Ten@10: Nothing but football as Bulldogs open camp

Hard to believe but this will be the 15th preseason camp conducted by Georgia coach Mark Richt. And one of the most intriguing. (AJC PHOTO)

In honor of Georgia opening its preseason football camp today – and the unveiling our awesome new website for UGA coverage — this morning we shall discuss only football in …

1. You can stop those silly countdowns. College football begins today!

Sure, the actual games are still a month away. But with the opening of the Bulldogs’ preseason camp, we now get to talk about all kinds of tangible football things. Like agility drills, pass skellies, pulled hammies and the like!

All kidding aside, Mark Richt’s 15th camp as head coach of the Georgia Bulldogs should be an extremely intriguing one. Of course, that starts and ends with the quarterback competition. Few things are more fascinating to follow in a camp than storyline of a QB battle for a starting job. And Georgia has a good one.

Sometimes these things are a farce, contrived by coaches to keep the pressure on the top guy. This doesn’t look to be one of those. It’s tight going in between Faton Bauta and Brice Ramsey. And who knows what Virginia transfer Greyson Lambert will bring to the contest.

Add to that the intrigue of it all taking place under a new quarterbacks coach and offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer, and you’ve got the makings of a full-blown mystery.

Turns out, everybody in the Rams organization loved Brian Schottenheimer. Fans, not so much. (USA Today)

2. Speaking of “Schotty,” as most in Bulldog country have come to call the new offensive chief, my compadre Seth Emerson recently returned from a trip out to St. Louis. There he was able to get the first-hand, low-down on Mr. Schottenheimer.

The reviews were pretty much glowing from players that played under him and even from general manager Les Snead. Wasn’t able to hear from coach Jeff Fisher but he was singing Schotty’s praises all the way out the door last January.

We’ll learn a lot more about the NFL veteran coach over the next few months as he makes the adjustment college ball.

As will be noted during his first practice at Georgia today, quarterback Greyson Lambert is a big dude. (AP photo)

3. Here’s another thing you’re bound to hear tomorrow as the Bulldogs’ take the field for the first of 29 practice opportunities at approximately 3:30 p.m. – Who’s the huge guy wearing No. 11?

That’d be Lambert, the graduate transfer from Virginia by way of Jesup. That’s the first thing everybody’s going to notice about. Dude is huge.

He is listed as 6-foot-5, 220 pounds, and he appears to be every bit of it. In fact, he’s the tallest quarterback Georgia has had on the roster since Zach Mettenberger was competing little ol’ Aaron Murray for the job back on 2010.

Lambert is an intriguing prospect from the standpoint that he does have the size that a longtime NFL guy like Schottenheimer covets. He’s reportedly very football savvy when it comes to the playbook, which he’s had in hand since committing to Georgia. And everybody talks about his arm talent, which I’m eager to witness first hand.

But the biggest thing Lambert has to prove is that his TDs (12) to interceptions (13) ration at Charlottesville was an aberration or the result of having less talent around him.

4. The other difficulty when it comes to having a three-man race at quarterback is the repetitions. I was talking Mike Bobo the other day and the Bulldogs’ former offensive coordinator, who’s now the head man at Colorado State, was telling me that getting the quarterbacks equal reps in similar situations is probably the most difficult thing about such a competition.

Bobo

“So they might only get one drive in 11-on-11,” Bobo told me. “In years past, when we had a good competition – probably the last true-true one was when we had (Matt) Stafford and all those guys – we made sure we had more drives (in practice) so you can just get them more opportunities to just kind of play ball.”

Richt has been adamant since SEC Media Days about saying this is a dead heat. But will that be reflected in the number of snaps each player gets with the No. 1 unit, the 2s or the 3s? That wasn’t the case when Jacob Park was still in town. We’ll be watching.

5. To me another important storyline in camp is the health and well-being of tailback Keith Marshall. The offseason narrative has been that the 5-11, 212-pound junior is completely recovered from the devastating knee injury  he suffered at Tennessee in the middle of the 2013 season.

I know, I know, the Bulldogs have Nick Chubb and Sony Michel in the fold. Not to mention Brendan Douglas and a significantly rejuvenated and recovered A.J. Turman. But we’ve seen very little tangible evidence of Marshall being able to do what he used to do.

If Marshall at all resembles the back that averaged 6.5 yards a carry and reeled off nine touchdowns – most of them the long variety — in the first 19 games of his career, Georgia could have something extraordinary going on their backfield this season.

If Keith Marshall (4) is as healthy as described, he and Nick Chubb could give the Bulldogs another “thunder” and “lightning” combination in the backfield. (247Sports.com)

6. That said, it’ll be great to see No. 27 back in action. I get asked about Chubb all the time in national media interviews and, while I was there for every step of it, it’s still hard to fathom what this guy did in basically eight games last season.

I don’t like drawing comparisons to Herschel Walker, because he was simply a once-in-a-lifetime back playing in a different age. But it’s fairly mind-blowing when you look closely at what Chubb as a freshman did while averaging 16.8 carries per game (1,547 yards, 14 TDs) and then compare it to Walker’s production averaging 24.8 carries as a freshman (1,616 yards, 15 TDs) or 35 carries a game as a sophomore (1,891 yards, 20 TDs).

It’s not apples-to-apples, but imagine if Chubb averaged 35 carries a game this season as Herschel did as a sophomore. With last year’s per carry average, that’d mean 3,230 yards rushing!

It’s not going to happen, but fun to think about anyway.

A lot of respect — and rushing yards — is shared between these two Dogs. (UGA PHOTO)

7. There’s some intrigue on the defensive side of the ball for Georgia this season, too. For me, it starts with what the Bulldogs are going to do with Leonard Floyd.

All of us think of Floyd as a quarterback haunting outside linebacker. And the 6-4, 231-pound junior certainly does that well, with 12.5 sacks and 18 tackles for loss in his first two seasons. But defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt has some other ideas.

Where Georgia plays this guy on defense this season is going to be interesting to see. (ONLINEATHENS.COM)

When the preseason depth chart was released, Floyd was listed as a co-starter at two positions – strongside outside linebacker AND Mike inside linebacker. There has also been some discussion of Floyd having the skill set to get some reps at the Star defensive backfield position where we saw Josh Harvey-Clemons a couple of years ago.

It’s not just Floyd’s unique versatility that has Pruitt scheming. It’s also the fact that the Bulldogs have planty excellent options at outside linebacker in Lorenzo Carter, Jordan Jenkins and Davin Bellamy. And while Reggie Carter and Tim Kimbrough look solid on the inside, they’re unproven, as are players behind them on the depth chart.

Floyd is coming off of shoulder surgery (which likely prevented him from turning pro), but word from Richt is that Eastman athlete is going to be ready to go at the start of camp. We’ll first be looking where he lines up.

8. D-line is another area of interest for me on that side of the ball. I’m not sure what to make out of that position group just yet. The Bulldogs actually have a decent amount of experience there, with seniors such as Sterling Bailey, James DeLoach, Josh Dawson and Chris Mayes having played in 111 games between them. You can go a long way with those kinds of grizzled vets.

But with the exception of Mayes (6-4, 323), the rest of them are generally converts and undersized for their respective positions. And Georgia has been recruiting hard at that position. Everybody’s excited about seeing how 5-star signee Trent Thompson of Albany (6-4, 311) transitions to the next level. And the Bulldogs are also excited about the additions of Michael Barnett and Jonathan Ledbetter and others.

Let the Oklahoma drills commence!

9. There are plenty more competitions to be settled.

  • Who will end up at center, Brandon Kublanow or Isaiah Wynn. It appears one of the other will play there or left guard, where Kublanow started all 13 games last season.
  • Georgia is desperate for a talent infusion at wide receiver. Which ones not named Malcolm Mitchell might get first-team snaps or work themselves into the six-player rotation that can generally expect to plays in games. The Bulldogs brought in four new candidates in Michael Chigbu, Terry Godwin, Jayson Stanley and Shaquery Wilson. And will Justin Scott-Wesley (knee) be healthy enough to participate, much less be back to his old self?
  • And what will Jeremy Pruitt’s defensive backfield end up looking like? The graduation of do-it-all DB Damian Swann was no small thing. And Pruitt has shown he’s not afraid to mix it up or go with a young, unproven. That’s why sophomores Dominick Sanders and Aaron Davis come in with so much experience this year. The daily report on who’s lining up where might be a worthwhile wager.
There aren’t many freshmen who can come in and contribute right away on the defensive line. Many believe Trent Thompson can. (247Sports.com)

10. Finally, don’t blink, because it will all be over before you know it. Fans Picture Day is slated for Saturday, August 15 (2 p.m.), and at that point the Bulldogs will shift the focus heavily from competition toward setting its top 44 players and putting in the game plan for the Sept. 5 season opener against Louisiana-Monroe.

Except for the quarterback competition, that is. If you ask me, that’s going to carry on into the first game – and beyond.