November 11, 2010

Redshirts wait their turn

They're names you know, but haven't seen - members of Georgia's 2010 signing class currently redshirting before hopefully becoming contributing members of the Bulldogs next fall.

Take nose Mike Thornton, a former four-star standout from Stephenson High and one of eight current freshmen sitting out their first season of college ball.

"It's been a long season since camp, but everything is turning out for the best," said Thornton, who said he was told by coaches after Week 2 against South Carolina that he would be getting a redshirt year. "Of course, when you first get here you want to play, but I've tried to take the opportunity to learn and get better."

Thornton has plenty of company.

Running back Ken Malcome, wide receiver Michael Bennett, offensive lineman Brent Benedict, safety Marc Deas, offensive lineman Kolton Houston, linebacker Brandon Burrows and linebacker Dexter Morant are also, for various reasons, redshirting this fall before getting their shot come spring practice which begins in March.

Add in the addition of Southern Cal transfer Jarvis Jones, and the Bulldogs have several faces coaches hope will make solid contributions next fall.

Let's take a closer look.

Mike Thornton (6-0, 290) - Thornton said he gets teased from time to time from center Ben Jones for "being so short," but what the former Stephenson standout lacks in height and length he makes up for in leverage.

"I'm looking forward to spring and showing what I can do," Thornton said. "Right now we're really not able to have a good rotation because of injuries. Hopefully, I'll be able to help out there."

Jarvis Jones (6-4, 240) - OK, so he's technically not a member of the 2010 signing class, but we'll include him for this discussion anyway.

Although Jones has the size to play inside, head coach Mark Richt said the former Carver star will play on the outside and could make an immediate impact, especially if Justin Houston decides to leave early for the NFL.

According to Richt, Jones did recently return to practice after getting the OK from head trainer Ron Courson.

Ken Malcome (6-0, 215) - Had it not been for a mid-season concussion, Malcome could have well gotten his chance this fall. But it's just as well. Malcome told UGASports as recently as three weeks ago that he was happy to have a year to get used to big-time college football.

Malcome will battle for playing time next fall with Washaun Ealey, Caleb King, Carlton Thomas and whomever the Bulldogs are able to sign for its 2011 class.

Michael Bennett (6-3, 195) - Wide receivers coach Tony Ball said he's actually been pleased with the progress by Bennett, but due to depth it was decided to give Bennett an extra year to learn the system.

Brandon Burrows (6-3, 237) - The fact Burrows is redshirting comes as no surprise after not playing his senior season due to a torn ACL. Fortunately for Burrows, the former Walton standout says his knee is now 100 percent.

"I definitely think I've improved a lot," said Burrows, who has practiced at inside linebacker all season long. "The work I've received on the scout team has been invaluable, and has really helped me get my timing down after not having played now for two years."

Brent Benedict (6-5, 295) - Like Burrows, Benedict was going to redshirt from the very beginning after tearing his ACL, MCL and PCL 13 months ago.

Amazingly, Benedict has made good progress and has been going through non-contact drills for most of the season. Coaches still expect Benedict to one day become a key member of the offensive line, and according to Richt, barring any setbacks, will be cleared to begin full practice come spring.

Marc Deas (6-0, 195) - Coaches say Deas has shown progress during the team's 11-on-11 drills, but the emergence of Shawn Williams and Alec Ogletree convinced coaches to give Deas more time.

Kolton Houston (6-5, 295) - Houston was an early enrollee, and despite some knee issues early on, is back and getting work and will battle for playing time come spring.

Dexter Morant (6-6, 245) - After considering a transfer, Morant returned to the Bulldogs only to suffer a shoulder injury that required surgery. Morant would likely have redshirted anyway, but the injury obviously has slowed his development looking ahead to next year. It's not yet known whether Morant will be able to participate in spring practice.

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