Georgia coach Mark Richt was asked during Tuesday's press conference if he had a message for the Bulldog Nation, many of whom are unhappy with his team's start to the 2010 campaign.
"They're not (happy)," Richt said. "Well, neither am I. Neither is my mom."
It's definitely been a week of angst for the Bulldog faithful, many who were already upset with the team's 17-6 loss to South Carolina, and appear even angrier since Saturday's 31-24 defeat at the hands of Arkansas to fall to 1-2 overall, 0-2 in the SEC.
"The state of the program is we're getting ready for Mississippi State. It's early in the year and we're getting ready to play another SEC game and get a victory in league play," Richt said. "Some teams have played one (SEC) game, some have played two. I don't think anybody's played three, but I'd ask (fans) to just keep supporting and we will keep fighting. We will."
But senior tackle Josh Davis admits the mood around campus has been a bit on the darker side.
"We've got great fans and they're not used to losing like this; we're not used to losing like that," Davis said. "I've heard some things but you've got to take it with a grain of salt. It's not the fans' fault we're losing games; it's our fault. We lost the games; we can't blame them."
Redshirt sophomore Tavarres King hasn't noticed much change.
"Not really. I went to class yesterday and today and was kind of worried about it, but everybody has been very supportive," King said. "It made me really happy with the Bulldog Nation."
Richt said his players have returned to practice in the proper frame of mind.
But even if they hadn't, it would have been too bad, too sad.
All we can do is just keep grinding and no matter how we feel we've got work to do," Richt said. "If they feel good great and work hard or are in a bad mood and work hard, I don't care."
Richt gave a rundown of players who didn't play last week against Arkansas and their status for Mississippi State.
• Cornerback Branden Smith (concussion-like symptons): "Branden Smith right now is not ready to practice today. Before the week is over we think he'll have a chance. He did have a concussion, so he is getting better. There is a way that (UGA Director of Sports Medicine) Ron Courson tests all our guys before they get back on the field, and he is going through that process," Richt said. "Between now and the time we practice, he'll be going through some of that. There is an outside chance he could do something today, but for right this second he's not cleared to practice today."
• Running back Caleb King (ankle): "I just can't imagine Caleb not practicing full speed this week. Even watching him yesterday he looked fine. He's got his ankle taped up, but he looked fine," said Richt.
• Fullback Shaun Chapas (sprained ankle): "Chapas is trying to get back. He didn't practice yesterday. He was running around the field, no change of direction or anything like that right now. He is questionable. We think he still has a chance," Richt said.
• Linebacker Marcus Dowtin(shoulder stinger): "Dowtin, his strength has come back real good. He practiced yesterday. He ran well. He'll practice today probably in a green jersey, but it's hard to play linebacker in a green jersey. We are not afraid of him running into someone, but we just don't want anybody drilling him," said Richt.
• Offensive lineman Chris Davis (hip/knee): "I don't think he will practice today, but we hope he'll practice tomorrow. He may go today, a little bit of scout work. He could go today, but we're not going to get him in any of the more competitive drills," Richt said.
Richt feels offensive line has improved
Despite six sacks against Arkansas, Richt said Georgia's offensive line performed much better than the final statistics might have indicated.
"I think our lines played much better this past game. We only had one pass protection issue with a lineman as far as a missed assignment that hurt us. We had one time where both tackles got squeezed. It was the play where we were deep in our territory and Murray had the long run where he stepped up in the pocket and I think we were inside the 10, maybe inside the five when we snapped the ball," Richt said. "One time both tackles just got crushed into the quarterback and he had to step up. If they had protected well, we had a guy running in pretty good shape for a deep ball. If (Aaron) Murray would have put it in place, we would have had a heck of a play. Even though we had a nice run out of it, and a first down out of it, getting out of our territory, you still need to do that. Other than that, the protection was very solid. The run-blocking definitely improved. I thought the backs got a little bit better at getting more than what was blocked for, but you still have tight ends that have to keep getting better and fullbacks too. I think they improved."
Still, Davis he and the rest of offensive line need to pick up their respective game and start re-establishing the line of scrimmage in Georgia's favor.
"We need to find out what we do well," Davis said. "We don't need to wait until Week 6 like we did last year. I hope we can get it right, right now."
Williams getting some time at linebacker
With Dowtin still nursing a shoulder stinger, Nick Williams is getting another look at linebacker.
"He's just that hybrid guy. Depending on injuries and things of that nature, when Dowtin got hurt, we wanted to get Nick some work in there in case he had to play linebacker throughout the year," Richt said. "We really weren't sure how quickly Dowtin would turn around. Those kinds of injuries can be a week or they can be six weeks, so we really weren't sure. We were getting Nick some work there, but it looks like Dowtin is going to be back so he'll be spending more time at safety now."
No stranger to linebacker, Williams signed with Georgia as safety, but was moved to linebacker last year before switching back to safety back in the spring.
Currently, Williams is second on the depth chart at strong safety behind starter Bacarri Rambo.
Unlike Rambo, Jakar Hamilton and Shawn Williams, Williams has not been rotated in at free safety.
"It's a tough spot for that kid. Our last defensive staff - is he a linebacker or is he a safety? Then our new staff comes in and they are trying to evaluate him - is he a linebacker or is he a safety? So he's kind of been back and forth a bunch," Richt said. "It's unfortunate that he's not been able to settle into one position and hopefully before it's over we'll get him in the right spot. He'll run hard. He loves contact. He's doing very well on special teams now which is a big part of the game, but I'm sure he'd like to have more reps than what he's getting right now."
This and that
Freshman linebacker Dexter Morant's season is over after undergoing recent shoulder surgery. "He had a shoulder surgery a while back, at least a week ago. I'm not 100 percent of what will happen even in the spring because his other shoulder might need surgery also, kind of like Josh Davis did," Richt said. "It worked out good for Josh once we finally got him repaired, but we figured we would get started early on Dexter and get him squared away."
Richt said redshirt freshman Kwame Geathers will continue to get more opportunities to prove he deserves more shots at nose.
Richt admits defenses play Dawgs different without A.J. Green, who has to sit out Saturday's game to complete the four-game suspension handed down by the NCAA. "I've been refraining from making comments about that. I don't want to sound like we have to have A.J. to win because we don't. We should be able to win without A.J. He is a special player, no doubt," Richt said. "When he's allowed to come back and play, we'll talk a whole lot more about him. I would have to think if I was a defensive coordinator, I would play Georgia differently with him than without him. I would have a different plan, no doubt."
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