Richt, Georgia football team focusing on versatility

semerson@macon.comFebruary 23, 2012 

ATHENS -- The stated purpose of Mark Richt’s teleconference Thursday was for media members to ask “whatever you want.” But after the first question, it became clear that Richt had one thing in mind.

Driven by necessity, the Georgia football team will use players at multiple positions, with spring practice setting up to be a long experiment for some players.

“All hands on deck,” Richt said.

That means Malcolm Mitchell, the team’s top receiver last season, will get a look at cornerback.

It also means tailback Richard Samuel will get practice snaps at fullback.

And it could mean that starters everywhere also will see time on special teams, the team’s sore point last season.

“We have got to make sure that we take our entire talent base of our football team and get the best players out there in whatever situations that we need them in,” Richt said. “If that means a guy playing both ways or playing two positions on defense or whatever it might be -- or if that means the entire starting lineup on offense and defense playing special teams -- I don’t care what it is, whatever we gotta do to get the best players on the field, we’ve got to do that. Take advantage of everybody’s abilities.”

Richt said last week that Mitchell could play at cornerback, and he was more emphatic Thursday.

“Quite frankly we’re gonna experiment with it a little bit and see how much he can handle, learning some cornerback. So I think that’s something,” Richt said.

There also has been movement on the idea of Samuel at fullback. Prior to Thursday, Richt had been adamant about Samuel staying at tailback for his senior year. But with the tailback spot crowded and fullback a bit thin, Richt has moved off of that.

“There’s a chance of that, too,” Richt said.

Richt also said last year’s special teams woes would be attacked not by switching around any coaching assignments, but by tinkering with units and using starters there.

Some other items that Richt touched on:

Cornerback Sanders Commings was suspended despite charges not being filed because of Richt’s own information. The senior starter is out for the first two games of the season after a misdemeanor domestic violence arrest.

“There’s always circumstances that people know or don’t know. I mean I wasn’t there, I don’t know exactly for sure what happened,” Richt said. “But I’ve got enough information to feel comfortable that he didn’t behave as well as he should. And he’s gonna have to live out a consequence for that.”

Richt said he expects his contract extension to be finalized “in due time.” School president Michael Adams said a couple of weeks ago that the extension, expected to carry him through at least 2015, was “98 percent” done.

“I don’t have any anxiety at all,” Richt said. “There’s some different language in there. I don’t know how to describe it. When you rewrite a contract everyone’s gotta feel comfortable with that. So we’ve got to iron all those things out.”

The door is not closed on the three freshmen dismissed from the team last month -- but it’s not quite open yet either. Chris Sanders, Nick Marshall and Sanford Seay were dismissed last month after a theft incident in the dorms; Sanders and Marshall are headed to junior colleges.

“I’m not gonna sit here and say 100 percent yes or 100 percent no,” Richt said when asked if they could return. “But right now they’re on this journey where they gotta take care of business. So maybe later on we can talk about the possibility of that, but I’m not really in position to say.”

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