August 3, 2009

Bulldog set to kick off preseason drills

For the die-hard football fan, the dog days of summer creep along at an almost unbearable slow pace.

But as each day gets crossed off the calendar, the realization finally starts sinking in: The start of preseason drills isn't that far away.

Wait no longer.

At approximately 3:35 Tuesday afternoon, the Bulldogs will take to the team's Woodruff Practice Facility for the first official preseason workout in preparation for the Sept. 5 season-opener at Oklahoma State.

It's going to be a busy month for Mark Richt's crew.

After holding its annual preseason media day with reporters Tuesday morning at Stegeman Coliseum, the Bulldogs will work out in a shorts and helmets Tuesday-Friday before going shells in preparation for the first day of full pads on Monday, Aug. 10.

Monday is also one of three two-a-day sessions scheduled by the Bulldogs, who will practice Monday-Saturday every week until the opener, the lone exception being Aug. 17, the first day of classes at UGA.

"We absolutely just have to focus on ourselves and what we need to do to prepare," Richt said. "The closer you get to the season, the more your focus begins to hone in on your opponents. Right now the only thing we're thinking about is Oklahoma State. But we absolutely have the goal of winning the Eastern Division, no doubt about that."

There certainly won't be any shortage of story lines:

1. Which of the five scholarship running backs - Caleb King, Richard Samuel, Carlton Thomas, Dontavius Jackson and Washaun Ealey will lay claim to the starting job?

2. Will Georgia be able to generate more pressure with its defensive ends?

3. Can the Bulldogs stay healthy?

4. What freshmen will step up to play integral roles?

5. Can Joe Cox effectively take over for Matthew Stafford and make the Bulldogs a contender in the SEC East?

Richt certainly believes he has the right man for the job.

"When it comes to quarterback play, in my opinion, you need an accurate passer, you need to have a great decision maker and you need to have a young man who can handle the pressure of the job because there's a lot of pressure that comes with that job and you need a guy who can lead," Richt said. "Joe really personifies all those things."

Richt is excited about the potential of his defense as well.

Last year, the Bulldogs scuffled with their fair share of defensive issues, as evidenced in losses to Alabama, Florida and Georgia Tech.

However, Richt believes those same players will come into the season with a distinctive chip on their shoulder.

"I like the fact that we're going to be hungry, maybe hungrier than we've been in a long time," Richt said. "I like the fact that we have Jeffrey Owens, Geno Atkins, Kade Weston, DeAngelo Tyson and Brandon Wheeling up front on the interior and (linebackers) Rennie Curran and Akeem Dent right up the gut. You take Reshad Jones and Bryan Evans at safety. That's strong up the middle. You need that."

Richt believes a strong offensive line will go a long way, too.

"I like the fact we're not going to be starting three freshmen linemen like we have the last two seasons on offense," Richt said. "It just dawned on me. I think we only have three seniors on offense - Joe Cox, Vince Vance and Mike Moore. I didn't realize that. But we do have a lot of guys returning that have played a lot of ball for us. So that's a very good thing."

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