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Post Preseason impressions – week one

Tuesday August 6, 2013

It’s a relatively light practice day between Monday’s first workout in full pads and the first scrimmage of fall camp scheduled for Wednesday. The Dawgs have been at it for just under a week. There really hasn’t been anything all that shocking to come out of camp so far, and the team – especially on defense – is still evaluating younger players to see who will fill the available spots. Wednesday’s scrimmage should be fairly important to start separating out those who will play often in the first few games. With that, here’s a look at some of what’s been going on:

Injuries. It’s not unusual to see little nagging injuries creep up at this point in camp, and we’re still a few weeks away from the time when all of the green no-contact jerseys magically transform back into red ones. Fortunately the injuries all seem to be of the minor variety so far (knock on whatever’s handy.) It is worth mentioning though that some of the knocks were to projected defensive starters. Safety Tray Matthews was limited with a minor shoulder injury but should be fine. OLB James DeLoach and Davin Bellamy both had thumb surgery on Monday. They’ll return to practice soon protected by a club cast, and they should be cleared by the season opener.

The good kind of injury news. Michael Bennett’s midseason knee injury was a temporary blow to the offense last year. Though the treatment of these injuries have come a long way, it’s still a risky and tough path back. Bennett missed spring practice but was active during summer workouts, and he’s back working with the first team offense. Bennett expects that by the season opener “I’ll be running around like I did last year.” With Mitchell and Conley, a healthy Bennett gives Georgia a very strong trio of receivers.

Along those lines, Toby Johnson seems to be in good shape after his own knee injury. He was one of the nation’s top junior college prospects last year before tearing his knee in November. Like Garrison Smith, Johnson is an end who can shift inside in certain situations. Though Georgia was considered an early favorite to sign Johnson, the picture became cloudy with Auburn and Mississippi State emerging. A late push by Georgia got the Dawgs back on top, and they seem to have landed a good one. Johnson is “practicing without limitations” and should factor into Chris Wilson’s plans for a deep defensive line rotation.

Speaking of the DL rotation… Todd Grantham said after the season that “we’ve got to play more players up front and keep them fresh.” The lack of depth up front was due in part to a lack of available players, but it was also the product of a cautious approach to rotating linemen by former DL coach Rodney Garner. One of the things we wondered about with a new coach at that position was how much that approach would change. There’s a difference between August talk and how this will pan out in the heat of a game, but it does look as if Wilson is planning on a system that’s big on competition, “quick with the hook,” and not at all concerned with a depth chart.

Standouts: We’re only a few days in and haven’t had a practice in full pads until Monday, but some names are rising above the usual camp hyperbole. Unfortunately Bellamy was one of them, but fellow OLB Leonard Floyd’s strong camp gives the Dawgs an additional option besides Vasser. We’ve heard from several people that Shaq Wiggins is looking good. OL Watts Dantzler has taken a step forward. With Xzavier Ward’s progress and the return of Kolton Houston, Dantzler’s improvement gives the team three very good reserves – if not candidates to push a couple of starters. (And that’s on top of the experienced tackle Mark Beard.)

It’s not unexpected to see most of the talk focused on the defense at this point – that’s where more positions are up for grabs. No news is good news as far as the offense is concerned. We’re encouraged that someone like Reggie Davis is getting noticed for his speed, but he’s a likely redshirt candidate given Georgia’s depth at the skill positions.

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