For perhaps the first time since he's been at Georgia, junior T.J. Stripling feels he's ready to play an integral role for the Bulldogs at outside linebacker.
It's not that he lacked the skill to do so.
After arriving in Athens as a freshman at just 202 pounds, Stripling needed to pack on some pounds. The process has been slow. But finally he's seeing some results.
"I'm at 230 now," Stripling said Saturday. "Last season I was 215-220; it's making a big difference."
It appears that Bulldog coaches have been impressed.
Stripling said he's running second team at Will linebacker behind All-American Jarvis Jones, who said he's been impressed with what the former Southeast Dekalb star has been able to show.
"That's my boy," Jones said. "Me, him and Bacarri (Rambo) probably spend more time than anybody together. He's definitely ready to get out there."
But Stripling knows there's still plenty of work to do.
"I'm working a lot on my cutting, but my quick, sudden movement is a lot better than it was this time last year," he said. "I'm just trying to do the best I can."
In the meantime, Stripling said he'll keep his eyes wide open.
"I know there's a lot of attention on Jarvis of course, and Cornelius (Washington), but those guys deserve it," he said. "They're working hard and doing their thing. I'm just trying to do the same thing they're doing to get to that point."
Saturday's practice a "chippy" one
Although reporters were only allowed to watch the first 20 minutes of the spring's fourth practice Saturday, several recruits on campus for "Junior Day" commented on a handful of skirmishes, including one between linebacker Alec Ogletree and Isaiah Crowell.
"That's part of football. The first day you put on full pads - that's what happens when you play football," linebacker Mike Gilliard said. "It was all fun."
Head coach Mark Richt obviously didn't mind what he saw during the workout, which he later said brought out a high level of intensity among the players.
"It was a very spirited practice today," Richt said. "It was the first day in full pads and the first time we have been able to tackle, hit below the waist and play some real football. I thought the guys competed very hard today and I saw some good things happening out there."
Once again the defense controlled the day, but Richt said the offense managed to make some strides.
"The defense won the day again, but it wasn't a shutout like the last time, which tells me the offense is improving and making progress," Richt said. "We are going to continue to work hard and get better every day."
Wilson returns to practice
Linebacker Ramik Wilson returned to practice after briefly returning home to Florida for the death of his father.
Wilson said he worked at both inside and outside linebacker in what was his first day on the field this spring.
"I'm still playing both spots," Wilson said. "When we play base, I'm at Sam and in the nickel I'm on the inside."
Burrows glad to be healthy
Linebacker Brandon Burrows said the torn labrum he suffered last year is a thing of the past and he's anxious to get back to showing coaches that he's ready to make an impact on the Bulldog defense this fall.
"It's encouraging to be out there. The shoulder is feeling healthy; it's a blessing just to be back out there," Burrows said Saturday. "It's a struggle sometimes because I'm just getting back, especially with my run fits but overall it's good to be out there."
Burrows said he's currently working with the third team at Mike linebacker behind Gilliard and top backup Amarlo Herrera.
The former Walton High standout missed all of last season while he recovered from the injury.
"I initially tore the labrum in high school, but it kept sublexing," Burrows said. "One day when I was outside in the summer running around, it slipped out viciously. I knew then I needed to go ahead and get it taken care of."
This and That
Jones said he hopes to play at his current weight of 240 pounds after weighing as much as 252 last fall.
Former walk-on Blake Sailors said he is working with the No. 2 unit at cornerback. "I'm just trying to pick everything up as fast as I can," Sailors said. "I'm pretty fast, but I'm still working on my cover skills because I haven't really been taught that. But me and Coach (Scott) Lakatos are working on that, being a little more physical and stuff like that."
Austin Long saw work with the first team at right tackle Saturday, while early enrollee Mark Beard received some looks at left guard.
Georgia returns to practice Tuesday afternoon.