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Quarterback Hutson Mason admits there's a little more pep in his step than there was this time a season ago.
In 2012, Mason redshirted with the understanding that he would not see the field unless something happened to starter Aaron Murray.
This year, the junior knows he HAS to be prepared.
"I guess the best word for it is exciting. You're not out there just taking mental reps, you're taking physical reps," Mason said after Monday's first day in full pads. "Things really haven't changed, but I'm just excited that I may have a chance to play."
Of course, barring an injury to Murray this fall, Mason knows he's not liable to play much this year, either.
Granted, there could come a time when the score dictates the former Lassiter star gets an opportunity. But for the time being, Mason will be expected to continuing honing his craft until next fall when the starting quarterback job will be his for the taking.
That's a goal he admits to have pondered for quite a while.
"A long, long time actually, especially everything I've been through here and deciding to stay, that's the reward, that's what I visualize every day when I'm working, when I'm practicing. Being out there, hearing my name called over the PA system," Mason said. "But there's so many things
winning the championship, dancing under the glitter in Atlanta with the guys
there's a lot of things I'd like to do."
But first things first.
Knowing that he's one injury away from having to be ready now, Mason said he's keeping his focus where it needs to be.
"It's hard. It is, because your mind can get one step ahead of where the process needs to be," he said. "But I've really tried to focus on this year and this team because it's really selfish of me to think about next year and not put in the work because the work I put in now is going to pay off next year."
Physically, Mason appears ready to take that next step.
When he signed with Georgia, Mason said he only weighed approximately 185 pounds. Today, Mason proudly says he comes in at 212.
"In the spring I was 205 but wanted to get to at least 210. When I came in as a freshman I was skinny and frail," he said. "Back when I would talk to the media I always talked about wanting to get physically stronger because in the SEC your body's got to be able to take hits."
The same apparently applies to his arm.
"You can see it in my arm," Mason said. "When I came out of high school I had a pretty weak arm, and I still don't have the strongest arm in the world but it comes out a lot different just because of the way my body's changed."
Earlier in the day, Georgia announced that linebackers James DeLoach and Davin Bellamy were both scheduled to undergo thumb surgery, although Richt did not expect either to be out for long.
They weren't the Bulldogs' only walking-wounded.
Redshirt freshman offensive lineman Greg Pyke sat out practice with a left ankle sprain, as did freshman cornerback Shaquille Wiggins with a right groin strain.
Safety Tray Matthews was limited once again with a right shoulder sprain.
Richt was asked if he was concerned to have injuries to the secondary occur this early on in camp.
"Like I told them after practice, that's football. You're going to have hamstrings, you're going to have concussions, you're going to have rolled ankles, you're going to have your thigh bruises and your stuff is going to hurt," Richt said. "Just because you're hurt doesn't mean you're injured. If you're injured we understand that but football's a game that's physical and you've got to mentally tough to play it."
He expects the afore mentioned wounded will return to the field soon.
"It is inconvenient for them not to be there and get reps but we hope they will do great job in meetings and we do a lot of walk-throughs," Richt said. Most guys can walk and talk through assignments if they can't go full speed, so we'll get them as many reps as possible."
Would Mitchell go back to corner?
With injuries Monday in the secondary, Malcolm Mitchell was asked if he would be willing to again help out at cornerback if approached to do so.
"If I had to I would. Do I want to? I would want to because that would help the team. It is what it is," Mitchell said. "Right now they don't need me, so it's not a big deal. But if I got called to Coach Richt's office saying I need to step over for the first couple of games, that's what I'd have to do."
Mitchell said he has not been asked to do so, although defensive coordinator Todd Grantham isn't shy about giving him a hard time.
"Me and Coach Grantham have good time going back and forth every time I catch a pass over one of his DBs," Mitchell said.
"I make it personal, we both make it personal (laughing)," he added. "He'll come out, I think it was after 11 on 11 and I didn't get a ball the last 10 minutes of practice, he came over and said 'You might as well play defense because you'll get the same amount of catches,' things like that. We play around and have fun with it."
Injuries aside, Mitchell said Georgia's young corners will be ready.
"We've got three more weeks? They'll be ready. They're not scared, and that's a good thing," Mitchell said. "They accept the challenge and that's the biggest thing about playing defense."
Newcomers catch Richt's eye
Monday marked the first day in full pads for the Bulldogs and head coach Mark Richt was asked what freshmen and newcomers happened to catch his eye.
There were more than a few.
Including in the group was freshman running back J.J. Green who fired up the offense with what was apparently a spectacular play during 3-on-3 drills.
"J.J. hit it up in there pretty good," Richt said. "The offensive line and defensive line were going at it and somehow he ended up on top of the pile, rolled over the top, landed on his feet and scored a touchdown. That stood out."
He wasn't the only one.
Richt saved most of his praise for the defense.
"Leonard (Floyd) has been having a good camp to this point. I think Toby (Johnson) for a guy coming off an ACL injury is really moving around well now, and again, we're talking about brand new guys," Richt said. "Both (Brendan) Langley and Shaq Wiggins are playing well. Although Shaq has a little bit of a pull, for young freshmen are competing very well. Reggie Carter's been around long enough and doesn't really seem like a freshman because he's been around here all spring but is really getting a lot of solid second-team reps learning what to do.
"You'll see (Tim) Kimbrough, who has made a couple of really nice thuds, along with big Johnny O'Neal, they're very physical, thumper-type linebackers, so those are some names who are kind of popped."
Mason can attest to Floyd's athleticism.
"The other day might have been 11 on 11 and I was getting pressured. I threw a ball and he (Floyd) must have gone up 10 feet in the air and tipped it," Mason said. "He's so lanky, so when he puts on some weight he'll be dangerous because he can run, too. He can chase, too. We saw a clip of him the other day chasing down a tailback from the other side of the field. Just seeing him run, it's freaky, it really is."
Defensive line showing positive signs
Richt likes what he sees from the Bulldogs' defensive line.
"Right off the top of my head, these are the guys I really see practicing well - I see Garrison Smith, I see Sterling Bailey, I see Mike Thornton, I see big Toby (Toby Johnson), (Chris) Mayes, I see a lot of guys. I like what Josh Dawson does every day.
"He really works at it."
Richt said each will be put to good use.
"We're not going to just line up three guys and play - we've got to roll," Richt said.
Davis drawing some raves
Wide receiver Michael Bennett raised a few eyebrows when he said that freshman Reggie Davis was getting some reps with the second unit Monday.
"Reggie's been doing well," Bennett said. "His speed is really in a different class than anyone else on the team."
Mason, who quarterbacks the second unit, agrees.
"I didn't know who he was but he made a name for himself real quick when he ran a go-route, a takeoff," Mason said. "He needs to put on some weight but he's got a fiery attitude to him, which (Offensive coordinator Mike) Bobo loves."
So, how fast is he?
Mason said he would be surprised if the Tallahassee native would be able to beat fellow wideout Justin Scott-Wesley in the 40-yard dash.
Mitchell, naturally disagreed.
"I'm going to win the 40," Mitchell said. "You put it a 100, it's a whole other story. He is fast, but in the 100 yard dash I think Justin would win. He's a skinny guy but he's a lot of speed; he's definitely quick."
But listed at 6-foot and a scant 159 pounds on Georgia's official preseason roster, most agree Davis needs to get a little bit bigger.
"He's skinny so you can flick him," Mason laughed. "But racing him one-on-one, he can move."
Gurley on Heisman
Running back Todd Gurley was asked if he saw himself as a legitimate candidate for the Heisman Trophy.
"I haven't really thought about it, Heisman or anything like that," Gurley said. "I don't know. In order to win the Heisman you probably have to like the media, doing media stuff.
"It's whatever. We'll see what happens."
This and that
Recently, Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly made the comment that he would like to play Georgia during the regular season. Monday, Richt was asked to respond. "I don't know how in the world we got in the conversation of Notre Dame's schedule," said Richt, laughing it off. "But we're all for playing Notre Dame or whoever else."
Monday's session marked the fifth practice for the Bulldogs, and Richt was happy with what he saw. "I thought the guys got after it really good," Richt said. "It was a very physical, very intense practice. I was pleased with the physicality and the energy of the day.
The guys are competing and trying to get better. The first day of pads, if you're a football player, that gets a guy's blood up. The coaches, too. It was a good day for that." Richt added that the offense and the defense battled in 3-on-3 and team run competitions and the score was tied afterward. The offense then won the single-play tiebreaker, he said. "It was a very heated, intense competition, which was great," Richt said. "It's a great drill because it teaches the players to face the issue."
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