September 17, 2011

Opportunity for newcomers

Head coach Mark Richt would never have admitted it before Saturday's game against Coastal Carolina.

But in the back of his mind, he hoped the contest would eventually lend itself to giving him the chance to empty his bench including some of his remaining freshman for the first time this year.

The Bulldogs' 59-0 win gave him just such an opportunity.

All total, 50 backups and other newcomers were able get their first scrimmage downs, including true freshmen Ray Drew, Watts Dantzler, Hunter Long and David Andrews.

"When I was on the sideline, he told me that I was getting ready to go in and I started telling myself right then that I needed to show my coaches something," said Drew, who collected two tackles. "I knew I had to make a statement and show Coach (Todd Grantham) that I'm ready to play, because there's more games down the line. Once I got out there and started going, the adrenalin started going and I just cut loose and started doing the things I was supposed to do."

Dantzler laughed that he and Andrews didn't have time to get too overwhelmed with the thought of being in for their first collegiate play.

The pair were in the game when Hutson Mason hit tight end Orson Charles with a 33-yard touchdown pass moments after the Chanticleers fumbled away a kickoff late in the third quarter.

"It was one of the greatest things to have ever happened in my life. A dream come true, and my first play, the touchdown, me and David were running as hard as we could," Dantzler said. "It was awesome. I've been dreaming of playing for Georgia ever since I was a little kid."

Richt said he liked what he saw.

"A lot of true freshmen got some scrimmage downs for the first time, but some of them had already been playing a lot of special teams," Richt said. "Ray got slowed down a couple of times, he had a camp injury which slowed him down a little bit and then he had that scooter deal, but we know we're going to need him before it's over and we wanted to get him going."

But Drew wasn't the only one.
According to Grantham, Nick Marshall, Ramik Wilson and Corey Moore opened his eyes as well.

"Ray got in the game and got to get out there and break a sweat. I saw him competing. Nick Marshall, got in the game and I saw him challenge a receiver; Ramik Wilson got in the game, Corey Moore got in the game and Damian Swann actually started in our nickel package," Grantham said. "To my knowledge, all the freshmen played, and the big thing about a game like this is it allows you to get them game reps. It's one thing to practice against a team with the same colored jerseys, but it's another when it's a different team, different style with different techniques."

There were other first-time performers as well.

Included among that group were nose Mike Thornton, offensive linemen John Bodin and Hugh Williams.

That list also included former walk-on Taylor Bradberry who had a 13-yard catch and quarterback Parker Welch who completed the only pass he attempted, a 20-yarder to Israel Troupe. Running backs Ken Malcome and Brandon Harton also saw their first action. Malcome had just one carry for no gain, with Harton getting 11 carries for 34 yards.

"A lot of young guys got to play, but a lot of old guys got to play, too," Richt said. "Guys like John Bodin; I don't know how old Ben Reynolds is, but it was good to see some of those guys like Wes Van Dyk, a senior get to play in there a little bit at the end. It was nice to let those guys get in there and play."

Swann agreed.

"It was a good sight, everybody getting their feet wet," he said. "Pretty soon we're going to be the veterans and it's going to be our team. If everybody gets experience early, it's going to be better for us."

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