ATHENS - There are such things as spring sensations. Walk-on Merritt Hall was a possibility when he emerged last March as a contender for the fullback spot. But one week into preseason practice, Hall is more than just a contender.
“Merritt Hall to me is the No. 1 guy,” head coach Mark Richt said.
Hall, a freshman, redshirted last year. He was most notable for being a high school classmate of David Andrews, at the Wesleyan School.
But Hall, whose cousin Chad Hall is a receiver for the Philadelphia Eagles, made a name for himself last spring. The 5-foot-11, 216-pounder has continued to show it this preseason.
“He’s not perfect by any means but he knows who to hit, he comes with a lot of hat-speed,” Richt said, referring to speed while blocking. He’s putting his hat in the right spot.”
For now, Hall is just ahead of freshman Quayvon Hicks and senior Richard Samuel, according to Richt. (He didn’t mention junior Zander Ogletree, last year’s top backup.) Samuel is also repping at tailback.
Facial hair update
Richt continues to sport a goatee, which continues to get plenty of notice from fans and media members. It has now also received an endorsement from his wife, Kathryn.
“She texted yesterday morning and said she really liked it. So I might keep it for awhile,” Richt said.
Richt singled out senior cornerback Branden Smith for praise on Thursday.
“Just seems like every day he’s making some kind of play,” Richt said. “He looks like a senior trying to lead out there. Doesn’t say much, he plays hard and makes plays.”
Smith is vying for a starting cornerback spot, along with sophomores Damian Swann and Malcolm Mitchell. (Senior starter Sanders Commings is suspended the first two games.) …
Speaking of suspensions, Richt again declined to say what was going to happen with safety Bacarri Rambo and inside linebacker Alec Ogletree.
“I don’t know when I’m gonna let you know that,” Richt said. “I don’t like talking about that.” …
Defensive end Ray Drew remains out of practice with a concussion. Drew has been present at practice, but is wearing a baseball hat and not participating in drills.