October 25, 2011

Let the games begin



Let the gamesmanship begin.

First, it was Florida coach Will Muschamp, who claimed that quarterback John Brantley is now probable, despite just returning to practice Monday afternoon.

Tuesday, Georgia coach Mark Richt seemed to take his turn when asked about the status of freshman receiver Malcolm Mitchell, who was pulled from Monday's practice after what is being described as tightness in his hamstring, after suffering the original injury three weeks ago at Tennessee.

Beat writers attending the allotted three periods actually got to see the injury occur, which gave Richt the perfect out with a somewhat curt response when asked to give an update during Tuesday's weekly press conference.

"Well you tell me. You guys watched it and everybody's writing about it," Richt said. "But yeah, he didn't do well yesterday. He practiced for about five minutes, yesterday."

There's a reason Mitchell's balky hamstring is big news. The Valdosta native leads the Bulldogs in receiving with 25 catches for 438 yards and three touchdowns.

Quarterback Aaron Murray seems to think his best deep threat will be OK to play against the Gators.

"I think he will be fine. I talked to him and he said he's good to go. He's not going to push it too much to make sure he's 100 percent by game time," Murray said. "He's a competitor so I know whatever he has to do to get that thing as close to 100 percent, as he needs to, he'll do. But I think he will be ready to go."

Murray said he couldn't say exactly the extent of Mitchell's injury, but UGASports.com sources say he felt some tightness after running a couple of routes Monday afternoon.

"I don't really know what it is, but he told me he will be ready to play," Murray said. "I'll take his word for it."

Gilliard - a Gator?

For the first time, junior linebacker Mike Gilliard acknowledged Tuesday he almost considered a transfer following his freshman year two seasons ago - to Florida.

"It was the spring of my freshman year," Gilliard shrugged. "I'm glad I stayed."

At the time, Gilliard, like the rest of the Bulldog defense, was going through the process of adjusting to a new position coach in former assistant Warren Belin and a new defensive coordinator in Todd Grantham, who was installing the 3-4.

Gilliard credits former teammate and current Atlanta Falcon linebacker Akeem Dent with helping him stay put.

"(Dent) was the second person who called me, beside Coach Belin and we talked for an hour and a half," said Gilliard. "He was one of the guys who talked me into staying."

It was the best advice Gilliard said he's ever received.

"It's been so long ago now I almost forgot," Gilliard said. "But I'm here at Georgia now, I'm happy I stayed, I'm happy to be on the team and I hope we win a championship."

Murray rues Twitter pic

Murray said Tuesday's he regretting the picture of him that created somewhat of a stir among Bulldog fans, showing him in a moment of candor during his trip to Tallahassee, Fla. last weekend, where he attended Florida State's game against Maryland.

In the photograph, Murray - with a beer in hand and wearing a FSU shirt - is shown posing with a shirtless man he later identifies as a friend and former player at Georgia Tech.

"I was just trying to get away for the weekend and just relax, have some fun and not get harassed," Murray said. "But hey, it happens. I need to be a little smarter about some of the decisions I make, but you learn, I'll learn."

Murray said he learned of the picture Monday night.

"I was like 'don't tell me I'm going to get in trouble for this nonsense'," said Murray, who turns 21 on Nov. 8.

He added Richt has not of yet mentioned the picture to him.

"No, but I'm sure I'll get a talking too about being careful where I'm at in public," Murray said. "I was just relaxing. It wasn't like I was the one with the shirt off. At least that was a good thing."

Dawgs examine special team mistakes

Richt said the team did put in some extra work on special teams in light of the issues that plagued the Bulldogs during their 33-28 win over Vanderbilt.

"I don't want to give all kind of details about anything we're doing schematically, but we looked at our scheme again, we looked at our personnel again," said Richt, who added the work the team put in wasn't necessarily in response to the specific problems that showed up against the Commodores.

"Say you make a mistake in any phase of the game, you can go and correct that mistake, but if you're correcting that mistake against what happened last week, it may not be what you see this week. So if you spend too much time correcting the mistake from a week ago, you're really not preparing for what might happen this week," he said. "So, we didn't try to go too crazy about it. But we know we've got to get better and I think a lot of it just has to do with challenging those units to do exactly what coach tells them to do. That's been at least 50 percent of the issue."

He said getting players back like linebacker Alec Ogletree should also trickle down to the personnel on special teams as well.

"Every time guys get healthy, like you insert Ogletree into the lineup, it gives you more depth in special teams. That's not to say Ogletree couldn't run down a cover kick too, because you've got a great tackler there and a guy who can really run," Richt said. "I wouldn't be surprised to see more of that. Even Shawn Williams while that Vanderbilt game was going on and he knew what was at stake every time that ball was being kicked, he was personally taking younger guys off the team and putting himself in to help us win. I wouldn't be shocked to see that."

This and that

Linebacker Jarvis Jones has been named a semifinalist for the Butkus Award. He is one of only three SEC players to be so honored. The other two are Alabama's Dont'a Hightower and Courtney Upshaw. … Georgia student-athletes graduated at a rate of 79% in the latest NCAA Graduation Success Rate (GSR) survey period according to figures released Tuesday by the NCAA. That's up from 77% a year ago and is the highest score for the Bulldogs since the GSR was implemented in 2005. … Richt said he still hopes wide receiver Rantavious Wooten will be able to come back this year from his concussion, that will cost him his fifth straight game Saturday, but concedes a redshirt is becoming more of a possibility.

Anthony Dasher is the managing editor for UGASports
and he can be reached via email at dash@ugasports.com.