March 2, 2008

Bulldogs ready to kickoff spring practice

Offseason? What offseason?

For big-time football programs like Georgia, there's very little, if any, of that.

"We don't get too many breaks around here," linebacker Darius Dewberry laughed. "We stay pretty busy, pretty much year round. But if we want to get where we want to be at the end of the year we know we've got to work hard."

That's just what the Bulldogs have been doing.

After the Bulldogs arrived back from New Orleans where they dispatched Hawaii in the Sugar Bowl, Georgia players spent January hitting the weights, followed by February's mat drills leading up to spring practice which kicks off Monday afternoon at the team's Woodruff Practice Facility.

"I'm excited about it. If you asked me a week ago I'm not sure I could have said that, just trying to get a little bit of a rest or catch your breath," Georgia coach Mark Richt said. "After watching our guys in the off-season and mat drill program, I'm really encouraged by everybody's attitude and effort. I'm getting a lot of good vibrations on our leadership. I think we are ready to move into the next phase which is spring football."

The Bulldogs will practice four times this week (Monday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday) before taking 10 days off for spring break.

Georgia will resume workouts March 17 leading up to the annual G-Day game at Sanford Stadium April 5.

"What is exciting about the job is every year there is a new group of guys. It's a new team. I know maybe 70 percent of the team is back, but it has a whole new personality. It has new leadership component, and it makes it fun, makes it exciting."

The Bulldogs return 17 starters from last year's 11-2 squad.

"There are still a lot of battles going on, a lot of battles for starting positions, a lot of battles for playing time. I'm most concerned No. 1 that we don't forget our fundaments. It's the time of the year where you slow down and teach everyone how to block and tackle safely," Richt said. "It's a time to compete for jobs; time to compete offense versus defense. As far as any particular positions, we don't have that many guys that we are replacing as starters."

Of the few, center, right tackle and defensive end are certain to receive the most attention.

Redshirt sophomore Chris Davis, who started at left guard last fall, is listed at No. 1 on the depth chart at center, with Ben Harden, Kevin Perez and early enrollee Ben Jones spelling him.

Meanwhile, the right tackle spot appears to redshirt sophomore Kiante Tripp's to lose, while Jeremy Lomax will get the first crack at replacing 2007 sack leader Marcus Howard at one of the defensive end spots, along with Jarius Wynn, Demarcus Dobbs, Justin Houston and Neland Ball.

"I thought last year we did a great job of substituting, playing a lot of guys, which kept us healthy and kept us fresh down the stretch," Richt said. "A lot of players played real strong down the stretch, and unless we have a lot of injuries I think we will have that same luxury and that is exciting."

Also exciting is Georgia's prospects for fall.

After finishing No. 2, the Bulldogs are being mentioned as a possible national title contender. Richt knows the hype such talk will bring.

"What we have decided to do is focus on the moment. We can't control where we are voted preseason. We can't control a whole lot of things. We can only control how hard we work in any given matt drill, in any given weight lifting session, and spring practice," Richt said. "I think every player knows with the schedule we have year in and year out, and this season's schedule seems a little more daunting than most seasons, that its going to take an awful lot of work and preparation just to get to the point where we feel like we're even in a position to be able to compete at that level. So we're really trying to break it down to one day, one play, one drill, one moment that we can control. I think that its' just much more healthy to think that way in terms of handling it in terms of little pieces instead of chewing an entire season up."

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