Richt will keep an eye on the Draft

ATHENS – Unlike some, Mark Richt won't spend next weekend hunched over his television taking in every minute of the NFL Draft.

That's not to say Georgia's head football coach won't give it the more-than-occasional look.

"It's fun for us," Richt said. "We like to watch it. I won't sit there and watch every moment of it, but definitely you have your television on somewhere in the house and you pop in to see what's going on. You're constantly getting updates from people who might have been watching more closely and will call you."

The 2007 NFL Draft will be held Saturday and Sunday in New York and will be televised in its entirety by ESPN and ESPN2.

It's likely the first round will pass without a Bulldogs' name called for the second straight year. Last year was the first time since 2000 that no Georgia player was selected in the first round.

Hawkinsville native Charles Johnson, the defensive end who skipped his senior season to enter this draft, is expected to be the first Bulldog selected. Fellow defensive end Quentin Moses also is in the running for that honor. However, there are often surprises, such as last year, when diminutive cornerback Tim Jennings was the first Georgia player picked (in the second round by the Indianapolis Colts).

Overall, the Bulldogs had seven players selected in last year's draft, one short of the school record set in 2002. There are another seven solid draft candidates this year: Johnson and Moses, tight end Martrez Milner, offensive linemen Ken Shackleford and Dan Inman, linebacker Tony Taylor and running back Danny Ware. Linebackers Jarvis Jackson and Danny Verdun Wheeler, safety Tra Battle of Forsyth, defensive lineman Ray Gant, center Nick Jones and punter Gordon Ely-Kelso also will be hoping to hear their name next weekend.

However it works out for those players, it probably will be a busy day for Richt.

"We try to get up with all those guys on that day," he said, "but sometimes they're having a big celebration or are with a bunch of people and it's hard to get them, but we try to get hold of them and congratulate them on their opportunity to live their dream."

Coaches around the SEC and the country will be feeling that same sense of pride.

"It's a tremendous feeling," Arkansas coach Houston Nutt said. "Let's face it, when they're 18 or 19 and they get to college the next step in their mind is they are going to be a professional athlete. So, when that does happen, it's a great feeling."

Among SEC schools, LSU is expected to have the most high-profile day. Thirteen Tigers are considered draft hopefuls, including quarterback Jamarcus Russell, the potential No. 1 overall pick. Safety LaRon Landry and wide receiver Dwayne Bowe also are likely first round selections.

Florida may beat LSU in total volume, though. Eighteen Gators are considered draft hopefuls and several, with safety Reggie Nelson and defensive end Jarvis Moss expected to go in the first or early second round.

Auburn offensive lineman Ben Grubbs, Arkansas offensive lineman Tony Ugoh and cornerback Chris Houston, Ole Miss linebacker Patrick Willis, Tennessee defensive lineman Justin Harrell and wide receiver Robert Meachem also are potential first round picks and South Carolina wide receiver Sidney Rice. projects Moses will be the first Bulldog off the board, with the 61st overall pick in the second round.

"What we like about it is we see guys develop as people, their character and the things they need to be successful in life and you see them graduate," Alabama coach Nick Saban said. "If your staff has helped them develop as a player, I think there's a lot of positive self-gratification in that. It's always something that you feel good about for them."

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