Butler is first in line to replace senior Brian Mimbs, who spent the past two seasons making Georgia's punting game a bastion of consistency. While the work might not be glamorous, Butler said it's his goal to keep the spotlight off himself by seamlessly stepping in to the role vacated by Mimbs.
"Consistency a huge part of it, techniques a big part of it," Butler said. "Those are the two main things I'm working on this spring, and hopefully the coaches realize, 'Hey, Drew's really consistent and we can count on him.'"
While Moreno and Matthew Stafford earned much of the praise for Georgia's successes and the defense took much of the blame for the Bulldogs' failures a year ago, Butler thinks special teams had as much to do with winning and losing as anything. Field position plays a big role, he said, and he needed to look no further than the highs and lows of Mimbs' 2008 season for evidence.
"You look back at the South Carolina game, and I think Mimbs single-handedly got us out of a couple jams and helped the defense out," Butler said. "Then, I don't want to throw him under the bus, but when he's has a bad game it hurts us, too. As reliable as he was last year, those are huge shoes to fill."
It's not exactly official that Butler will be the one to fill those shoes, but after seeing some brief action a year ago, the rising sophomore thinks he has the inside track on the starting job.
"I feel like it's my job to lose, and I feel like my biggest competition is myself," Butler said. "We have two good punters behind me, but I feel like this is definitely my job to lose."
ANOTHER ONE BITES THE DUST
Defensive end Demarcus Dobbs is the latest victim of Georgia's injury bug.
Dobbs broke the fifth metatarsal in his left foot during Thursday's practice and will require surgery. He will miss the remainder of the spring, but a full recovery is expected, according to trainer Ron Courson.
Dobbs will undergo surgery early next week, according to a source, and Courson confirmed that Dobbs will be back to full speed for the start of two-a-days.
The injury leaves Georgia with just three healthy, scholarship defensive ends this spring: Justin Houston, freshman Jeremy Longo, who redshirted last season, and Kiante Tripp, who just moved to defensive end after spending all last season on offense.
From Cox to Carlton Thomas to Bryan Evans and Rennie Curran, the spring platitudes have been plentiful at Georgia. But if head coach Mark Richt had to narrow down his list to one MVP of spring practice, there's no doubt who would get the award.
"The most dominating player to this point has been Geno Atkins," Richt said.
Atkins has been a beast stopping the run and getting to the quarterback, and Tuesday he even returned an interception for a touchdown. The performance hasn't been particularly surprising, Richt said, as Atkins has been among Georgia's top defensive players the past two seasons, but this spring, the senior defensive tackle has taken things to a new level.
A year ago, penalties were the bane of Richt's existence. Flags cost Georgia crucial yardage in nearly every game and overturned several of the team's biggest plays of the year. Eventually, the penalties became the hot-button issue of the team's practice sessions, and punishments were in store for the whole team if it was flagged for too many infractions on game day.
"I can't say why we had as many penalties as we had a year ago because we didn't do anything that we hadn't done since I'd been here," Richt said. "As the season went along, we spent a lot more time emphasizing it, but it just got away from us."
Richt said Georgia's coaches aren't punishing players for penalties as much as they are encouraging a renewed focus on fundamentals. If a player is making smart decisions and getting into the proper position on a play, the odds of drawing a flag decrease significantly.
"By no means are we going to ignore it, but we're going back to the basics," Richt said. "The better our fundamentals and the better position we're in, I feel there's a lot less chance we'll have those kinds of penalties."
A LOT ON THE LINE
Georgia will hold its first scrimmage of the spring on Monday, after its scheduled practice session Friday was rained out. Cox said no one on the team is taking it lightly. While coaches figure to use the practice to give some of the younger players a few more opportunities than they might normally get, Cox said Richt already issued a warning to his veterans that there will be a lot on the line for everyone.
"If you're a starter, tomorrow is where you solidify your spot," Cox said. "If you're a guy looking for playing time, tomorrow is where you get playing time. It is really good for the younger guys because they do get more reps, but it's not a period where the older guys can chill. It's time to prove ourselves that we can stay where we need to stay."
KEEP YOUR FRIENDS CLOSE...
A reporter joked with Mark Richt before Thursday's post-practice news conference that Tennessee coach Lane Kiffin had called Richt "a good buddy."
The compliment might have seemed a bit odd after Kiffin had reportedly made some less-than-kind statements about Richt's recruiting abilities earlier this year, but the Georgia coach at least attempted to appreciate the olive branch.
"Well, that's good," Rich said with a wry smile. "I need friends."