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March 27, 2010

The Dashboard: What we've learned so far

Well, there certainly hasn't been a shortage of actual news emanating from spring practice thus far.

Let's start with the quarterback battle where Aaron Murray, Zach Mettenberger and Logan Gray continue to split snaps with the first team.

The question is for how long?

When head coach Mark Richt announced Tuesday that Mettenberger would "most likely" be facing a one-game suspension for his five misdemeanor charges earlier this month in Remerton, that seemed to limit the completion to Murray and Gray. After all, you can't start from the bench.

So when does the decision get made once and for all?

Richt doesn't allow the media to watch much more than the first four periods of practice, so whatever impressions I state here are based simply on the simple passing drills we are able to see.

This much I can say: Murray's release is by far the quickest of the three. He flicks the ball from his ear with very little effort.

Gray, meanwhile, isn't going to let the starting quarterback gig slip away without a fight.

I've been impressed with the way he seems to be carrying himself in practice and he obviously knows the system.

Still, when all the proverbial smoke clears, I believe it will be Murray who starts under center when the Bulldogs open their season against Louisiana Lafayette.

A few other items of note:

• Last Tuesday, strength and conditioning coach Dave Van Halanger walked up to me and smiled like he always does and said something to the effect of how much "quieter" it seemed to be over on the defensive side of the practice field.

Don't get Van Halanger wrong. Defensive coordinator Todd Grantham, inside linebackers coach Warren Belin, secondary coach Scott Lakatos and defensive line coach Rodney Garner are a very vocal group, but you don't hear as many four-letter words (at least in the media's presence) as you did a year ago.

Not that anything's necessarily wrong with being colorful. Players certainly need a kick in the tail from time to time, but what's so striking about this staff is the actually teaching of fundamentals like proper footwork and balance that you're seeing take place on the field.

Sure, Georgia's former defensive staff taught fundamentals, but Grantham's staff is going about it a different way.

No BS here. Grantham and company are as hard-nosed as they come; they are as demanding as they are tough and the players I've spoken with really seem to be responding.

• Many have questioned the move of Justin Anderson from the offensive line to the defensive line. While I certainly believe Richt is sincere when he says that he believes "Bean" can make an impact at nose, one has to think that Andrson's inconsistency on offense played somewhat of a role. That's not my opinion. Offensive coordinator Mike Bobo and even Richt himself have commented in the past that when Anderson really focuses he can be as good as any offensive linemen the Bulldogs have. It's those times when he didn't focus that caused a concern and I think played a small part in his ultimate switch to the defensive side.

• Readers ask me all the time if there are players who are "creating a buzz." Here's my early list: On offense, Murray, Marlon Brown and AJ Harmon come to mind. Harmon has been a getting a lot of extra looks at left tackle behind Clint Boling, simply because there is still some question as to how effective Trinton Sturdivant will be once he resumes practicing in August. As the Bulldogs have unfortunately learned in recent years, it's never a bad thing to have too many left tackles.

As for other offensive standouts, A.J. Green goes without saying, as do Caleb King and Washaun Ealey, both of whom came into spring camp in absolutely tremendous shape.

Defensively, Nick Williams and Shawn Williams have both been early surprises, while Richt made it a point Tuesday to really heap the praise on Jakar Hamilton. Along with Bacarri Rambo, it looks likes Georgia's safety position will be in good hands - and Alec Ogletree doesn't even get here until June.

I'll be stunned if Justin Houston and Cornelius Washington aren't your two starting outside linebackers. Houston has been a monster thus far, while Washington is the first guy I'd have get off the bus every time. The dude's just in tremendous, tremendous shape.

Elsewhere, Kwame Geathers has made some big strides, but there's still a ton of players being looked at and a lot of evaluation still taking place. Vance Cuff has also enjoyed a solid spring and is running with the ones at cornerback opposite Brandon Boykin.

• As for how the rest of Georgia's outside linebackers shake out, we reported Tuesday that Grantham announced that walk-on Rueben Faloughi and Montez Robinson have settled in at No. 2 behind Washington and Houston, respectively.

Grantham also said he'll wait on making any kind of call on incoming freshmen currently listed as defensive ends, players like T.J. Stripling, Dexter Morant, Brandon Burrows and Jalen Fields, before assigning them a permanent spot.

• No doubt ears of Bulldog fans perked up with the news that assistant coach Warren Belin apparently intends to eschew the directional kickoff philosophy. Thank goodness.

The opinions expressed in this column are solely those of UGASports managing editor Anthony Dasher.



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