Thursday Night Football: Not at Georgia

ATHENS - While Richt may be all for playing a midweek matchup, Georgia athletics director Damon Evans wasn't as enthused

The cast on his wrist could have been looked at as a nice ticket out of the most intense of offseason workouts for Georgia tailback Richard Samuel, but that's not his personality.

The freshman will miss spring practice after undergoing surgery to repair ligaments in his wrist, and while he hasn't missed much time in the gym, his workouts have been limited.

The trend will continue this spring when, instead of donning full pads and taking some big hits, Samuel will be limited to core workouts and cardiovascular exercise while his wrist heals.

"It's going to be real difficult because I'm a guy that likes to be out there, and I like to participate," Samuel said. "Being injured, you don't have to go through all that stuff and it's kind of good sometimes, but I don't like that. I like being a part of things and going through whatever I have to go through."

When spring practices begin next month, both Samuel and fellow freshman Dontavius Jackson will be on the sidelines watching Caleb King and Carlton Thomas split reps. The time off is particularly frustrating for Samuel, who is in the mix to take over for Knowshon Moreno as the team's starting running back.

"It really set me back," Samuel said. "I'm not able to work out as much as I wanted to. I'm not able to participate in mat drills like I wanted to. It really dampened how I was ready to get into things and start participating to get into the battle for that running back position."

Despite missing some key practice time this spring, Samuel expects to be ready to go this fall, and he hopes he can use the summer vacation to make up for lost time.

"I'm going to take full advantage of the summer workouts," Samuel said. "That month of May when we have off, I'm going to take that and study the playbook and get in the weight room every day."

WEEKEND WARRIORS

During Georgia's signing day festivities two weeks ago, head coach Mark Richt said he would embrace an opportunity to open the season on a Thursday night against Oklahoma State, particularly with a tough matchup against South Carolina looming the next week. An extra few days to prepare is always appreciated, after all.

While Richt may be all for playing a midweek matchup, Georgia athletics director Damon Evans wasn't as enthused.

"We won't play Thursday night football," Evans said. "That's our stance right now, and I've talked to Mark about that. That just goes against the philosophy of this institution."

Evans said that the Thursday games obstruct academics for players and students, even for away games such as this year's Georgia opener, citing the numerous students who would likely travel for the game.

"This has been a philosophy of ours for a long time in which we had said even in the negotiations of the television contracts that we would not play Thursday night football," Evans said. "It was done (that way) before I was here, and that's the philosophy that I have. I respect what Mark's opinion is, but at the end of the day, Thursday night football is not in the cards for the University of Georgia."

As it turned out, not only did Georgia miss out on the Thursday festivities, but the Gamecocks landed the date and will have the extra three days to get ready for their conference opener against the Bulldogs.

TWO-SPORT STAR

Geno Atkins was projected as a possible first-round selection had he entered the NFL draft following his junior season at Georgia. Instead, the defensive tackle decided to return to school, noting that he had some unfinished business.

While his top priorities include earning his diploma and helping the Bulldogs to an SEC football title, he also had more he wanted to accomplish at his other athletic endeavor – the shotput.

"In two weeks we're having the SEC championship, so hopefully I'm going to do some big things up in Kentucky," Atkins said. "I haven't hit my PR from last year yet, but I want to say by next week I'll be able to do that. I won my first meet this year, so I was real excited about that at the Illinois Classic, so it's been going good so far."

Of course, football is really a year-round activity at a program like Georgia, so finding time to work on his track-and-field skills hasn't been easy for Atkins.

"Some fans are shocked that I do it," Atkins said. "It's tough. Sometimes I have to do mat drills, weights and then go out there and practice. It's sort of a grind, but I know I'll push through it and get my work done with school and on the field."

So if the whole NFL thing doesn't work out, does Atkins think he might have a future pursuing the shotput?

"I don't think so," Atkins said. "So far, I only practice twice a week, so I haven't had enough time to develop my technique with the shotput."

BIGGER AND BETTER

Tight end Aron White was hardly an offensive superstar last year, but when he managed to work his way onto the field, he usually made good things happen.

The redshirt freshman caught just three passes all year, but two went for touchdowns – including Georgia's only touchdown against Florida – and third was a 48-yard bomb. While his impact may have been minimal in the big picture, White said the success was a big boost to his confidence.

"It really served as a motivator for me making those couple of plays," he said. "I kind of proved to myself that I can get out here and play with these guys and not just get in and play a couple snaps in two tights or something like that."

The big knock on White to date has been his size. At a lean 230 pounds, he hardly fits the bill of the prototypical tight end. As a pass catcher, he's more than capable, but his challenge has been getting strong enough to work as a blocker, too.

With that in mind, White said he hopes to add as much as 10 pounds this offseason in order to play a bigger role with the offense in 2009. What he won't do, however, is add weight just for the sake of getting bigger.

"I think what I'm really trying to do is gain weight but gain it in the right way," White said. "I don't want to come out and supplement six times a day and just life weights and not run and come out there and be sloppy and slow but able to move a guy off the ball."


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