August 5, 2011

Freshmen impressions

Head coach Mark Richt used about five minutes during Friday's post-practice press conference to talk about a subject the entire Bulldog Nation is waiting to hear - how has the "Dream Team" looked the first two days of preseason drills?

So far he's been pleased.

Although it's true he'll know a lot more when the team dons the full pads Monday, the Bulldog head coach says he's already seeing some positive signs.

That includes one Isaiah Crowell.

"You can see he's got a lot of natural running skills. He's got a great change of direction, balance and catches the ball very well," Richt said. "He's very sudden for a big kid and he seems to - you can tell - that he likes football, he likes practicing and he likes learning."

Richt said his biggest clue Crowell seems to be picking up the offensive scheme is that position coach Bryan McClendon hasn't had to spend much time repeating himself to the former Carver star.

"Coach McClendon is teaching him like everyone else, but you don't see (McClendon) having to follow him around on every single play to get him lined up and then get in his ear telling him what to do," Richt said. "You can at least get the play run. He's letting himself be coached and he's getting the most out of it. I'm not saying he's got it down, but you can see he's picking it up as a healthy pace and I like to see that. You can tell he enjoys football."

Richt is also seeing a lot of versatility in his freshmen receivers and defensive backs.

"I think they are all very athletic. I think every defensive back has the ability to be a legitimate receiver," Richt said. "They can all run, change directions, have great ball skill and they've got body types that don't look like freshmen. There's maybe one or two that could put on five or 10 pounds of muscle, but that will come with time."

As for Valdosta's Malcolm Mitchell, Richt said he can see what the summer buzz has been all about.

Two weeks ago, quarterback Aaron Murray suggested that the young wideout could start for any team in the country. Although Richt didn't go that far, he conceded that Mitchell has an opportunity for early playing time.

"Oh yeah, he's tremendous. Fast, ball skills and a great competitor," Richt said. "He's got a lot of ability."

Tight end Jay Rome is also making an impression.

"Jay is very good athletically, big with good, soft hands. He looks like a two-sport athlete," Richt said of Rome, who also starred on the basketball court for Valdosta High. "When he gets in the weight room for a couple of seasons he's really going to be something."

Richt said that nose Johnathan Jenkins was able to make it through practice Friday after the heat got the better of him Thursday.

He also had praise for outside linebacker Ray Drew, who has been able to get some reps with the No. 1 defense at Sam linebacker in place of Cornelius Washington, currently out with a hamstring injury.

"You've got Ray Drew who is getting a lot of reps," Richt said. "I know that we're working two units, sometimes three units, and when you watch a little bit of the pass rush, you can see he's got some good skills."

Of linebacker Ramik Wilson and Amarlo Herrera, Richt described the pair as "very athletic, with big, good frames on them."

Richt also said to expect a few of the freshmen offensive linemen to see some possible snaps.

"I think those are the type of guys who are going to take a little time," Richt said. "There aren't too many linemen that can come out and be ready to play or start as freshmen. But we feel a couple of them, maybe three, will be able to secure some second-team roles so they're having to ready to play as fast as we can."

Anthony Dasher is the managing editor for UGASports
and he can be reached via email at [email protected]