August 27, 2007

Dawgs suffer a big loss

There was a big cloud hanging over the practice fields on Monday afternoon as Georgia Bulldog Head Coach Mark Richt announced some sad news regarding one of Georgia's toughest players. Sophomore safety Antavious Coates career as a Bulldog is over following another ACL injury to his left knee. Coach Richt got a little teary-eyed delivering the bad news Monday afternoon.

"We did have some bad news with Antavious Coates; he tore his ACL again Saturday. When it happened he did not think it was that and he did not think it was that. The MRI came out yesterday and we found out he is has done it again. This is the fourth one and the second one on his left knee. He has had two on his other knee also. We will be applying for a medical DQ on him," said Richt.

Coates will remain with the team as a student-coach for the 2007 season and he hopes to turn that into a football coaching career when he leaves Athens.

"The good news is that he wants to coach and the NCAA rules allow us to use a student coach like a graduate assistant coach. He is allowed to get on the field and actually get some coaching done. So he is going to get a really good head start in that area and he is still an inspiration to our football team and he is going to help us. He will be a contributor on this team and we will also give him a good head start on his career because he is going to get all he wants," said Richt of Coates. "It is a sad day for him, his family, and Georgia.

Coates was enjoying his first healthy fall of his career and seeing major playing time on special teams for the Bulldogs heading into the 2007 season opener against Oklahoma State. This fall marked the first time Coates hit, scrimmaged, and wore full pads as a Bulldog even though this is his fourth year in the program.

"He is a beautiful kid who has not complained one bit. He is tremendous in our training room at getting ready. If he was going to get hurt you wish he at least could have put his game gear on and done it in a ballgame. I think that would have meant something to him. He never got to play between the hedges and that really hurt him," said Richt.

Coach Richt says he has seen career ending injuries, but not in such a flurry, "there have probably been a few, but maybe not this many this quick. I don't know. It is just sad. He trained so hard and is in such tremendous shape, even in a couple of scrimmages and eleven-on-elevens he just flying down the field making a play and getting excited. We were getting excited for him and it is tough."

The coaching staff declined to comment further about the injury and if it was a structural problem in Coates' knees that keeps causing the ACL injuries.

"I don't know. It is hard to say," said Richt of Coates' knee structure. "He was working on the scout team the last couple of days and he was like, "coach if I can just help the team win on the scout team, play some special teams, and get the scout team fired up, I can help us win." He just has a wonderful attitude being on special teams and helping on the scout team this year and he was hoping he would play and it just did not work out for him."

In other news, NaDerris Ward and Bruce Figgins will be the number one and two tight ends for Oklahoma State according to the coaching staff. Figgins got a little more work with the ones on Monday, but they are still neck and neck heading into game one.

Here is what Coach Richt had to say about the rest of Monday's events:

It was a good day today and it was our last day in pads before the game. It was a pretty good day and we grinded them pretty well. We did not give them as many breaks as we normally do. We did not think they needed it. It was not quite as hot as it has been, though it did get hot when the clouds opened up a little bit. Right towards the end it got sort of hot. I thought they held up pretty well. They had pretty good energy. Tomorrow will be in shells and then we have two days in shorts before we play.

Can you tell the difference in Matthew Stafford's physical condition this year compared to this time last year?

Hopefully Stafford will have more endurance. Quarterbacking is very much like being a pitcher, when your legs give out on you, you are really not effective. You lose fundamentals and power. The power base is in your legs and if your legs are fatigued and you cannot get them into position, you will probably be off-balance and not have as much power. There are times when a quarterback has to move to buy time or cross the line of scrimmage. He is in a lot better shape. I think he was at 248 on the first day of camp and Coach Bobo and I were shaking our heads. I said that day he is redshirting for sure. By the end of practice he was just drenched. He is in much better shape. He knows it and he has worked very hard.

He was running very effectively even at that weight last year.

He was and by the end of the year he was in better shape and it was cooler. Early in the season Stafford was a little sluggish. Early on he did not necessarily play the whole game. It took a little bit out of him and I think he will be much better now. I think he said he is under 230 which is good for him.

Can you talk about how Thomas Brown has bounced back from his injury?

His work ethic is unbelievable. You cannot keep him off the field and we have not been able to keep him out of the starting lineup. We have not tried to and we just would not have predicted he would come back that strong this fall and be that confident that fast. There has been no sign of an injury since camp began. The guys were saying all summer long that he was running, jumping, and spinning, so he is number one on the depth chart and we will see what happens. He practices with a lot of energy and you know you will get maximum effort every single day.

How many carries will Kregg Lumpkin and Knowshon Moreno get in the first game?

I do not know at all. They will get carries. I cannot say the exact number of carries. We might have as the season rolls along, have a percentage of carries, but I do not think I can tell you that right now.

Do you have your top two tight ends that will play Saturday yet?

Well the top two would be NaDerris and Figgins.

What have they done or has Coleman Watson not done to earn a spot?

It is overall consistency right now. They are both learning. Coleman has a better idea of what is going on, but the two young guys are still learning. They will do something that makes you know they will be special one day. They just have to put it together and I do not think there is any question two will play if not three.

Did you have a feeling when you signed Figgins that he would play as a true freshman?

We knew he had the body to compete. Actually he is a better looking specimen than we thought. A lot of times when you recruit these guys you see them in their street clothes and a lot of times it is baggy pants or a baggy shirt, loose fitting clothes. It is hard to tell what a guy really looks like. You see film, but that is usually from a distance. I never saw Figgins in his uniform or game uniform, I never saw him in person. I saw him on film. Our coaches saw him in person. When I saw him here on campus, I thought this is a better looking guy than I thought. He looked ready physically and he is learning. He is a very good block, he was a good blocker in high school and he is beginning to become a college blocker. That helps him.

With NaDerris, he is basically a true freshman. He did not play and he got a little bit of work in the spring without pads, but he had never hit anyone at Georgia until this fall. He is about a true freshman, so in essence you have two true freshmen out there.

Have you given any thought about giving A.J. Bryant a redshirt like you did with Fernando Velasco, since he is so far down on the depth chart?

No, a lot of it has been injury issues. There is a lot of competition there right now. We are losing four seniors this year and we have three juniors. We are losing seven guys in two years which is a lot, so we had to begin getting guys ready. Right this moment there are a good many of them out there, so I don't think so. He is on track to graduate and I do not think we would do that. I am not saying it will not happen, but that is not what we are thinking.

How important has it been for two guys to step up at wide receiver like Mike Moore and Tony Wilson and pressure the older guys?

I do not think anyone is complacent out there, but there is no doubt competition makes a difference. I do not know if it will show in the games, but we have block with a lot more attitude than we have in a while as a group. I think a lot of has to do with Tony Wilson's tenacity out there. He is really getting after it physically. He has caught everybody's eye and hopefully he does it in a game and everyone else will too. We are blocking better right now going into the season than we have in a while, maybe since Reggie Brown and Fred Gibson. Reggie and Fred would block you all the way into the bushes you know. I am not sure we are there yet, but we are getting better.

How is Knowshon Moreno's blocking coming along?

Very well and Knowshon is another high energy guy. We have no doubt he can do and we have seen him do it, but will he do it? We will see. I am pretty confident he will play really well.

How did Scott Haverkamp look today and do you think he will ready for the game?

Yeah he will be ok, but we did hold him out of eleven on eleven for precaution. He seems to be doing fine.

How important is it to get at least one big non-conference game per year?

Once we went to 12 games, Damon Evans, myself, Arthur Johnson, and Frank Crumley talked about how we wanted to schedule. We were looking to find a non-conference opponent that would be out of our general region, the southeast and teams that were BCS conference teams. Oklahoma State fits that category and Arizona State fits that category, Colorado. Those are the people we are looking to play and that is the parameter we gave ourselves. We want a little more of a national flair. I think it is good for our players, the fans, and college football, if we are going to play a 12th game.

Will Akeem Dent be available Saturday?

We think so. He is probable. Sean Bailey got a little work today and I think he is probable.

Yesterday in the statement you put out, you said that you and Damon were working on a new plan for the facilities, would you care to elaborate on it?

When it was asked what can I say about the future of the facilities, I am really not at liberty to say how far we have gone. We have been working together for quite some time and we are formulating a very good plan for the future and I am excited about it. I just can't elaborate on anything at this point and nothing is a slam dunk anyway, but we have had a lot of discussions about the needs and how to provide for those needs.

I got a couple of letters in the mail that Friday that got me a little bent out of shape, nothing like a fan getting mad or anything like that, but it was just a situation where we did not handle something as well as we should have, we have to do better than that. I go out to practice and we had a segment that was not there for flex. Where the heck were they? I have been a segment coach and kept my guys in there too long and lost track of time. Then another guy is missing and I asked where is so and so, and they said he was out there moving his car because it was about to get towed. I am really starting to get hot because they are not supposed to park there anyway. Then I see another guy has cut up his undershirt under his jersey into little strips where it would flail around. That drives me up a wall too because I do not want anyone to do anything to separate themselves from the team in that way. Hey look at me! We are not doing that, so I got hot about that. Thursday night's practice I thought was pretty lackluster and then we go A, B, C, and D which is our kicking and I thought it was pretty crummy. I usually call them up and speak to them right then. I am facing the Butts-Mehre and there they are and Stegeman Coliseum is behind me. I just go off on everybody and I am basically giving them a fire and brimstone speech about tightening up the screws and getting ready to go. While I am doing it apparently lightning is flashing behind me and I do not know that. So I am like, "we are about to have the best practice we have ever had". I am like, "let's go and get a break." As soon as I said get a break, Ron taps me on the shoulder and says, "Coach we have to go in." I thought the guys' eyes were big because I was giving them a good speech, but apparently the lightning was getting close. I was really hot by then and then one of Claude Felton's people asked me to speak to the media since we have time. I roll in there and I kind of spewed it out a little bit. That is my story and I am sticking by it.

You must feel a lot better about today's practice then?

I tell what was outstanding, Saturday. We went Saturday morning and Saturday night. We went in the morning when it was cool and at night when it cool and we had a lot more energy during practice. I probably have to consider looking at our two-a-day schedule in the future. Maybe we need to meet at night and practice at seven o'clock in the morning during camp. Maybe we wait until it is dark to practice on a two-a-day and wait until it is a little cooler. There is some element of being tough and practicing through the heat, but this year has been pretty ridiculous. We probably would have got more out of them if it had been cooler. We should have done a better job there.

Injury Report

In green on Monday afternoon were Sean Bailey (back), Tripp Chandler (ribs), Tanner Strickland (foot), Chris Little (wrist), Kris Durham (concussion), Walter Hill (ankle), Caleb King (hamstring), Darius Dewberry (shoulder), Akeem Dent (concussion), Justin Houston, Thomas Flowers (shoulder), and Michael Lemon (neck). Charles White did not practice due to his foot injury and his foot was in a boot. Bailey, Durham, Dewberry, Dent, and Flowers all practiced.

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