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September 24, 2008

Funeral? What funeral?

Georgia coach Mark Richt was in a playful mood following practice Wednesday afternoon, joking with reporters about the fact he started his Blackout early after he entered the team meeting room resplendent with a black shirt, black shorts and black Bermuda straw hat.

"I guess it looks like I'm going to a funeral. Should I have said that?" Richt deadpanned. But after a reporter asked if he meant the now-famous video that caught Alabama strength and conditioning coach Scott Cochran make a derogatory comment about the Bulldogs' black jerseys during practice in Tuscaloosa Monday afternoon Richt said

"I don't know what you're referring to," said Richt as he cracked a slight smile.

But when the subject turned to his team's preparation for Saturday's nationally televised game on ESPN, Richt took a more serious tone.

Despite all hoopla surrounding the black jerseys and ESPN College GameDay being in town to cover the contest, the Georgia coach said his team remains as focused as it's ever been.

"This has been one of the easiest games to motivate for since I've been at Georgia," Richt said. "Anybody, any guy on this team whose blood doesn't boil or get riled up for this one probably shouldn't be wearing the red and black."

Richt said the Bulldogs will enter the game relatively healthy, although wide receiver Tavarres King (high ankle) sprain is not expected to play. Meanwhile, safety Quintin Banks has been cleared to play and will dress out, but Richt was unsure how much action he will receive.

Richt: ESPN doesn't have it out for Georgia

It's been a burning question for Dawg fans here on the UGASports message board The Dawgvent. Does ESPN not like the Bulldogs?

Saturday's appearance by College GameDay will only be the show's second appearance in Athens and first since 1998 against Tennessee.

Richt addressed that question Wednesday afternoon.

"No, I don't. I don't know what goes in to deciding whether or not you need to come for GameDay," Richt said. "There might have been a game or two where I thought we might have them come. But there was always another pretty good game so I never really wondered why they went where they went.

"I never really felt slighted."

Richt also said he never meant to offend anyone at ESPN by his statement three weeks where he mentioned he was surprised that the replay of Knowshon Moreno's leap over a Central Michigan safety was not initially shown in the network's highlight package.

"That happens from time to time, and I think we were on FOX. They've got to do those things pretty quick. When I said I missed the boat I wasn't trying to be real critical. I think they got their feelings hurt but I wasn't trying to hurt anybody's feeling. To me, that was just kind of your no-brainer ESPN highlight," Richt said. "It wasn't there, and I was kind of wondering why but they have to go through a lot of games."

Walsh ready for first "big" game

Nothing against Georgia's previous three opponents, but Georgia kicker Blair Walsh said he can really feel the anticipation growing for Saturday's game against 8th-ranked Alabama.

For the first time this short season, Walsh believes the outcome could rest on his strong right leg, and he wants to be sure he's ready if the situation calls.

"I've heard about that a bunch this week," Walsh said. "If it does, hopefully I'll be ready. I'm sure I will. My teammates will step up. They've really been preparing themselves well, all the positions."

Thus far, the Bulldogs have to be pleased with their young kicker.

Besides converting 5-of-7 field goal, Walsh is a perfect 16-for-16 on extra points and is tied for sixth in the SEC in scoring with 54 points.

One of the two kicks, both were from 52 and 54 yards out with the 54-yard miss glancing off the left upright last week against the Sun Devils.

"I was telling some of my buddies, I've probably had 70 field goal attempts in my life and that was the first time I ever the post," Walsh said. "That was kind of weird for me."

Effort, intestinal fortitude important for Fabris

As coach of Georgia's punt block team, Jon Fabris routinely works with walk-ons trying to make an impact on special teams.

It's not always an easy task.

First off, because of practice time constraints implemented by the NCAA, coaches often have to rush players through drills, all while trying to get a feel whether or not someone's got the ability to make an impact.

"A lot of people you don't even know who they are. You put them through some drills as quickly as you can because you don't have much time, just to see who's got a knack for it," Fabris said. "First, you want to see who's got athletic ability, but some, no matter how big their heart is just can't do it. There are guys like that, they've got big hearts but they just can't do it. Then, some guys are afraid and by just several day of drills, you can weed out and start narrowing it down."

One player who passed the grade is Zach Renner, a walk-on who stepped up big when he blocked a punt last week against Arizona State.

If there's one common denominator for successful walk-ons like Renner, it's because according to Fabris they have a "severe case of the wants" and will do whatever it takes to help the team be successful.

Third-team quarterback and punt returner Logan Gray is another.

Although not a walk-on, Fabris says the Missouri native possesses those same types of qualities that will ultimately make him a success.

"There's a guy, he's intelligent, who has a case of the wants, he's willing to come early and stay late," Fabris said. "It's not like you're violating his rights or his union membership, you see my point? Other guys, they might say I check out at 5 p.m., I'm out of here here. It's nice to see those old-school players do well."

This and that

Richt quickly shot down a question that Georgia might break out black helmets against Alabama. "There will be no black helmets," he said. Richt said that 60 players are now participating in his Thursday night bowling league and that quarterback Matthew Stafford bowled a 207. ... The Bulldogs will use the same starting offensive line that they did against Arizona State with Vince Vance at left tackle, Chris Davis at left guard, Ben Jones at center, Clint Boling at right guard and Justin Anderson at right tackle.



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