ATHENS - Georgia spring practice is off to a bad start off the field, but on the field the offense looks a bit healthier and the defense more vibrant.
Star tailback Todd Gurley, banged-up last season, seemed to be going without limitations, and had no tape on his ankle. His backup Keith Marshall was participating in a limited capacity, as was receiver Malcolm Mitchell. Both are returning from ACL injuries.
New defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt was putting his imprint on the team, and in very animated fashion. During a drill that emphasized the hands - jamming at the line, probably - Pruitt yelled and threw off his hat when he wasn't pleased.
"You put your hands on him like you mean it!" Pruitt screamed at a player.
He really wanted them to use their arms.
"I want you to jump through him!" Pruitt told cornerback Sheldon Dawson. "Explode through him!"
And those were the quotes that could be used.
“Yeah Jeremy, he’ll get after it,” head coach Mark Richt said. “He’s got energy, and he’s got passion. But I think all of our coaches do. We’re coaching hard, I’m telling you. Those guys are coaching hard, and everybody’s being very demanding of what they’re expecting, and so far guys are buying in.
“Somebody will probably fall by the wayside and say, It’s not worth it to me. We’ll see. I hope that doesn’t happen to anybody. But everybody better do it the Georgia way or get on, get on somewhere else.”
New graduate assistant Kelin Johnson, the former Georgia safety, was working with Pruitt and the secondary. The other three full-time defensive assistants are also new: Tracy Rocker with the line, Mike Ekeler and Kevin Sherrer with the linebackers.
“It felt as close to 2001 since I’ve been here,” said Richt, referring to his first year as head coach. “It felt like the first day of a new staff and I think a lot of it is because we obviously had a new staff on defense, but even change in the practice schedule as much as we did, it was brand new for me. It was brand new for the offensive staff. The defense obviously was going through some brand new stuff for them and the players as well. Just a lot of excitement, a lot of anticipation."
New spots for old faces
J.J. Green, who started four games last year at tailback because of Gurley and Marshall’s injuries, began the practice of moving to cornerback on Tuesday.
“He looked pretty natural out there, I thought, as a corner, the couple little spots I saw,” Richt said.
Quayvon Hicks was working with the tight ends, as previously announced. Hicks is moving into more of an H-back role.
Several other defensive players were also in new spots, as previously announced. The only new move appeared to be Johnny O'Neal was working with the outside linebackers, after working with the inside linebackers as a freshman.
John Theus was at left tackle, another move the coaches revealed earlier this month. Kolton Houston was at right tackle.
During the early part of practice the first-team guards were Mark Beard and Brandon Kublanow. That left out rising senior Watts Dantzler, but he is still expected to compete for time at both guard and tackle.
“Right this minute, going into this season, I think his best shot’s gonna be at guard,” Richt said. “But the fact he’s gonna know both is gonna be valuable, because you never what happens injury-wise, and all that type of thing. So we’ll see.”