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Shockley, Milton enjoy strong scrimmages

D.J. Shockley made a point Saturday that he also has a strong right arm.

ATHENS, Ga. - Best known for his running skills, quarterback D.J. Shockley made a point Saturday that he also has a strong right arm.

Already assured of playing time behind starter David Greene, Shockley strengthened his role in the new two-quarterback system by completing three long touchdown passes in a scrimmage Saturday morning at Sanford Stadium.

Shockley enjoyed his best day of the preseason with touchdown bombs to Fred Gibson, Reggie Brown and Michael Johnson. Meanwhile, Greene - who had been sharp through two-a-day drills - struggled through an off day.

"Shockley had an outstanding day,'' said Coach Mark Richt.

"He has really done well, period. I'm very pleased with Shockley. He's going through the natural progression of learning how to play the position and working through the system. He had made a lot of nice throws (before Saturday). Overall, his decision-making was better and his accuracy was better (Saturday).''

Richt denied reports that he has decided to give Greene 80 percent of the snaps.

"I never said that,'' Richt said. "I said it could be three to one or it could be 80-20.

"It's the same old story. Greene is going to start. We'll play Shockley. Exactly how or when, even if I knew for sure today, I wouldn't announce it.''

Milton moves up at running back: With the Aug. 31 season-opener against Clemson now only two weeks away, No. 8 Georgia's depth chart at tailback is beginning to become clearer.

Starter Musa Smith was held out Saturday so coaches could take longer looks at Tony Milton, Michael Cooper and Tyson Browning, and Milton emerged as the leader in the race to be Smith's top backup.

"I'm glad (Milton) is starting to take control,'' said running backs coach Tony Pierce.

"That's what we're looking for, a back to step up behind Musa. Tony stepped up today.''

Added Pierce of the 5-foot-11, 190-pound Milton: "He's not afraid to smack you or pound you, but he can make you miss, also.''

Richt said Cooper "had a few nice runs'' and Milton "ran tough and hard'' while Browning made up for one turnover by running tougher than had been expected.

Perhaps the most encouraging sign for Milton is that the redshirt freshman still is finding his comfort zone. He missed spring practice with a shoulder injury, and his scout team work last season was his first competitive work since 1998.

So even though he is not at what he feels is his best form, Milton still stood out from the other tailbacks.

"He's still not there, so there's a great upside to him,'' Pierce said.

"That's what we're waiting for. He wants to be the next guy, and that's what they all should be thinking.''

It seems likely that Cooper and Browning will play as true freshmen.

"It's just a matter of how Cooper comes on,'' Pierce said.

Redshirt plans for Gilliam:  Richt announced plans to give running back Mike Gilliam a redshirt year. Gilliam was forced into action as a true freshman last year and had 10 carries for 29 yards. If not for injuries at the position, Gilliam likely would have been held out as a redshirt last year.

"We want to allow him to get bigger and stronger and faster,'' Richt said. "We think it's in his best interest.''

Bennett struggling: Kicker Billy Bennett has struggled throughout practice, and Richt said it is time to open up the competition to kickoff specialist Brett Kirouac. Richt said Kirouac also has struggled with his accuracy. "I'm just disappointed in their focus or whatever that is keeping them from drilling (field-goal attempts),'' Richt said.

Said Bennett: "I'm very disappointed as well. I feel good physically.''

On the line: In addition to Smith, some other established starters, including offensive tackle Jon Stinchcomb, saw limited time. Dennis Roland and freshman Daniel Inman saw much of the time as first-team tackles.

Freshman Max Jean-Gilles was held out with a sprained knee that was stiff. As of Friday night, he had been expected to play.

Junior Chris Hewitt, normally a guard, had to spend some time at tackle.

Charles Odum can be reached here: CEOdum@aol.com

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