ATHENS - Georgia has entered the final phase of the preseason, full-on preparation for Clemson. And yet it comes without a level of progress that head coach Mark Richt wanted to this point.
"It's just not a lot settled at a lot of positions, especially on the defensive side of the ball," Richt said after Wednesday's mini-scrimmage at Sanford Stadium. "I'm concerned about it. But the dust is gonna settle, and guys are gonna go out there and play ball, and we'll see what they're made of."
No. 12 Georgia opens the season on Aug. 30 against No. 16 Clemson. The Bulldogs were supposed to hold their final scrimmage on Wednesday, but instead only "thudded," which meant no tackling to the ground. So there were no stats given to the media, as it wasn't deemed a game-like scrimmage.
Richt said he was satisfied overall with the preseason as far as effort and organization. The issue, he said, was "settling a lot of questions" on personnel, starting jobs and rotations.
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Richt said there were a couple reasons for that:
- Injuries. The most notable one was Ramik Wilson, the All-SEC inside linebacker who was out about 10 days with a concussion. Richt also pointed to cornerback Devin Bowman, who was making a good move but then suffered a hamstring injury and is out right now.
- The youth and experience, especially in the secondary. Richt granted that was similar to last year, when there were a similar amount of inexperience heading into the season.
"There are so many young guys, so many inexperienced guys, that it will be a trial by fire for a lot of these guys," Richt said. "And we'll see how they handle the pressure of it."
The good ones
It wasn't all dark clouds from Richt, who listed a number of players when asked who was playing well enough to see much more playing time this season.
Greg Pyke, the sophomore guard, was the first player Richt mentioned. Pyke earned the starting job in the spring and carried it into the preseason.
Quayvon Hicks, the fullback who moved to tight end, was the next player Richt mentioned. Hicks seems set to get a lot of playing time after the career-ending concussion for fullback Merritt Hall, as well as Hicks' adjustment to tight end.
Both starting outside linebackers, Jordan Jenkins and Leonard Floyd, both had strong camps, Richt added. So did senior safety Corey Moore, kicker Marshall Morgan, punters Collin Barber and Adam Erickson.
"Our snap, hold, kick group, our snap and punt group, the operation times have been very good," Richt said. "We've got veteran guys there. They've done well."
Receiver Malcolm Mitchell was again not among those participating on Wednesday. The junior had arthroscopic knee surgery just before the preseason began, and while he hasn't been ruled out for the Clemson game yet, it's looking increasingly less likely Mitchell will play on Aug. 30.
Asked Wednesday whether Mitchell has been able to do any running, Richt said "a little bit," before adding: "In the water anyway. I don't know if he's out on the ground yet."
Wilson playing "catch-up"
Richt implied that Wilson, the reigning first-team All-SEC inside linebacker, was fighting for a starting spot after missing so much practice time. Wilson was splitting first-team reps with sophomores Tim Kimbrough and Reggie Carter during Tuesday's practice.
"It's hard to get better when you're not there," Richt said. "It's hard to get game ready when you're not practicing. And unfortunately he was not able to practice, and now he's playing catch-up, quite frankly. Hopefully he can get to the point where the defensive staff feels like he oughta be in there doing it."
Pruitt on field
New defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt will coach from the sideline during games, as expected. Georgia's previous defensive coordinators also coached on the field.
Offensive coordinator Mike Bobo will remain in the booth for games, as he has since the 2011 season. Richt said he didn't remember all the other coaching assignments.