August 27, 2013

Norman embraces challenge


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Connor Norman talks Clemson from UGASports.com on Vimeo.

Connor Norman said Tuesday he was as surprised as anyone to find out his name was listed atop the depth chart at strong safety for Saturday's season-opener at Clemson (ABC, 8:22 p.m.).

In fact, his brother had to give him the news.

"I honestly didn't know about that until my brother texted and told me, so that was a shock to me, too," Norman said Tuesday. "It's exciting, I'm excited about the opportunity and I'm excited about our guys."

Had it not been for sophomore Josh Harvey-Clemons' one-game suspension, the Presbyterian transfer would quite likely be an afterthought for the Bulldogs.

But with Harvey-Clemons out and junior backup Corey Moore not expected to play, Norman will be the starter at strong safety against the 8th-ranked Tigers.

Let the wringing of hands commence.

Norman will be the first to tell you that he isn't the most athletic safety.

But what he may lack, coaches and teammates will tell you he makes up for in knowledge and where to line up on the field.

"Connor really understands the system well. He understands what's going on in the back end, and he understands the checks that we make against certain looks. He has the ability to communicate it to guys that don't know it as well, and that's huge," head coach Mark Richt said. "Christian Robinson was that kind of guy for us at linebacker during his career. He added a lot of value to our defense just from a knowledge standpoint, and that's where Connor is right now."

Wide receiver Malcolm Mitchell said those who doubt Norman's abilities need to take a closer look.

"They probably saying that because they haven't seen him play enough," Mitchell said. "They just don't know what kind of player he is, and hopefully he proves that Saturday."

Norman admits he's heard the whispers from those who doubt what he can do.

He says it doesn't bother him.

"I guess we'll just have to wait for the game. People talk, but I honestly don't pay attention to it," he said. "I've worked hard … everybody else has worked hard. I'm just excited for the opportunity."

It's not like he hasn't started before.

Norman opened the first two games of 2012 against Buffalo and Missouri. Still, he admits the nerves will be there when the Bulldog take the field at Memorial Stadium.

"I was more nervous for Buffalo because that was my first game, but I'm sure there will be nerves," Norman said. "You're not a normal human being if you're not nervous, but I'm excited, too."

Richt said he has absolutely no qualms with playing Norman in the game.

"Half the battle for safeties, especially when you're trying to tackle people, is being where you're supposed to be when you're supposed to be there. If you're late getting down into the box, the farther you are away from the back, which creates space," Richt said. "Space is the enemy of anyone trying to make a tackle. If you get where you're supposed to be, the guy doesn't have as much room to maneuver on you and that helps you make the tackle or make the play. Connor is just one of those guys that has that advantage, and he really has it based upon all of the knowledge that he has."

Moore, Rumph to sit out

Richt and the Bulldogs have been very hush-hush regarding the status of some of their injured players.

Tuesday, however, that wasn't the case.

When asked about the status of Moore (right knee sprain) and wide receiver Jonathon Rumph (hamstring), Richt said he does not expect either of the players to be able to go.

"I don't think we will have either of those," said Richt, who added he does expect freshman safety Tray Matthews to be able to suit up after missing three weeks of camp, most recently with an injured hamstring.

Richt was asked if the Bulldogs would me missing any more players, via suspension or otherwise.

"If I knew I wouldn't tell you," Richt said.

Jenkins' leap grabs attention

A recent leap over running back Branden Douglas caught on camera during a recent scrimmage has outside linebacker Jordan Jenkins somewhat of a Twitter sensation.

On the play, Douglas went to cut the sophomore, but Jenkins had the presence of mind to jump over the Augusta freshman, making for a memorable highlight.

"I actually tried it the first scrimmage but it didn't work. The second time I knew he was going to cut so I jumped, but he didn't cut. The next thing I know I'm over him, so I kept going," Jenkins said. "I said if (Jadeveon) Clowney can do it I can do it. I still don't know how people got that, but I saw it, took a picture and re-tweeted it. I'm glad somebody got a picture of it. My parents loved it when I showed it to them."

So, how high did Jenkins actually go?

"Douglas is not that short, 5-foot-9, 5-10," Jenkins recalled. "I think I was at least four or five feet in the air."

Hicks throws his weight around

Fullback Quayvon Hicks didn't want to make it a big deal. But yes, he did manage to overturn one of Georgia's blocking sleds during practice Monday afternoon.

"You've got to bring some excitement, especially at my position," Hicks smiled. "All we do is hit, so we've got to do something."

Apparently, the 265-pounder had little problem.

"He's really gotten physical," defensive end Garrison Smith said. "He's finally learned what to do. It's going to be exciting to watch him. He's a big boy. I'd hate to be that linebacker that doesn't see him."

This and that

Quarterback Aaron Murray says he has started wearing contacts, but will not wear them in the game. … Georgia announced that kickoff for Saturday night's game will actually take place at 8:22 (ABC). … Richt was asked if he'd like to see the series with Clemson extended past next year's game in Athens. "A lot of our scheduling has already been done for years down the road, but we'll just have to wait and see. I think it will have to do with what we do as a league. If we go to nine conference games, it will be a lot less likely (to continue playing Clemson). If we stay at eight games, it will be a lot more likely."


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