Georgia returns for second half of spring drills

"Ben Watson has the capability to be as good as anybody in the United States of America. It's just up to him.''

ATHENS, Ga. — Defense had the last word when Georgia finished the first half of its spring football schedule.

Now, after a spring break of almost two weeks, the Bulldogs will return to practice with a little more offensive firepower.

Fred Gibson, who led Georgia in receiving yards as a freshman despite starting only three games, is expected to make his spring debut today. Gibson was completing his basketball season as a backup shooting guard during the first half of spring football practice.

The return of Gibson will add needed depth at receiver as Georgia begins working toward its April 6 G-Day spring game. Coach Mark Richt had as many scholarship quarterbacks as healthy receivers during the first two weeks of practice, and Gibson will join Terrence Edwards, Damien Gary, Michael Johnson and Jarrett Berry as top targets.

On March 14, the first half of spring drills ended with the No. 1 defense stopping the No. 1 offense on four straight goal-line plays.

"That may be the first time that has happened since I have been here,'' Richt said.

The goal-line scrimmage may have reflected the lack of a power back in Georgia's offense, thanks to projected starter Musa Smith's ongoing battle with a groin injury and the losses of Verron Haynes and Jasper Sanks from the 2001 unit.

Georgia is lining up 258-pound senior J.T. Wall at fullback, but Wall is a more accomplished blocker than runner. Mike Gilliam, perhaps generously listed at 180 pounds, has taken the most snaps at tailback. Richt feels confident in his first-string offensive line, a unit that returns four starters, so the stand by the defense was seen as good news. The two most experienced starters on the offensive line, tackle Jon Stinchcomb and guard Kevin Breedlove, were held out of the March 14 scrimmage.

Richt also has been encouraged by the play of his first-string linebackers, though depth is a concern there.

For the final two weeks of spring drills, Richt will continue to look for starters at center, both safety positions and "rush'' defensive end.

Though quarterbacks David Greene and D.J. Shockley have been in the spotlight as Richt considers using both players next season, true freshman Joe Tereshinski III and senior Cory Phillips have earned praise from the coach.

"The whole group seems to be very focused,'' Richt said. "I'm really pleased with that.''

Richt has given early endorsements as all-star candidates to middle linebacker Tony Gilbert, a senior who has started 21 games the last two years, and tight end Ben Watson, a junior who has only three career starts. More observations from Richt about the first half of spring drills:

"I see very good receivers, but not enough of them.''

"I'm very concerned about the tailback position. Fullback is still a question as to how productive they'll be.''

"Ben Watson has the capability to be as good as anybody in the United States of America. It's just up to him.''

"On the defensive live, I see talent — and a lot of inexperience.''

"We have a possibly outstanding front line of linebackers, but there's not a lot of depth.''

"At cornerback, they are proving they will get the job done and we have some young safeties who are talented, but they have to prove they can do it.''

Though the schedule can be affected by weather, including the forecast for rain today, the plan calls for practices today, Thursday and Friday this week, followed by four practices next week before the G-Day game.

Charles Odum can be reached here:

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