ATHENS, Ga. -- It's never too late to put up some quick notes and thoughts after a visit to a college campus. While you should expect more from my day in Athens with the Georgia Bulldogs in the next few days, here are some notes and thoughts from my visit that really stood out to me:
Georgia players and coaches have every reason to be jumping ship and freaking out about with the recent suspensions of defenders Bacarri Rambo, Sanders Commings, Branden Smith and Alec Ogletree. Three of those players call the secondary their home, while one, Ogletree, looks like he's ready to be a real star at linebacker in this league. But the first thing you notice when patrolling Georgia's facilities is that everyone is calm and collected about the matter. Sure, players and coaches are pretty frustrated with the situation, but they have moved on. They are working together to find the pieces to replace those guys come the start of the season. Inside linebacker Christian Robinson said that Ogletree's spot is still wide open because the Bulldogs have so many options, and it doesn't sound like the coaches will really name a starter anytime soon. Don't forget that Mike Gilliard, who really came on last year as the season progressed, and Amarlo Herrera will get reps with Robinson at middle linebacker. Robinson also said rising sophomore Ramik Wilson is getting good reps at middle linebacker.
The secondary isn't exactly blooming with numbers, but defensive coordinator Todd Grantham said he isn't concerned with the amount of bodies he has out there. He's happy with the production so far, but added that this group still has a ways to go, especially with three starters out to begin the 2012 season. Rising sophomores Damian Swann and Corey Moore have turned heads in practice. Swann looks like he'll grab one of the starting cornerback spots to start the season. Also, Malcolm Mitchell, who moved from wide receiver, is coming along more and more as the days go by, so there's no need for the Bulldogs to hit the panic button just yet.
Another player turning heads in practice this spring is nose guard Kwame Geathers. He and Jon Jenkins rotated in and out last season, and while both are expected to do the same this fall, linebacker Jarvis Jones said that he's been very impressed with Geathers, especially the shape he's in. He's still big, but Jones said he's moving better and more often. He also said that he's been gigging Jenkins about possibly losing time to Geathers because of how well he's doing. Georgia will really benefit from having both those players at full speed up front this fall.
The Bulldogs are pretty excited about true freshman running back Keith Marshall. The early enrollee had some iffy moments with the offense at first, but he seems to be progressing more and more with the playbook. Coaches are hoping that he and Isaiah Crowell can be a dynamic duo this fall. He's been impressive in open space, and offensive coordinator Mike Bobo said he's improving his play between the tackles, which will really help Crowell when he tires. "His head's spinning a little bit right now, but he has a chance to be very special here," Bobo said of Marshall. "He's got great vision and isn't afraid to stick it up in there."
Speaking of Crowell, the consensus in Athens is that he's a new person and player. He's working harder and is taking his workouts and practices more seriously. The coaches haven't had to push him as hard this spring, like they did last summer. Quarterback Aaron Murray said he felt he had to baby Crowell at times last year, but hasn't had to say much in terms of pushing the sophomore-to-be this spring.
Another running back impressing is Ken Malcome. He almost transferred last season, but has really started to come along this spring. He's building off the bowl game in which he tied a carrier high with 12 carries and had a career-high 51 yards. "He had an awesome spring for us," Bobo said. "Really clued in to what we're doing more, more conscientious of about every little detail."
Murray is also looking to improve and really wants to calm things down with his play. He knows he was erratic at times last year, especially in big games. He won't change much to his regime, but wants to improve his mental reps and his thought process during plays. "I put a lot of pressure on myself to improve on my mistakes," Murray said. He also said he feels "10 times better" with his pocket mobility and footwork -- two areas that he said he struggled with the past two years. He's making sure that he keeps two hands on the ball when he runs, isn't chopping down and isn't in an awkward stance with the ball.
When talking with Georgia players it's easy to tell which game meant the most for the Bulldogs. Each one talked about how important the Florida win was for the season and the program. It not only gave Georgia's seniors a win over the Gators, but it helped put the Dawgs in cruise control on the way to the SEC championship game. Jones, who grew up a fan of both Florida and Georgia (very strange, I know) said he took it upon himself to make sure the Bulldogs came out with the win. He did his part with four sacks, including one that basically ended the game. Robinson said it was "the greatest feeling" he's had since his arrival. That win coupled with South Carolina's loss to Arkansas propelled Georgia into the SEC championship game.