With just over two weeks to go before the Sept. 3 season opener against Boise State, junior Branden Smith continues to impress - this time on special teams.
In fact, following Thursday's special teams practice at Sanford Stadium, head coach Mark Richt told reporters if the season were to start today, Smith would be the team's starting punt returner ahead of senior Brandon Boykin.
"We would probably line up B. Smith at No. 1 and would probably line up Boykin at No. 2," Richt said. "It would be between (Damian) Swann and (Malcolm) Mitchell battling for the No. 3 spot. The freshmen are very talented, but as always, they've not done it before where both Boykin and Smith have handled the ball in some big-time games, both as a punt returner and a kick return. "
Smith has 10 career punt returns for 143 yards, an average of 14.3 yards per return.
Boykin - who has returned four career kickoffs for touchdowns - is expected to do the same once again for the Bulldogs, although Richt would not reveal if he will employ a one- or two-back return team.
"That's classified information," Richt said. "I don't want to give away any information that could help the other team."
Crowell gets some light work
Freshman running back Isaiah Crowell dressed in green but was able to get in a few reps during some 11-on-11 drills.
"He got in there but he did not look to be full speed, but he was healthy enough to get out there in the green jersey and get a few reps," said Richt, who hopes to have Crowell back by Saturday, if not early next week.
Junior Richard Samuel (quad) is expected back next week as well.
Depth chart still in flux
Richt wasn't quite ready to rattle off any sort of depth chart Thursday, particularly when it comes to the freshmen.
"We've gotten closer. There are some guys we're pretty sure about, some we're not so sure and some guys who probably won't (play)," Richt said. "But I'm not sure I want to give that out because I don't want the players, or their mom or dad to be happy, sad or whatever today. I'm too tired."
Richt did say he and his assistants have gotten together to discuss the other possibilities.
"We sat down and talked about every freshman and every player; we wanted the special teams coaches to hear who most likely we may use and or may not, the ones who we're still on the fence," Richt said. "But I'm not ready to sit here and nail down a depth chart per se, but we did identify the role of every player so we've got a better idea. I've also got my own ideas, but we don't differ much."
Bits and pieces
• Redshirt sophomore Chris Burnette returned to practice and received half the reps with the first team at right guard, according to Richt.
• Richt was vague when asked if junior Bacarri Rambo was still the team's starting free safety. "They're all (Rambo, Sanders Commings and Shawn Williams) fighting for a starting job right now," Richt said. Sources tell UGASports that Rambo worked with the first team Thursday. Richt did say Commings is ready to play safety "right now."
•Georgia focused on special teams during its 90-minute workout Thursday, but that wasn't all.
"It was a real productive day," said Richt. "We worked on punting, punt return with starters going after each other to simulate game speed. Also, we got about 20 minutes of 11-on-11 drills. Normally, we don't do that on a kicking day but we were trying to catch up on a few reps."
• Richt said he expects backup defensive end Derrick Lott (cut on leg) to be available to play against Boise State.
This and that
Richt isn't sure how many players he will take to the Georgia Dome. "That's a good question. "We may take 125, but I don't know if there will be 125 in the lockerroom, I'm not sure if there will be 125 in full gear or not even if 125 will be on the sideline. I want them there, but I haven't nailed down any numbers yet."
Richt said he believes his Bulldogs could indeed have a very fine year - if they've learned how to finish games. "We've got the potential to be a very good team. The difference between really good teams and average teams are how well you finish, do you make big plays at the end of the game - that's really going to define us, I think. I think it can go either way, just depends how these guys finish."
The Bulldogs will begin preliminary game prep for Boise State Saturday before Wednesdays full-scale "practice game" for the Broncos.
Anthony Dasher is the managing editor for UGASports
and he can be reached via email at [email protected]