Q: When is Malcolm Mitchell going to get offensive work?
A: He's been working with Coach Ball on his wide receiver fundamentals after practice while the defense has been getting their conditioning. Some days the quarterbacks will stick around and throw some passes to him. I'm going to get with Coach Bobo and start talking about what the plan ought to be for game one. Like I've been saying all along, I think he'll get some offensive snaps Game 1, but how many and how much we'll try to practice with him, we're trying to decide that.
Q: Is there any way to gauge how far the running backs have come since the start of Fall?
A: I think they're very diligent guys. Of course, Keith [Marshall] was here in the spring and had a big head start, learning what to do. Sometimes you'll have a blitz pickup period, and that drill is not quite the tempo of 11-on-11 or a scrimmage. It's a good tempo but it's not breakneck speed. In that drill there are no receivers and you're not throwing a ball. When you're in that drill, obviously it's going to be a blitz most of the time. So the guys have that kind of awareness and mindset, but when you go 11-on-11, you don't know what the coverage will be... The tempo is a different tempo, a faster tempo. The point I'm getting to is that the last couple 11-on-11s and even the last scrimmage, our backs recognized the blitz and really did a pretty good job. Even Quayvon [Hicks] today did a nice job picking up a blitz coming up the middle. It was a blitz that wasn't real simple, but he didn't miss his assignment. He took the guy on at the line of scrimmage, which you hope he does, and [we] got the ball off….We're capable as a coaching staff to get freshman ready to play in the first game, and these guys will be ready to play. Will they be perfect? No. Will they make some mistakes here and there? Hopefully not, but they probably will. I'm not afraid to play them.
Q: Injuries have been relatively low this fall. Is there anything you're doing with strength and conditioning to help that?
A: We've been on grass every day which I think helps. We practiced in the mornings instead of the afternoons during camp. We really thought it was going to be hot in the afternoons for the next three weeks, but it's been pretty mild. I think that helps. They had a great summer of conditioning. They've been recovering faster. We've added a lot of post-practice stretching which I think is helping. Then, sometimes you are just fortunate.
Q: How much thought went into deciding Kenarious Gates was going to be the left tackle?
A: We thought he had the right body type. We thought he's athletic enough to do that. You have to start with a guy's ability to protect the passer at left tackle. There's more of a premium on pass protection. If you can't set fast enough to block an edge rusher or get on that guy, if you're not quick enough to make contact… When Jarvis Jones comes off the edge, some guys can't even get out of their stance and get their hands on him. You have to be athletic enough to do that. You hope that they're tall enough and long enough arms. You're hoping as a tackle to get your hand on that guy's chest. Of course that guy is trying to do the same thing to you to try and control you. If your arms aren't very long and his arms are longer than yours, the defender will win the battle, so you have to have long arms to do it. And he's played in enough games that we felt like he was the best candidate physically for the job. Could it have been [John} Theus over there? Maybe. But I think we have them in the right place right now.
Q: When it comes to the kicker and punter competitions, at what point would you like to be able to say ‘ok, this is our guy' at those spots?
A: The freshmen [Marshall Morgan and Collin Barber] have been getting the amount of reps that you would give a starter, and again, I'm not going to say that the positions are closed because I don't see that they are. But right now, they're getting the majority of the reps and they're in the lead right now.
Q: When dealing with roster attrition, is that the reason it looks like y'all have gone the JUCO route more than normal?
A: If you're going to sign a relatively large class, you'd like to have some age difference. If every single guy you bring in is a freshman, that's a lot of freshmen to bring in. You'd like to break it up with some junior college guys, so you don't have too many players at one position at one time. What happens is if you sign a lot of junior college kids, sometimes you get in that cycle where you have to continue to do it. We've never, since I've been at Georgia, built our classes around the absolute necessity of bringing in a junior college guy. There's been some classes I've never brought in a junior college kid; some years we've brought in three or four. It's normally been predicated on a need at any one given position or if there's attrition due to injury or whatever it may be or transfers. Sometimes you need some help and you need help from a mature guy physically and football-wise that might be able to come in and play right away. Then every once and a while if there's a superior talent at a certain position. If he can upgrade you immediately, we will go after him, too. This year in particular we have a lot of kids we're going to bring in, and so I think it'd be good to break it up with some age difference.
A: Yeah, they're getting a lot of reps. Sheldon's made a bunch of plays out there. He's already proven that physically he has the tools to play that position. He's still learning and he'll get better at what he does. Bottom line is that you have to have the physical ability to play your position, to stay with a receiver, and he has that. He plays the ball very well. He has a history of playing some offense… Sometimes that helps to play corner. He's got some toughness about him and he has a ways to go. Josh is getting a ton of reps, and there's no question that he'll be playing scrimmage downs and special teams downs.
Q: Does this seem ironic that the recent recruiting class was relatively small but you're going to get a lot out of it?
A: We're pleased with them. They don't seem overwhelmed. They get frustrated at times. I see veteran players teaching and coaching and not giving them a hard time when they struggle. They've been there to help really them, which has a good sign too. Our guys are smart enough to know if a guy has ability and if a guy might be able to help us, or that we may need help and some guys to step in and help us. If it was one of those years where we had so much depth and a bunch of veterans and knew those guys weren't going to play, they'd probably be busting their chops a little bit more, but now they're just trying to get them ready.
Q: What's the biggest thing that separates Sheldon Dawson from the rest of the defensive backs?
A: They're all different. I wouldn't say Dawson has exceeded anybody else's play at this point, but what I think makes him good is that he does play very hard. He's learning very quickly. He's really, in the two months that he's been here, he's picked up at least 15 pounds. He's probably 20 pounds heavier than when we signed him or got him to commit. He's a bigger man than he was then. I think all those things are helpful.