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October 5, 2010Apparently, you can teach an old Dawg some new tricks.
On Monday, head coach Mark Richt surprised the Bulldogs when he announced that instead of hitting the field for their normal special teams workout, players would be putting on the full pads and the No. 1 and No. 1 offenses and defense would scrimmage live against the other.
Apparently, it's a trend that will continue, despite the fact Monday's session marked the first time in Richt's 10 years at Georgia that he's ever scrimmaged the No. 1 units against one another during mid-week practice.
"It's hard not to flinch sometimes when you have your red cross looking pretty rough, but its part of football," Richt said.
"I've never done that. Monday is usually a day in shorts and we do a little running and lifting and meeting. We install a little bit, just from a mental standpoint, almost a glorified walkthrough just to kind of mend up on all that," Richt said. "I decided that we just needed to put the pads on and we needed to go have a little spring ball, which is No. 1 vs. No. 1."
According to Richt, it was arguably the most competitive practice the Bulldogs (1-4) have had in a while.
"We had a team run drill where each group had eight plays apiece and the team that won didn't have to run and the team that lost had to run after practice. Then we had an 11-on-11, which is more of anything goes, 1st-and-10 type scrimmage where you can run or pass with the same criteria, winners and losers," Richt said. "Then we put the ball on the four-yard line and got in a goal line situation and said you have four downs to score a touchdown, but you have to stay in your goal line offense and defense and you can't throw the ball. It has to be a physical confrontation. We did that and I thought the players responded beautifully. I thought it pumped some life into those guys."
Quarterback Aaron Murray liked what he saw.
Although the players didn't learn of the change until they received a text approximately two hours before the start of practice, he thought his teammates responded well.
"Coach Richt really challenged us before practice when he told us that he was going to change things up a little bit. I think the guys really stepped up. If you're a true football player you enjoy competing; you don't care if it's two days after a game, whatever, you're ready to put those pads back on," Murray said. "I felt like everyone was ready to compete, and I think everybody was competing extremely hard and wasn't feeling sad for themselves because of the record."
Fullback Fred Munzenmaier agreed.
"I thought it was helpful. I thought we practiced hard, and obviously when you're in that competitive mode you're going to go as hard as you can go," Munzenmaier said. "We had fun, we had guys jumping around and making noise, it was good energy."
Richt said the reason he's shied away from having the No. 1 units face off in the past was due to the potential for injuries.
But with the team sitting 1-4 heading into Saturday's game against Tennessee, desperate times call for desperate measures.
"A lot of it had to do with the one season when we had 32 guys hurt going into the year. You start out with camp and another one goes and another one goes. There are different schools of thought. One is you have to block and tackle to block and tackle well. The other one is let's get everybody to the gate healthy and let's kind of play our way into this game and pick our shots when we do those types of things," Richt said. "We did the least amount of that in camp than we've ever done. Is it biting us in the rear end right now? Probably so. That's a decision I made based on what I just told you. The only thing I know how to do is go back to the basics of blocking and tackling and make sure we do that well."