It's amazing what one bit hit can do to change the perception of a player, sometimes even in his own eyes.
Take Georgia senior cornerback Branden Smith.
If there's been one knock against the former five-star speedster, it's been that perhaps he wasn't quite physical enough to play the position as maybe it should be played.
But much of that perception was wiped away on a cool October night in Knoxville, Tenn., when Smith laid a bone-jarring lick on Vol wide receiver Darrick Rogers that brings a smile to his face this very day.
It's apparently also helped bring out a newer, more confident Smith, one who's anxious to show the rest of the SEC that he deserves to at least be mentioned with some of the conference's better players at the position.
"I'm bringing the big man out of me right now," Smith said after practice Tuesday. "I want to catch everybody's eyes. It's my senior year and I just want to make plays. I want to help my team win."
Smith has certainly been catching the eyes of the people who count the most - his coaches.
"Branden has been making plays every day," defensive coordinator Todd Grantham said recently. "I've been extremely pleased."
It's definitely been a more relaxed Smith, who was arrested for marijuana possession in Alabama back in March while traveling with a friend to Destin, Fla. for spring break.
He eventually received a pre-trial intervention, resulting in head coach Mark Richt not suspending Smith for any portion of the 2012 campaign.
"Everything is easier. I can play harder now, no stressing, just off my mind. It's all about football right now," Smith said. "It was real hard but I've put it past me. I'm letting everything just flow. I knew everything would get handled."
The rest, he said, is now up to him.
"It's my last year, I've got to improve a lot and get my name out there," he said. "I'm just ready for the season to start. I'm here to help the team win, no matter what, no matter what position I'm in."
Georgia's post-practice injury report featured a trio of new names but freshman running back Keith Marshall was not among them.
On Monday, Marshall was seen briefly leaving practice for the team's training facility, although according to teammate Todd Gurley, returned later in the day.
His name was not on Tuesday's list of players handed out daily to the media by Georgia officials.
There were, however, two new players tabbed among the walking wounded, including tight end Jay Rome (right hamstring strain), offensive lineman Mark Beard (left knee sprain) and wide receiver Chris Conley (right shoulder contusion). Both players were listed as seeing "limited" practice time.
Wide receiver [/db]Tavarres King[/db] found himself back on the list with a lower leg strain after practicing Monday afternoon.
Jones embraces high expectations
When it comes to achieving their goals for 2012, linebacker Jarvis Jones says the Bulldogs need to take the attitude it's theirs for the taking.
"First and foremost we've got to take care of ourselves," Jones said. "We're the only ones that can execute and make plays on the field."
Smith added to make no mistake; the team's goals don't get any bigger.
"We've got a destination that we want to get to," he said. "That's what we're working for."
Jones isn't ruling anything out, either, but said whatever success the team ultimately enjoys will be determined by the sacrifice players are ultimately willing to make.
"We've just got to make ourselves better," he said. "It's all about learning the system, executing it, play the best we can and just make plays."
Taylor not sure if he'll redshirt
Freshman defensive lineman Jonathan Taylor says he's just trying to learn.
Whether or not he winds up redshirting, that's not for him to decide.
"I'm getting up to speed on everything," Taylor said. "I'm just trying to do what I'm supposed to."
The former Jenkins County standout said he currently weighs 320 pounds.
"I'm just trying to watch the older guys and try to follow their lead," Taylor said. "Whatever they want me to do is fine with me."
This and that
Richt was not scheduled to address the media after practice, but said in a post-practice press release that he was pleased with Tuesday's brief practice in jerseys and shorts. The Bulldogs will have a "practice game" scrimmage on Wednesday in preparation for the Sept. 1 season-opener against Buffalo. "Today's practice was fine," Richt said. "We got accomplished what we meant to get accomplished which was getting our scouts teams for Buffalo ready to play the 'game' tomorrow. We were in shorts and it was only 12 periods which wasn't too physically taxing. It was mostly mental preparation for our getting ready for Buffalo and our scout teams getting ready to be Buffalo."
Richt decided to bar the media from attending the first four sessions of Tuesday's practice.