Scrimmage no cause for offense to celebrate

semerson@macon.comAugust 10, 2011 

ATHENS -- After Georgia’s first preseason scrimmage Wednesday, head coach Mark Richt was headed for a meeting with the officiating crew to find out what mistakes were made. Richt was asked if there had been any penalties for excessive celebration.

“It would’ve had to be on defense, because there wasn’t any on offense,” Richt cracked as he walked out the door.

By all accounts the defense won the day, even with the set-up being the first-teamers against the second-teamers. Judging by what Richt and the players reported, as well as the semi-official stats, the first-team defense beat the second-team offense, as would be expected.

But the first-team offense and the second-team defense played to a draw.

“We came out extremely slow and sluggish in that first half of the scrimmage,” said junior receiver Tavarres King, a starter. “It was kind of disappointing. You should always play with a lot of intensity when you step between the hedges. We didn’t do that as a group.”

The one positive sign for the offense may have been the most important: The tailbacks did well. Freshman Isaiah Crowell (84 yards and a touchdown on 13 carries) and junior Richard Samuel (82 yards on 11 carries) did about what the first-teamers should do against the second-team defense.

“I thought they ran very well,” Richt said. “They were able to make a couple people miss out in the open area. Their running styles are very different. Ricahrd is much more power and speed. ... Isaiah’s got great quickness. He’s got great change of direction. He’s got a burst of speed. He does a good job of breaking tackles, and getting yards after contact.”

The downside is Samuel did fumble once, and it was returned by freshman Amarlo Herrera 61 yards for a touchdown. Herrera seems to be playing his way into a key role at inside linebacker, but it was starter Alec Ogletree who earned Richt’s heavy praise after notching eight tackles.

As for quarterback Aaron Murray, the sophomore was 9-for-15 for 100 yards and no touchdowns.

“If it was a year ago, I’d say that was a pretty darn good scrimmage for a freshman. Now that he’s a sophomore,” Richt said, then cut himself off. “I mean it wasn’t a bad day. ... But it was not his sharpest practice, I’ll say.”

New receiver pecking order

Freshman Malcolm Mitchell was the talk of summer workouts among players. But after one week of practice, the top three receivers are all veterans, including redshirt freshman Michael Bennett.

King and fellow junior Marlon Brown and Bennett were in the rotation at the top three spots, according to Murray.

“Malcolm Mitchell’s very talented,” Richt said. “He’s just got a lot to learn right now. That’s his issue right now.”

Commings and goings

Junior Sanders Commings continues to play at safety and cornerback, and it appears his rotating role will continue into the season.

“That’s pretty much my understanding,” Commings said. “I’m pretty comfortable doing that. I want to do whatever I have to do to help the team.”

Commings, at 6-foot-2 and 217 pounds, gives the team a more physical presence at cornerback than Brandon Boykin or Branden Smith. But against teams with smaller, more athletic receivers he would shift to safety.

“There’s certain games we’re going to want him to play safety, there’s certain games we’ll want him to play corner,” Richt said. “And he’s just smart enough and versatile to do it.”

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