ATHENS - The first day of practice now a week away, Georgia's two coordinators met the media on Wednesday afternoon. A few highlights from each, which I will flesh out a bit more later:
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Defensive coordinator Todd Grantham
- The first question was how to replace Josh Harvey-Clemons for the Clemson game. Grantham started by listing three candidates to take Harvey-Clemons' spot at strong safety in the base defense: Corey Moore, Shaq Fluker and Connor Norman. As for the nickel position, where Harvey-Clemons may have played most of the game, Grantham indicated that Damian Swann could be the guy there. Then Sheldon Dawson would move up to the top corner spot.
"We'll kind of mess with it the first part of training camp," Grantham said.
- The season-ending injury to freshman Reggie Wilkerson gives an opportunity to someone else at cornerback. Freshmen Brendan Langley and Shaq Wiggins are among them, Grantham confirmed.
"We obviously like the ability of those players," Grantham said. "They just haven't done it yet in a game."
- Toby Johnson, the junior college prospect who tore his ACL last season, is healthy enough to go on the first day. Interestingly, Grantham said Johnson would start out at the end spot, rather than nose tackle.
- At nose tackle, the main guys are Mike Thornton, Chris Mayes and John Atkins, but Grantham said that was "written in pencil" after spring, so John Taylor could move back to nose. It seems, from the way Grantham was talking, that they want to play Taylor somewhere, and if enough guys impress at end - Sterling Bailey and Ray Drew, for instance - they'll move Taylor back to nose.
"It goes back to evaluating the first 10 days (of practice.) We're open for competition, and we're gonna see how some of these other guys do at the end position, and see if we can have Johnathan Taylor play at the nose," Grantham said. "It's not a big deal between playing the end and the nose in our system."
- Freshman Shaun McGee will probably begin at the Sam linebacker (outside linebacker) spot, but will also train at inside linebacker. Freshmen Tim Kimbrough and Johnny O'Neal will stay inside.
- Grantham mentioned the new defenseless player targeting rules, and seemed supportive of the rules, saying he would talk to his players about playing within the new rules.
"It's obviously there. I think it's a good thing for safety of players. I think you still want to play aggressive," Grantham said, adding that his approach to his players will be: "Don't let it take away from your aggression. But here are the areas and boundaries they're talking about."
That said, Grantham is worried that the rules - which call for automatic ejection for targeting - has put officials in a tough spot.
"I think they've put a lot of pressure on the officials. They've made their job very difficult," Grantham said. "I think we've just gotta work through it and get everyone on the same page. The NFL went through it a few years ago."
Offensive coordinator Mike Bobo
- Given that almost everyone is back from such a prolific offense, Bobo said the main thing he was looking for what "attention to detail."
- Freshman receiver Tramel Terry, who sat out spring practice after ACL surgery, will be available on a "limited basis," and do work "as tolerated."
"We don't want to rush him back," Bobo said.
Junior receiver Michael Bennett is "close to 100 percent," according to Bobo.
"He says he feels great, he feels fine. My conversation with the quarterbacks this summer is they like the way he looks," Bobo said.
- When Bobo was asked right off about what needed to be decided on the offensive line, he smiled.
"Y'all love that, don't you," he said. "Who the best five are. That's what we gotta decide."
Later, Bobo said Xzavier Ward and John Theus will both get reps with the first-team on the first day. And even later, when asked about defending Jadeveon Clowney, he mentioned that left tackle could be a rotation of Kenarious Gates, Mark Beard and Theus.
"It'll be an ongoing battle there. It'll be an ongoing battle at a lot of positions (on the line)," Bobo said. "Nobody is guaranteed playing time based on last year. Last year is last year."
Gates has lost weight, according to Bobo, who wasn't sure how much, but said that Gates "looked really good" when he saw him in the building on Wednesday.
- Freshman J.J. Green will play "where needed," which could be tailback or receiver. A lot of that will depend on how incoming freshmen A.J. Turman and Brendan Douglas look in practice.
"I'd like to have a third tailback. I'd like to have a third and a fourth tailback," Bobo said.
Bobo also thinks Green, who was at tailback in the spring, could play special teams, i.e. in the return game.
- Quayvon Hicks overtook Merritt Hall as the first-team fullback during the spring, but the two will remain in competition this preseason, and both will play.