During Wednesday's SEC teleconference, head coach Mark Richt disputed the claim by some that he knew Isaiah Crowell, Ken Malcome and Carlton Thomas would have to be suspended before last week's game with Florida.
After practice, he offered some specifics.
"We didn't know anything until Monday evening," Richt said of the trio, who are being suspended for Saturday's game against New Mexico State, allegedly for failing a drug test administered by school officials last week.
Richt said redshirt sophomore Brandon Harton is expected to make his first career start against the Aggies with freshman walk-on Kyle Karempelis expected to see some playing time as well.
"That's (Monday evening) when we knew we needed to start thinking about what's going on (with the running back situation)," Richt said. "We may scrap a little more than we normally would based on what kind of comfort level, but if you just watch practice and didn't know a thing, you wouldn't sit there and say 'Wow, those backs are struggling.' They knew what they were doing and do a good job."
Richt said it doesn't bother him what his detractors may say about how the situation was handled.
"It doesn't because I know the truth," he said. "Everything we've done since I've been here has been done with the utmost integrity as you could possibly do it. That's how I wanted to start out and that's how I want to finish. I know exactly what happened, I know exactly what the timeline was, so I know in my spirit and my heart exactly what happened. We did exactly what our policies call for. It would bother me if I felt like we did that. I'd have a pretty guilty conscience and wouldn't be able to live with it very easily."
Richt pleased with Crowell's response
Richt said he's been pleased with how Crowell has responded since his suspension.
"I'm extremely proud of the way Isaiah has handled the situation. He was very remorseful. I think he's going to grow up from this in some ways and be better for it," Richt said. "Sometimes things happen in life that will help you grow up a little bit quicker. He was very sorry for what he did and he's very eager to take whatever discipline I decided was appropriate and I think he's really excited about the opportunity to play in the Auburn game, and really be ready for that game. He's ready to make a huge contribution to the team."
Richt said he believes Crowell has turned a corner.
"Sometimes someone gets in trouble, you have your meeting with them and they walk out of there and you're thinking this guy doesn't get it. I didn't think that in any way, shape or form," Richt said. "As a matter of fact, I think it was one of the better conversations I've had with Isaiah since he's been here. I left that meeting very encouraged and in the last couple of days I've seen the things, the little things, some real positive things come of it - to this point. I think it will."
Was a special teams coach considered?
Richt said he considered hiring a special teams coach last year when former inside linebackers coach Warren Belin decided to leave for the Carolina Panthers of the NFL.
But not for long:
"I looked at it, but what happens is if you have a guy and that's all he does, all of a sudden you're robbing a position from either the offense or the defense," Richt said after practice Wednesday. "Our offensive staff was already intact and if I was going to hire, we already had Coach (Todd) Grantham, Coach (Rodney) Garner and Coach (Scott) Lakatos and we were down to one more. If I had brought in just a special teams guy, then they (the defense) would have been short-handed. I wanted to make sure Coach Grantham had what he needed, too, so I went back to continuing on since I've been here."
Richt prefers to split up his special team's duties amongst his various assistant coaches, just like his mentor and former boss Bobby Bowden did during his years at Florida State.
Richt said it's not that he would be opposed to having a coach whose sole responsibility was special teams, that is, if the NCAA would allow more than 10 coaches on staff.
"I'd be all for that," said Richt, when asked if the NCAA would extend the number of coaches to 11. "But I don't think it's going to happen anytime soon."
So, for the foreseeable future, the Bulldogs' special team duties will stay split amongst Garner (PAT block), Will Friend (PAT/field goal), Bryan McClendon (punt return/punt block), John Lilly (punt team), Kirk Olivadotti (kickoff coverage) and Tony Ball (kickoff return).
Georgia's special team woes have been well-chronicled.
From kicker Blair Walsh's 10 misses, to problems with punt and kickoff return, opponents have brought backs kickoffs for touchdowns in two consecutive games.
Richt also attempted to disprove the notion that he and his staff don't put in enough work on special teams during the week.
"On Monday, field time, we spend 25 minutes
half the practice on kicking," said Richt, who added the team also spends about three hours in meetings on special teams alone. "Tuesday, we spend five minutes of specialty, 20 minutes of kicking and 10 minutes after we call them up. We spend 25 minutes on Wednesday and on Thursday we go about 30 minutes."
This and that
Richt said he is certainly not ruling out linebacker Jarvis Jones for Saturday's game, despite an MCL sprain he suffered against Florida. Jones spent the early part of Wednesday's practicing on a stationary bike. "I don't know, but he's getting better and my guess is he'll be a little better (Thursday) and the next, especially when that adrenalin gets going," Richt said. "My guess is he'll play."
Richt was pleased with Wednesday's practice in shells. "We had a good day today. I thought everybody gave good effort, the scout team, especially did well. I appreciate those guys," Richt said. "We started with the special teams and I thought those guys did well. I thought we got better today. I'm a happy man right now."
Anthony Dasher is the managing editor for UGASports
and he can be reached via email at [email protected]