July 28, 2005

SEC Notebook: Three-headed UGA monster?

HOOVER, Ala. -- Georgia has a wealth of young talent in the backfield with sophomores Danny Ware and Thomas Brown coming off impressive rookie seasons and Kregg Lumpkin returning after missing 2004 with a knee injury.

Could coach Mark Richt take a page from Auburn's playbook and play two tailbacks at the same time?

"To be honest with you, we had a plan for two tailbacks in the backfield going into last season with Kregg and Danny Ware," Richt said. "When that injury happened, we kind of threw all of that out. So we have taken some of the ideas that we prepared last year and we did study Auburn. So we will try to use all three guys effectively.

"But the bottom line is, you really only get two backs in the backfield, and only one guy can touch the ball per play. So the goal is to get the ball in your playmakers' hands as many times as you possibly can."

While it is unlikely all three will ever be on the field at the same time, the Bulldogs did tinker with some Wishbone during their Spring Game. Not surprisingly, guard Max Jean-Gilles loves the idea of just running the ball right at people.

"I hope that we use it, but I'm not sure that we're ever going to," Jean-Gilles said of the Wishbone look. "It was just a little preview to give people a taste of it."

It's academic: Vanderbilt head coach Bobby Johnson doesn't think that having the SEC's highest academic standards is a negative aspect of his program. "We think it's a very, very good positive," Johnson said. "When we go out recruiting, we try to sell the great things about Vanderbilt. We rank No. 17 in the country among all universities. We tell a guy he can come and get a great education and he can play in the SEC against the very best athletes in the country."

Bulldog after all: Richt seemed genuinely pleased that three-star linebacker Jamar Chaney found a home at Mississippi State after signing with Georgia in February but then not being admitted to the university.
"I called Coach (Sylvester) Croom; I called a lot of people on his behalf," Richt said of Chaney. "I like him. He signed with Georgia, so I have an obligation to him to help him find a place where he could continue his dream to play football and get his degree.
" I think very highly of this young man, and I wanted to help him find a place where he can go and be successful, and Coach Croom and Mississippi State were able to allow him to do that."

Sharp Dressed Man: Auburn's Marcus McNeill is tough to miss to begin with at 6-foot-9, 337 pounds. But he was impossible to overlook when he showed up in a white linen suit with a light purple shirt and tie.

When asked how long it took him to pick out the outfit, he was ready with an answer.

"About 30 minutes," McNeill said. "Actually, I made it myself out of Coach (Tommy) Tuberville's dinner cloth."

At the end of the session and after most of the media had left, Auburn teammate Travis Williams stepped up to a microphone and started giving McNeill a hard time about his rather large head, calling it the biggest in the SEC.

"Is he wearing a helmet over there? If you put his helmet on me, I'd look like a bobble head," Williams cracked.

But Williams gave McNeill props for the suit.

"Oh yeah, he went with his Easter suit," Williams said. "I settled for my preacher's suit, but he went all out."

Selling the stadiums: Johnson said that he likes to use the fact that the Commodores play at Florida, Tennessee, Georgia and South Carolina to sell recruits on the school. Vanderbilt Stadium in Nashville is the league's smallest. "We get our program where we want it and out stadium will take care of itself," Johnson said.

Big dogs: Croom's team will face a daunting conference schedule this year with Auburn, Georgia, LSU and Florida to open the league slate. "You want to run with the big dogs, that's what you've got to do," Croom said. "At some point, they'll be worried about us instead of us being worried about playing against them."

Moving: Johnson moved last year's back-up quarterback, Steven Bright, to fullback. Redshirt freshman Chris Nickson moves into the back-up role behind senior starter Jay Cutler. "Now we get an opportunity to just let Chris learn by watching Jay Cutler over and over and over," Johnson said. "So he's almost like another coach for that situation. It helps in everything you do in your planning, your instillation, your game planning when you have an experienced quarterback."

Norwood, Inc.: Croom wants star running back Jerious Norwood to take advantage of the media attention he will be given this season. "We have media seminars and we have etiquette seminars," Croom said. "I want our players to understand that every time they step in front of a camera, every time they get an interview, they are advertising for their company. They are the president of that company. I want them to conduct themselves accordingly because never again will they probably get this free advertisement that they are getting right now."

Set to shine: Johnson mentioned sophomore safety Reshard Langford as a potential impact player on defense this season for Vandy. "He's big and he likes to hit," Johnson said. The 6-foot-2, 215-pound Langford hails from Tanner, Ala., where he was a standout running back and defensive back and played three sports.

Organized Sly: Croom said that after he failed to land the Alabama job prior to the 2003 season, he regretted not having a plan written on paper during the interview. "I said I may never get a chance to be a head coach but I am not going to get caught this time," Croom said. "I spent my entire vacation putting everything I believed on paper. What I expected coaches to do, what kind of uniforms we were going to have, all of it was done the summer when I didn't get the Alabama job.

This and that: With a 42-10 record in his first four seasons, Richt is off to a better start in Athens than predecessors Jim Donnan (32-15), Ray Goff (29-18), Vince Dooley (28-12-1) and Wally Butts (30-12-1) Butts, however, won a national title in his fourth year ...While David Greene was the leading passer in each of Richt's first four seasons, the Bulldogs have had a different leading rusher this year with Verron Haynes (2001, 691 yards), Musa Smith (2002, 1,324), Michael Cooper (2003, 673) and Thomas Brown (2004, 875) leading the way… Croom is the first coach since Emory Bellard in 1979 to have a losing record in his first season at Mississippi State's head coach.

More from SEC Media Days:
Day Two SEC Media Days photo gallery
Back to school with Marcus and Max
Richt excited about switch to Shockley
Vanderbilt season preview
Commentary: There's hope for the 'Dores
Croom has brighter outlook for MSU
Meyer, Gators want to be tougher
Can Orgeron restore Ole Miss?
Vols have attractive quarterback options
Day One SEC Media Days photo gallery
Day One SEC Media Days notebook
SEC unveils new instant replay system
More Rivals.com media days coverage






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