August 9, 2012

Dawson ready to produce

Just because he's a freshman, Sheldon Dawson said Thursday his fellow defensive backs aren't letting him ease his way into preseason camp.

He's being prepared to play this fall, something that suits the Memphis native just fine.

"They stay on me every day. To me it's like they look at me like I've already been here," said Dawson. "I don't look at it as a personal thing but that I've got to be ready and I've got to be ready to contribute. Whatever they tell me I'm trying to learn."

Dawson's comments were his first since arriving in Athens as he, along with the rest of the Bulldogs' defensive freshmen, were made available to the media for the first time after Thursday morning's workout.

Georgia's offensive freshmen meet the press for the first time on Friday.

Dawson, who said he's practicing at wide corner, admits having to process the amount of information he has this first week-plus has not been easy

"It's an overwhelming feeling, but also a great feeling because you're here with a lot of great players that you can learn with," said Dawson. "You want to be out there every day with them."

Still, he'll be glad when everything starts to come a bit easier.

"That's the thing because as a defensive back you've got to know everything," Dawson said. "You've got to be able to read and tell what each wide receiver is doing and where you need to be. It's all about being the right spot at the right time."

Dawson is also getting opportunities on special teams, where he coaches are looking at him as a possible candidate to return punts, along with Malcolm Mitchell, Branden Smith, Damian Swann and Bacarri Rambo.

"Whatever they need me to do, I will," Dawson said.

Smith gets kudos from Richt

Head coach Mark Richt took time out of his post-practice press conference to comment on the play of cornerback Branden Smith.

"I want to give a little shout-out to Branden, he's been making playing every day. He got another pick in the red zone (Thursday). It just seems like every day he's making some kind of play with intensity on every rep," Richt said. "He looks like a senior trying to lead out there. He doesn't say much, he just plays hard and makes plays. I've been really happy with him. He's really stood out. Every day something good is happening with his play."

Earlier this week, Richt announced the Bulldogs will have Smith available for the entire season, after stating he would not be suspended following his March arrest in Alabama for misdemeanor marijuana possession while traveling with a friend to Destin, Fla. for spring break.

Richt shrugged off the notion that Smith's playing harder because of what he went through, stating he's played that way "for a while."

"He's known for a little while that he was going to play, but having it come out public was probably a boost for him and his family," Richt said. "But he had a great spring, too. He's practicing extremely hard. He had his best summer by far based on what the boys were commenting on, so I think his stamina has been better throughout practice and hopefully throughout the season."

Equal work for tailback

Despite a strong performance from freshman Todd Gurley in Wednesday's scrimmage, Rich said the pecking order at running back remains basically unchanged in that all four of the top candidates (Gurley, Keith Marshall, Richard Samuel and Ken Malcome) continue to get equal looks.

"They're really rolling like they're all co-No. 1s," Richt said. "It's not like No. 3 and No. 4 on the depth chart gets just second-team reps. That's not how we've been repping it."

Fullback, however, is another question as walk-on Merritt Hall continues to prove to Richt that he's ready to play an important role.

"Merritt Hall to me is the No. 1 guy. Merritt is really doing a great job in my opinion. He's not perfect, but he knows who to hit, he comes with a lot of hat-speed," Richt said. "He's putting his hat in the right spot."

But Samuel and freshman Quayvon Hicks are hot on his heels.

"I feel like Quayvon is making tremendous progress," Richt said. "I think he has a tremendous body-type for the position."

Morgan in lead to replace Walsh

Apparently, there's not much of a battle to see who replaces Blair Walsh as the Bulldogs' kicker for field goal and extra points.

"Right now, Marshall Morgan is our extra point and field goal guy," Richt said. "That's what I'd say."

Morgan has been competing with senior Jamie Lindley.

The two continue to battle to see who will handle the kickoff duties for the Bulldogs.

This and that

Richt said he was pleased with how his team responded in the latter half of Thursday's practice, a trend he's noticed since the start of fall camp. "One thing I've seen about this group is that they've recovered pretty good every day. Basically, how they practiced the last 20 minutes was going to determine whether I thought it was a good day or not and they did finish. They got together and talked about the last two games, you could hear guys talk about what it means to finish the fourth quarter. At least they're talking about it. … Backup running back Brandon Harton joined the Bulldogs' injury list as he sat out Thursday with a right hip contusion. Smith was also limited with a left shoulder contusion. Defensive end Ray Drew (concussion), outside linebacker Dexter Morant (right shoulder sprain) and safety Marc Deas (right hamstring strain) remain out. Deas and Harton are listed as day-to-day. … Richt said he just may decide to keep the gray goatee he's been growing since the beginning of camp. "I don't know. My wife texted me yesterday morning, said she liked it, so I might keep it for a while."