August 18, 2012

Ranking means little

Like the college football coaches did a couple of weeks ago, the voters who determine the Associated Press Top 25 poll Saturday pegged the Bulldogs as the nation's No. 6 preseason team.

But the way that Mark Richt and senior John Jenkins see it, it means little if anything at all.

"The year we started No. 1 (1998) we won the first couple of games and we dropped every week in the poll, so just because you win, doesn't mean you're going to stay up there," Richt said. "Plus, we know we've got a long way to go and a lot to prove."

Jenkins feels the same way.

"Honestly, I don't even look at it but there's no need for me to look at it because in order for us to win No. 1 we've got to win the national," Jenkins said. "In order for us to get to the national, we've got to win every game."

The Bulldogs are one of five schools from the SEC that appears in the Top 20, with defending national champion Alabama No. 2 behind No. 1 Southern Cal, followed by LSU at No. 3, Georgia at No. 6, South Carolina No. 9 and Arkansas No. 10.

"I would have predicted us to be not quite as high in that poll, but it's good that people feel that good about us," Richt said. "But we all know it doesn't mean a lot other than you're starting in a spot where if you take care of business you've got a chance to stay up there."

The No. 6 ranking is the third-highest preseason mark for Georgia in Richt's 12 years at the school.

"We have had good teams and we want to be well thought of. Have we earned it this year? No," Richt added. "I guess from everybody's evaluation of who's returning and that sort of thing they feel we've got a chance and the reality of college football is there's a vote at the end that decides who goes where. If it was a 16-team playoff, the rankings probably won't matter."

Jenkins takes it a step further.

While a high early ranking is nice, it shouldn't take a bunch of votes patting you on the back to make a team like the Bulldogs feel good about their chances this fall.

"That's a blessing, but that's what people rate you. I feel we're No. 1, but at the same time, everybody should feel that way about themselves.," Jenkins said. "Football is that type of sport. You've got to have that type of passion about you, about your program. If you don't think you're program is No. 1, then you shouldn't be in this business."

Injury update

Wide receiver Tavarres King (left lower leg strain) and Rantavious Wooten (right hip strain) missed their second straight day of practice Saturday.

Others included outside linebacker Dexter Morant (right shoulder sprain) remains limited, as does safety Connor Norman who missed his third straight day with a right shoulder contusion.

Safety Marc Deas (right hamstring strain) and tight end Ty Smith (left hamstring strain) also remain sidelined. Smith is listed as day-to-day.

Beard, Long try new spots

Although the first-team offensive line appears to be set, there's still plenty of experimenting going on with the second unit with Mark Beard and Austin Long being two of the players getting looks at different positions.

On Saturday, Beard received some reps at left tackle while Long went inside to guard.

"We just wanted to see. Coach (Will) Friend wanted to see Beard on the edge. We know he's athletic and we thought maybe going inside might help Long," Richt said. "You just don't know, so we thought we'd just take a peek. I don't even remember how we decided to put Kolton Houston at tackle this spring, I think it was more an injury situation and he was actually pretty comfortable so we did it today and we'll evaluate it."

Richt said he saw some positive signs from Beard.

"The little bit that I saw, I noticed more of Beard on the edge, it looked like he had the quick itch to his pass-set and be in position," Richt said. "He's got a little ways to go as far as blocking people out in space, I thought what I saw just on raw ability, I think he could do it."

Long, meanwhile, who has been beset by a variety of injuries throughout his career, is still apparently finding his way.

"He hasn't played well enough to compete for that starting position at this point, he's just got to keep fighting to get in position so if we call on him in a ball game he's ready to do it," Richt said. "That's been the plan, and Coach Friend just wanted to see how Mark handled the edge."

Richt said he's anxious to see how Long responds.

"Even a guy like Watts (Dantzler), his height, his length, you'd say he's tackle, but sometimes you put a guy inside and it changes for the better for him, too," he said. "I'll be interested to see what Coach Friend thinks, his reaction to that move (for Long)."

Rome still needs to improve

Richt said redshirt freshman tight end Jay Rome still has work to do to become the type of player he envisions the former Valdosta standout to be.

"He's made more plays in the passing game than he's made in the run game. I don't think Jay has practiced as hard as he needs to become a great player," Richt said. "He's learning. He's like a lot of young guys, you've got to learn tempo and what it takes. He's just got to make sure that every day he comes to work to get better, at everything he does."

Rome is listed at No. 2 on the depth chart at tight end behind starter Arthur Lynch.

"He's got ability, but it's got to be an every day, every-play type thing so he can master his position. He's got a ways to go," Richt said. "But like I said, he's young, which is somewhat understandable but we're counting on him right now to play."

If not, Georgia's base offensive set just might have a different look than it did last year when Aron White and Orson Charles were receiving most of the playing time.

Fortunately, the Bulldogs appear to have options.

"We can go three wide receivers, a fullback and a tailback if that's our best look. We can go four receivers and one back if that's our best look," Richt said. "We can go two tight ends, two backs and two receivers if that's our best look. So, they're fighting against other personnel groupings because we want to get the best five skill-eligible receivers on the offense as well."

THIS AND THAT

Richt said Saturday morning's workout was Bulldogs' second solid effort in as many days. "The last two days I was pleased. Three practices ago I was worried about us being a little dead-legged, just struggled to get through with the type of tempo that we wanted," Richt said. "I shortened these last two practices, livened it up with some live tackling which made it shorter and sweeter and the guys were ready to go." The Bulldogs return to practice Monday. Georgia has 11 more practices before the Sept. 1 opener against Buffalo. … With Chase Vasser suspended for the first two game, senior Cornelius Washington has recently received some reps back at outside linebacker to ensure the Bulldogs have suitable depth for the first two weeks of the year. "We want versatility. We know that by cross-training people you create depth. It's obvious now that Chase won't be playing the first couple of games so we just need to be sure we have enough guys who know what to do," Richt said. "We're just trying to get the best 11 out there."