ATHENS - The Georgia Bulldogs opened practice Friday on their glistening new practice fields in very balmy conditions. The print media was permitted to watch about 45 minutes. The team didn't do very much during that time, but nonetheless here are a few observations:
1. It was a smaller sample, but Jeremy Pruitt seemed a bit toned-down from his spring practices. Back then it was fire and brimstone with his defensive backs. During the time I was out there Friday the secondary coach didn't raise his voice as much, and seemed more teaching-oriented. He offered up comments after every rep to his players, still critical, but not yelling as much. And when Sheldon Dawson made a nice tackle to finish a rep, Pruitt applauded him. Everyone has a different style, so this doesn't necessarily come off as a criticism, but it's been clearly evident for awhile now that the secondary is being coached with more energy, and Friday just reinforced that.
2. Pruitt mixed up personnel a lot in the spring, said he would continue to do so the first half of preseason, and he's doing it again: Aaron Davis, listed as the first-team cornerback, did some work at safety. And everyone is indeed getting a chance in the secondary: Freshmen such as Dominick Sanders, Shaquille Jones and Malkom Parrish were getting plenty of reps with the veterans.
3. Something new that Georgia is doing - almost certainly a Pruitt-inspired move - is double-repping players in drills. What that means is that during the slow drills aimed more at teaching, two players are in the same spot. For instance, Aaron Davis and Shattle Fenteng were together at one cornerback spot, and Damian Swann and Malkom Parrish were together on the other side of the field. It's a time-saver, as these are so-called mental reps, where the key is the player learning something, as opposed to a live-action drill.
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4. Lorenzo Carter stands out physically, and that's putting it mildly. The freshman outside linebacker is the tallest player on defense, at 6-foot-6, and of his listed 240 pounds, not much looks like body fat. He has a Jevon Kearse body-type. If his ability comes close to matching his hype, it's going to be hard to keep him off the field. Jordan Jenkins and Leonard Floyd may have to take it up a notch this preseason. And if they do, the coaches will be tempted to find other ways to get Carter on the field, perhaps at defensive end or in some creative packages.
5. Another newcomer stands out physically: Cornerback Shattle Fenteng is 6-foot-2, a bit slender, but if he can avoid being jammed at the line and show good athleticism his height is going to be an asset on those deep balls. And remember that Pruitt values playing the deep ball above all else in a defensive back.
6. The requisite analysis of the offensive guys coming back from injury: Justin Scott-Wesley was practicing, although it was during non-contact drills. Keith Marshall was running and cutting with the tailbacks. Jay Rome also looked fine.
7. Nick Chubb, the highly-touted tailback, is smaller than fellow freshman Sony Michel as well as Marshall and Todd Gurley. But he had good running ability straight-ahead. He was getting reps after Brendan Douglas, which is to be expected, but the competition behind Gurley and Marshall will be fascinating to watch this month.
8. You know about Chris Conley and Michael Bennett as receivers. But their downfield blocking ability is underrated, as was evident during a pass-skel drill, when the receivers block defensive backs. Conley gave Fenteng a bit of a "welcome to the SEC" moment during that drill.
9. Some new receiver observations: Sophomore Brendan Langley went through his first official practice as a receiver. He has a long way to go, but early on he drew praise from receivers coach Tony Ball for the way he ran a route. Freshman Isaiah McKenzie is small but quick, which isn't news, but he has the skill where you could see the Bulldogs employing him in ways they did Brandon Boykin and Branden Smith. Except McKenzie is a full-time receiver. Shakenneth Williams and Charlie Hegedus didn't really stand out, but again ... small sample.
10. I also spent a bit of time watching the tight ends run routes. Rome looks like his usual self, maybe a bit more meat on the bones, but that's to be expected coming off the injury. Jordan Davis, the redshirt freshman, is a bit more lean, and made a nice catch while changing direction. Freshman Jeb Blazevich isn't quite as tall as Davis, but still has good size, and looked pretty decent running routes. But again, it was a small sample. The newest addition, transfer Joseph Ledbetter, was also on hand, but I'll confess I didn't get a great look at him, other than noting that he's also tall. That brings me finally to Quayvon Hicks, who looked out of place with the tight ends. (He's only 6-2.) It'll be interesting to see what Mike Bobo does with the H-back role, especially since Hicks and Blazevich are both playing it, and have different body types.
11. William Ham has officially joined the team as a walk-on kicker. Ham, who is from Macon, will attempt to become Marshall Morgan's top backup, and it's worth keeping an eye on him. Georgia is one of the few programs that gives scholarships to kickers and punters, but you can never rule out a walk-on eventually ascending to one of the top roles. In fact, Adam Erickson is giving Collin Barber a strong run to be the punter.
12: Finally, former Georgia head coach Jim Donnan was at practice. Donnan, of course, was acquitted early in the summer of all charges related to an alleged Ponzi scheme. He still lives in Athens, and is interested in getting back into the sports media if a good opportunity comes up.
Note: I didn't get a chance to watch the lines very much, and the quarterbacks weren't doing too much worth passing along. But I'll be sure to make up for that over the next few days.