Georgia Football Notebook - 9/11

Coaches like to say a team makes its biggest improvement from the first week to the second. Georgia is hoping to make its big improvement from the second week to the third.

If they do, that's good news for Georgia, and particularly the offensive line. The unit, while battling some penalties like the rest of the team, was sharper in Georgia's 29-10 win over Middle Tennessee State than in the 30-0 romp over Clemson a week earlier.

Tackle Max Jean-Gilles played about 37 snaps and graded the highest. Tackle Daniel Inman stood out as well.

"He picked up some blitzes that I've had seniors mess up," said head coach Mark Richt. "He got it right every time. He kept his eyes open."

The line played better despite missing guard Josh Brock, the most experienced player in the unit. Walk-on Ryan Schnetzer filled in more than adequately.

"He's going to get into the three-man rotation with those other two guards," Richt said. "He plays hard, he's smart, he's tough. He moves good. He's really done well."

Offensive line coach Neil Callaway wasn't throwing out huge praise, but said there was progress.

"I think we improved a little bit last week," he said. "Still not playing as aggressive and reckless as we need to, but I was pleased."

He, too, cited Jean-Gilles and Inman has having the best days. Georgia has 878 yards in total offense, 378 more than the Bulldogs had a year ago after two games.

"If you remember, a year ago at this time, we had a bunch of drops," said Callaway, also Georgia's offensive coordinator. "This year, we don't have many. We're certainly part of it. But we're throwing and catching the ball well."

Quarterback David Greene had a simple way of describing the improvements up front regarding his protection:

"I really haven't been all that sore."

FAMILIAR FACES: Talk about reunions. There'll be a few of them Saturday when South Carolina visits Georgia in the Southeastern Conference opener for both teams. The Gamecocks have 17 Georgians on the roster while four from the Palmetto State play for the Bulldogs. One interesting connection: Georgia receiver Damien Gary was a high school teammate of USC cornerback Dunta Robinson, and Greene played one year with Ted Crawford, the other starting corner, who had only one season of high school football under his belt.

  DECISIONS, DECISIONS: Richt says Fred Gibson won't play Saturday. Gibson is telling reporters he will play. Therein lies Richt's dilemma. If Gibson returns to quick from his pulled hamstring, he could miss two more big games: at LSU next week and against Alabama a week after that. "I don't know if it will be wise to play him," Richt said Thursday, "even if he thinks he can play. The Bulldogs still have plenty of healthy receivers, and the regulars will be joined Saturday by Mario Raley and Bryan McClendon, who have served their two-game suspensions. McClendon, a 5-foot-11, 172-pound sophomore from Mays High in Atlanta, caught five passes for 90 yards last year and played in 11 games. Raley, a 6-0, 175-pound sophomore from Charlotte, caught three passes for 43 yards in eight games. In the spring, Raley was named the most consistent receiver while McClendon was the most improved.

  COMING BACK: Raley and McClendon aren't the only ones returning to action Saturday. Defensive backs Tim Jennings and DeMario Minter are expected to see plenty of time in the secondary. The four were suspended for two games by Richt after they were arrested in April for misdemeanor marijuana possession. They'll both be on the field quickly, Jennings in nickel coverage and Minter in the dime package. Of the four, Jennings was of the most impact. He had 32 tackles and three interceptions last year and started three games, and has drawn comparisons to former Bulldog Tim Wansley. "Tim hits like Tim Wansley," says safety/linebacker Thomas Davis, considered one of this year's top poppers on the defense. "We're better when he's out there." The 5-8, 164-pound sophomore from Orangeburg, S.C. also may show up as a kick or punt returner as well. The only remaining Bulldog on suspension is tailback Tyson Browning, who will play next week against LSU. 

: This week's captains: junior safety Sean Jones on defense, junior fullback Jeremy Thomas and quarterback Greene on offense, and senior linebacker Chris Shaw on special teams. ... Saturday marks the fifth time both teams have been ranked at kickoff. While Georgia owns a 40-13-2 series lead, the Gamecocks have the edge when each is ranked, winning three of four. ... Last week's 99-yard touchdown pass from Dondrial Pinkins to Troy Williamson was the longest play from scrimmage in USC history. It's the 14th 99-yard play in NCAA history. ... Georgia kicker Billy Bennett is three point-after kicks away from third place on the school's career list. He has 115, two behind Hap Hines. ... The last time Georgia lost two straight to South Carolina in Athens? The Gamecocks won 24-20 in 1989 and 23-21 in 1993. USC joined the SEC in 1992. 

: "I hope that he plays because if we end up winning and he doesn't play, then they'll be saying, 'Well, they didn't have Fred Gibson,' I just want to play a team with all the pieces and show people what we can do." USC's Robinson, in The State newspaper, on the possibility of Gibson not playing.

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