ATHENS -- For all the bad off-field news, and there has been plenty of it lately, the Georgia football team still begins the 2012 season in its best spot in years.
Georgia is the nations sixth-ranked team entering the season, according to the USA Today coaches poll. Thats the highest the Bulldogs have been in that poll since early in the 2008 season.
Georgia players shrugged off the ranking.
What youre ranked at the beginning of the year can affect what you end up being ranked at the end of the year, guard Chris Burnette said. Other than that, I dont put too much stock in it.
Last year, when Georgia was ranked No. 12 in the preseason, Georgia players made getting to the SEC championship game the announced goal.
This year, quarterback Aaron Murray said the focus of the preseason is individual goals.
We want to get to Atlanta, we want to get to Miami, those are our big goals. But right now the things we need to work on to be able to accomplish those goals are smaller individual goals, Murray said. With me I need to work on my footwork every day, improve my accuracy, improve my knowledge of the game. Just work on those things that you know are going to help you reach those individual goals.
Chase Vasser has become the latest Georgia player to run into trouble with the law and be punished for it. Vasser will miss the first two games of the season after a DUI arrest in May, a Georgia spokesman has confirmed. Vasser was arrested on May 11 in the Buckhead section of Atlanta, according to a report in the Athens Banner-Herald.
Entering preseason practice, Vasser was listed as the first-string outside linebacker. He made three starts last year, recording 16 tackles.
The chance to be the starter at outside linebacker opened up when senior Cornelius Washington was moved to outside linebacker in the spring. But Vasser is expected to face heavy competition from freshmen Jordan Jenkins, Josh Harvey-Clemons and Josh Dawson.
Harvey-Clemons was playing safety during the early portion of Thursdays practice.
Vasser becomes the second known suspended defensive player, joining cornerback Sanders Commings (two games for a domestic battery arrest). But there are likely others: Cornerback Branden Smith had a marijuana arrest, and safety Bacarri Rambo and inside linebacker Alec Ogletree have been facing suspension for positive drug tests. But those have not been confirmed yet by Georgia.
Freshman Kenneth Towns, a receiver from Albany, has joined the team as a walk-on. Towns was once committed to UAB and had offers from other FBS schools.
Sophomore Watts Dantzler is now the first-string right tackle, with Kolton Houston ineligible. But freshman John Theus, the second-string right tackle, is likely to give Dantzler a big push.