August 15, 2012

Conley getting it done



Articulate, smart and poised. All three adjectives can be used to describe sophomore receiver Chris Conley, who is anxious to build off of a promising freshman year.

In 11 games, the Dallas, Ga. native certainly showed signs that he could be a dependable receiver in the Georgia arsenal last fall, catching 16 passes for 288 yards and two touchdowns.

During Wednesday's scrimmage at Sanford Stadium, the 6-foot-2, 203-pounder continued to flash his potential, leading all receivers with four catches for 114 yards and a score.

"It's a big year for me to show that I can be a consistent receiver, be explosive and a guy who can be accounted for," said Conley, who hooked up with quarterback Aaron Murray on a 70-yard score. "But we're all (the receivers) having good practices and all the guys are making plays."

Murray is quick to agree with that.

Although Malcolm Mitchell has remained almost exclusively with defense thus far in preseason drills, apparently Tavarres King, Marlon Brown, Michael Bennett, Rantavious Wooten, Justin Scott-Wesley, Rhett McGowan and even freshman Blake Tibbs - who caught a touchdown Wednesday - are giving the Bulldogs plenty of talented options.

"They're very talented. They can make some plays if you just give them a chance. They've done a great all camp of not just making the catch but breaking tackles," Murray said. "They're getting the ball 1-on-1 and not getting tackled in open space. They're getting the catch and making big plays. It's great for a quarterback to know you can just get the ball to them and let them do the rest of the work."

Murray says Conley figures into that mix.

"He can be moved all around. (Chris) is a big enough kid you can put in a slot and he's smart enough to learn all the positions," Murray said. "You can tell him to 'hey, learn the X today and he'll learn it in a week and be ready to go. He's a very dedicated worker. He's going to work extremely hard and make sure he's doing it right."

Conley is grateful for whatever opportunity he gets, although from the looks of it, he's about to get all he can handle.

"I'm thankful for Coach (Mike) Bobo giving me some opportunities. I had some more deep plays, they put me in the slot and threw to me underneath a lot. I made some plays on the outside, some on the inside and I made some intermediate plays, "Conley said. "It was a good scrimmage for me - different areas of the field - I got to use a lot of different parts of my game."

Drew says he could have returned sooner

Defensive end Ray Drew, who missed over week while recovering from a minor concussion, was back on the field for Wednesday's scrimmage.

"I was pushing to come back by Monday, but the staff in the training room didn't want me to push it too quick," Drew said. "They didn't want me to risk getting out there too early."

Drew proved that he was up to the challenge by making for tackles in the nearly 90-minute session at Sanford Stadium.

"I think I made a statement because this is the last actual scrimmage (the Bulldogs have a dress rehearsal next week) we have as a team before we go in and start preparing for Buffalo," he said. "I think today was more of a statement, a chance to show the coaches that I'm ready before they get to the point of questioning or saying 'Can I put him in there or do I need to get somebody else. Will he run the play right?' So, being able to get back out there to show that I knew what I was doing, go full speed and actually make plays, I think it helped me out."

Mitchell getting few offensive looks

So far, Conley said Mitchell hasn't gotten many looks on offense, but added when he does, it won't take him long to get back into the flow.

"He's still paying attention," Conley said. "He still knows what's going on with the offense and it won't be difficult for him to come back."

In the meantime, Conley had nothing but great things to say about his fellow sophomore, who could very well be starting at cornerback when the Bulldogs open their season against Buffalo.

"His game is so different than other guys. He's very versatile. He's got a lot of size with a lot of quickness," Conley said. "He's a got a lot of attributes that make it hard for you as a receiver if you run a great route all the way through. You might beat him on the release, but he might catch up because he's quick. He has so many tools that allow him to make plays in all situations."

Running backs continue to impress

For the second straight week, freshman Todd Gurley continues to open some eyes.

After rushing six times for 56 yards a week ago, the Tarboro, N.C. native followed it up with a seven carry effort for 87 yards and scoring a pair of touchdowns. One of Gurley's scores came on a 66-yard run.

"He had one big run," head coach Mark Richt said. "I forget the situation but the one that broke out I think was a short-yardage run. A lot of times that happens. . . . But, yes, he's done well and I'm impressed with him. I was impressed with the running backs today. They all ran well."

Fellow freshman Keith Marshall followed Gurley's good day by adding 62 yards on five carries (including a 52-yard run), with Richard Samuel rushing for 40 yards on six runs and Ken Malcome 35 on five. Both Malcome and Samuel scored touchdowns.

"They look great. They had some huge, huge moments today," Murray said. "They've worked extremely hard the whole summer, this whole camp. All our running backs, Richard's looking good, Ken's looking good, I'm very encouraged by the progress they've made."

This and that

Georgia returns to the practice field Thursday for a closed special teams workout. … Picture Day is set for Saturday in the Reed Plaza area of Sanford Stadium and will feature Richt, football players, cheerleaders, other UGA athletic teams and interim mascot "Russ." Special ticket coupons are required for access to the location for Russ and Richt. Those tickets will be distributed to the first 150 fans at 8:00 a.m. from the East End ticket windows on East Campus Road. Olympic gold medalist Allison Schmitt and Shannon Vreeland will also be available for autographs with the rest of the Bulldog swim team between 1 and 3.