There was a little more of a buzz than usual around the Butts-Mehre building in Athens on Wednesday afternoon. One that would suggest eagerness by both the on-site media as well as the men scheduled to take the microphone. It’s quite obvious that everybody is ready for football to begin.
And with camp opening next Thursday, that buzz will soon reach its desired result.
Defensive Coordinator Todd Grantham and Offensive Coordinator Mike Bobo had their turn in front of the media this afternoon. While it was by no means on a scale as large as Coach Richt dealt with last week at SEC Media Days, it was certainly of no less importance.
Grantham got the microphone first, where he was quickly reminded of, and asked how he would fill the void of, having Josh Harvey-Clemons suspended for the season opener at Clemson:
“Corey Moore has done a good job in the spring, and has had a great summer. Shaq Fluker is a guy that just got here. We’re excited to evaluate him and see his ability. Connor Norman is a guy that has really taken a leadership role at the back end, during some of the seven on sevens and stuff like that. So we are going to evaluate all of those guys at the safety position.”
On the fact that he and Bobo are faced with polar opposite situations, having so many players to replace on the defensive side, and how it will affect the way he goes into camp:
“Every year you start over. This year we have roughly seventeen new players that weren’t here last year. Some of those got to come in in the spring, and we got a pretty good idea of what those guys can do. The fact that those guys came in [in the spring] I think was very beneficial to us and them. Even though they are freshmen, they have been through the system to get a good grasp on it. The big things we have to do are; 1) Evaluate the talent we have. 2) Develop the talent we have. And 3) Define the roles of the players on the team, in terms of what they can do and how they can help us win.”
On the difference of predicted starting nose guard Mike Thornton and (departed) John Jenkins:
“Mike is a guy who’s initial quickness will give him the ability to block, especially on a change of direction. A guy like that can be a “change of pace” guy for you. Anytime you have a player at any position you are going to play to their strengths, and focus on the things they do well, whether it be to move a guy, or to knock a guy back, or be a penetrating guy and try to get one on one. Mike had a good spring, and he has done a solid job this summer, and we are excited to get him into camp along with Chris Mayes and [John] Atkins and see what they can do.”
On the availability of JUCO transfer Toby Johnson, who has been rehabbing ACL surgery:
“Toby is a guy that will be out there practicing on day one. He’s a guy that will probably play at the ends position. He has some athletic ability, just hasn’t [fully] learned the system yet. We’ll just have to see what he can handle and how he progresses once we get him on the field.”
On Amarlo Hererra’s improvements over the spring ans summer:
“Amarlo is a guy that has really tried to take a leadership over this defense. He has done a good job of not only being a hard worker for himself but a guy that demands others guys around him do what it takes to win a SEC East title and get back to Atlanta.”
On the new iPad playbooks the players will have with them this camp and season:
“I think it’s a great thing. It allows you to get information to your players, without them necessarily having to be here with me to do that. It’s like anything, the more you use it, the better resource it is. It’s a tool that I think can help you develop players. The iPad is a way to help, because I can look at twelve, fifteen plays go over them with a voice over and they be in the players hands the next day.”
On the new targeting rules and the worry or “gray area:”
“I think the biggest issue is they’ve (the NCAA) made it too difficult for the officials. Last year you were ejected for the game, it was just for the next game. They’ve made it tough on the officials now because of the emphasis on it. Now, once the official throws the flag it’s an ejection. The replay guy can come back in and make a decision whether it was or wasn’t, but they’ve put a lot of pressure on the officials, and made their job much more difficult. A defenseless player needs to be well defined so that everybody is on the same page, and you need to talk to your players on the targeting area to make sure that they understand that, because if you don’t, you can really lose a player for two games; the half you’re playing and the first half of the next. So it really needs to be something that needs to be addressed.”
On Jordan Jenkins’ goal of double-digit sacks:
“Well, that position has produced double digit sacks dating back to Justin Houston. But I want him to be a complete linebacker, who is stout against the run, produces tackles for loss, and when you do those things, you force the team to throw the ball, that produces the opportunity to get sacks. The better he does from a run standpoint, a tackle for loss standpoint, Then it will certainly create the opportunity for him to become that double-digit guy that he is thinking of. But it all goes hand in hand. I have been very pleased with his work ethic. He is everything I thought he would be, and really from the Kentucky game on he started.”
On defending a high powered offense (Mike Bobo’s) during camp to prepare them for Clemson:
“Any time you can face good players and compete then your team gets better. Our whole thing is to practice and compete. Any time you compete as a group you have to have the mindset that you are going to get better. You cannot wait to do that on game day, or game week. You have to get better starting on day one. And that will be the approach. If you want to be a part of what we are doing, you have to expect to do it at with the effort and intensity that we expect in practice, and if you do that, that not only makes us better, it makes our offense better.”
While Grantham was taking questions, he spoke with his usual serious demeanor. It was quite obvious today that he is chomping at the bit to get camp opened up next week, and begin to get his fix of uptempo workouts.
Next to the stage was Mike Bobo, who had lots to say as well.
On having a very veteran unit coming back:
“We are certainly taking nothing for granted. The main thing I am looking for [going into camp] is going to be attention to detail on our side of the ball. We do have experience, but they take nothing for granted. They know every detail is of the utmost importance.”
On potential freshmen players getting snaps this season:
“JJ Green would certainly be one, who could see playing time both offensively and on special teams. There are a couple linemen who you may see, and the running backs, [Brendan] Douglas and AJ Turman, I haven’t had a chance to work with them, but we need to get those guys ready to play. We have to have depth at that position, so those two and some young receivers, and definitely the young tight end, Jordan Davis.”
On the playing status of true freshman Tramel Terry, who tore his ACL this past winter:
“[He will see the field] on a limited basis. I am not sure if he will have a green jersey, or a white, but he will be limited, doing as tolerated. We do not want to rush him back, but certainly let him work his way back.”
On a potential starting battle between Xzavier Ward and John Theus:
“We’ll see. After Spring Practice, Xzavier was number one. We’ll practice the first day, and he and Theus will both get reps with the first team at right tackle, and it will be an ongoing battle. We like competition and we are going to stress competition. Nobody is guaranteed anything just because they started so many games last year. You have to earn what is on the field. Last year is last year. Last year’s offense was last year’s offense. What we do in practice on August 1 will determine who is on the field on the 31st.”
On the status of Michael Bennett, who tore his ACL while leading the team in receiving early last season:
“I think he is close to 100%. I don’t want to give you the whole injury report, but I know he feels good in my conversations with him. He is still in a small brace and the goal is to get him out of that. My conversations with the quarterbacks this summer are that they like the way he looks. Seeing him walk around the other day, he is five pounds down, he looks great, and he is another guy who might be on a “pitch count” on the amount of plays he takes out there, just to be smart. He’s been working all summer, 35 or 40 minutes on the grass, they’ve been throwing two times a week, and now we are on the grass two to three hours and doing it every day. So we have to be smart as coaches. He will be anxious, Tramel Terry will be anxious, but we have to watch and make sure they don’t do their things too fast.”
About being in mid-season form early on:
“Coaches have emphasized that, but you always want to be on a high level every time you step on the field. Obviously you are not going to be the very best on that first game, but there are no preseason game sin college football, so it’s hard. There are going to be kinks that we’ll have to work out. Coach has talked with all the guys about being ready to go and being ready to play in the first game, mainly because of the opponent. They way you do that is you handle your business day in and day out. There are some things we’re going to do a little bit different practice wise, as far as play count and reps, and maybe going ones on ones a little bit more. The end of the day we just need to handle our stuff on a daily basis.”
On Murray being the seasoned veteran that he is now:
“No doubt he is an extension of our offensive staff. This year he has taken it to another level. That’s where it is going to make the difference, on the leadership aspect, and holding other guys accountable, and getting them to prepare like he prepares.”
On facing Jedeveon Clowney:
“Clowney is going to wreak havoc on every offense that he plays. You have to have a plan. Now when we got down in that game, we became too one-dimensional. And that is really, really advantage Jedeveon Clowney and that defense. We have to be able to try and play balanced and make him play both, against the tun and pass, and like any great player, if he knows what you’re doing every time it gives him an advantage. We have to do things to keep him unbalanced, and that is to keep us balanced.”
Both coaches were very candid today, each displaying signs that just like you the fan, they too are growing restless for some new topics to talk about that do not revolve around predictions and speculation. With the opening to camp and the first practice being just over a week away, who can blame them, or us?