ATHENS -- This is how long it has been since the Georgia football team held a practice:
J.J. Green was practicing at defensive back, preparing to face Georgia Tech, and in the time that has passed, Green has not only elected to transfer, but ended up with the Yellow Jackets.
By the time Georgia returns to the practice field Wednesday afternoon, it will have been 17 days since the loss to Georgia Tech. The Bulldogs coaches, led by Mark Richt, almost immediately hit the road recruiting, which has been the overwhelming focus.
Now, beating Louisville in the Belk Bowl takes top priority. Yes, no one in Georgia’s program wants to lose to old friend Todd Grantham, the former defensive coordinator now in the same role at Louisville. That adds a special layer to preparation.
But the importance of heading into the offseason on a winning note will also be emphasized. Georgia has lost three of its past four bowls. Plus, a win would give the Bulldogs a 10-win season and could vault them into the final top 10, salvaging something out of a season that has fallen short of its major hopes.
“We didn’t reach all our goals, but if someone said before the season starts that ‘you’re going to be in the top 10 with 10 wins.’ they probably would have taken that, and said, ‘Let’s call it a deal,’ ” athletics director Greg McGarity said. “Granted, things didn’t unfold like we wanted to. But we sure can end the season on a high note, which we have not done three out of the last four years.
“So absolutely it’s an important game. No question about that. I think everybody senses it’s a big game for us.”
Given all that, here are a few on-field priorities for the Bulldogs:
GET A lot done in little time
The Bulldogs have a very limited amount of preparation time for the bowl: Four practices this week in Athens, then five in Charlotte in the lead-up to the game.
The time crunch was created in part by the recruiting calendar -- a dead period arrived Monday -- and exams, which went into this week at Georgia. That led Richt to take the somewhat drastic step of having the team report to Charlotte on Christmas Eve and hold a practice on Christmas Day.
It’s far from ideal, and it could lead to accusations of Grinchitude. But it makes clear that Richt and the staff want to win this game.
Figure out the secondary
Green isn’t the only defensive back to transfer since the regular season ended. So did fellow sophomore Brendan Langley, who started one game this year and four last year. Green started one this year, too.
That makes five defensive backs who have been removed from the roster since the start of the season. Promising freshman Rico Johnson was disqualified because of a neck condition, junior Sheldon Dawson transferred with a push from the coaches, and freshman Shaq Jones was dismissed after an arrest.
There was also a season-ending injury to cornerback Shattle Fenteng, who could have started.
Jeremy Pruitt, the defensive coordinator and secondary coach, can still field a unit and is lucky to have senior cornerback Damian Swann to anchor it for one more game.
But the unit is as thin as ever, and the bowl could be an opportunity for someone like Tramel Terry, a redshirt freshman who has been waiting for his chance.
Look at young players
Georgia is not going to play younger players just to give them experience. It will be Hutson Mason at quarterback barring injury, for instance.
But traditionally it uses at least part of bowl practice to give a longer look at certain players. Terry is one, along with freshman Malkom Parrish.
Several players who redshirted this year could be due for playing time next year, like defensive tackle Lamont Gaillard and inside linebacker-fullback Detric Bing-Dukes.
Account for Grantham
Louisville head coach Bobby Petrino said Tuesday that Grantham’s knowledge of Georgia’s personnel had been “helpful.” Grantham also knows plenty about the inner workings of Georgia’s offense, having practiced against it for four years.
That doesn’t mean offensive coordinator Mike Bobo will need to junk his usual plan. After all, it has worked very well.
But Louisville’s run defense has been the specialty, and Georgia has been run-oriented this year. And considering Grantham’s knowledge, there’s a good chance Bobo will do his best to gameplan around it.