won't quite be ready when fall camp begins. Once he is, the former Chamblee standout figures to be a prototypical player for the Will position behind Jordan Jenkins.

• While some ardent followers of Bulldog football might find it hard to believe, it's no joke that redshirt Xzavier Ward is pushing for serious playing time at right tackle. Coaches love his work ethic, and although there are still parts of his game that need some work, his desire to improve is what's impressed coaches the most. Safe money is still on sophomore John Theus (who started all 14 games and has had an outstanding summer) getting the nod, but he's going to have to earn it. Offensive coordinator Mike Bobo said last week that Ward and Theus would split reps with the first unit once practice begins.

• Speaking of the offensive line, Theus, Mark Beard and Kenarious Gates will each get their opportunities to win the left tackle position. Gates, I'm told, is considered the favorite, but the other two guys will have their chance to show what they can do.

Kolton Houston may be further along than originally thought. Last week, Houston spoke about having to "shake off the rust" after not playing in an actual game for four years, but after listening to Richt on Monday, it sounds like coaches are expecting him to play more of an immediate goal than first though. While it's difficult to imagine Houston actually winning a starting job right off the bat, it does sound like he's expected to make some sort of impact. Either way, it's a good problem for coaches to have as offensive line depth has been an issue in recent years.

• It would necessarily be a shock to see wide receiver Jonathon Rumph make some sort of impact at receiver, but sources still say the junior college transfer has work to do with when it comes to his route running.

• If you had to put money on which two freshmen inside linebackers make the biggest impact, lay the cash down on Reginald Carter and Tim Kimbrough. Carter was impressive during the spring while Kimbrough has come in this summer and excelled during 7 on 7 drills.

• Yes, Coach Richt has refused to comment on the status of kicker Marshall Morgan following his arrest for Boating Under the Influence, there figures to be a different kicker taking the field when Georgia opens against Clemson. Although there are a handful of walk-ons on the team, one name to consider is junior Adam Erickson. Erickson served as Georgia's "placement" punter last fall, punting eight times for an average of 37 yards, five of those kicks landing inside the opponent's 20-yard line. But the Athens native can put the football through the up-rights as well. Erickson enjoyed a stellar career as a kicker at Clarke Central and in 2012 kicked a 46-yarder at G-Day.

• Running backs Todd Gurley and Keith Marshall have been workout warriors this summer. Marshall has muscled up while maintaining his weight at 217 pounds, while Gurley has added some upper-body strength to go what was obviously a strong lower base last fall. "Gurshall" appears primed for even bigger success in 2013.

• Keep an eye on Toby Johnson. He could be something special. The junior college transfer was a huge get for Georgia, despite spending most of last year recovering from a torn ACL. Monday, Richt said that Johnson will start fall camp with no limitations, and if you've seen the videos of him dunking a basketball and doing flips, you'll know why there's so much excitement. Johnson is slated to play defensive end for the Bulldogs, and assuming he's able to learn the system, could play a bigger role than many first expected this fall.

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