Just two weeks from his team’s season opener against Clemson’s up-tempo offense, Georgia coach Mark Richt is concerned about the long list of nagging injuries to his defensive backs.
“We just haven’t had enough healthy guys to really become as good as we can be,” Richt said after practice Friday night. “So it’s a concern right now. … It’s a problem. Playing Clemson probably does make it a little bit worse.”
Continuing the trend, safeties Tray Matthews, Corey Moore and Shaquille Fluker were sidelined or limited in Friday’s practice with various injuries — a sprained shoulder and a strained hamstring for Matthews, a sprained knee for Moore and a strained lower back for Fluker. Cornerback Sheldon Dawson, bothered recently by a bruised knee, also was limited.
“You said it: It looks banged up,” Richt said of the secondary. “You can’t get better if you don’t practice. You can learn some things watching walk-throughs (and) film study. But until you’re out there doing it, it’s just so hard … for us (coaches) to know what they’re getting, what they’re comprehending, what they’re able to execute.”
The injuries and missed practice time just add to the questions that already were faced by a secondary that has only one starter, cornerback Damian Swann, back from last season and also will miss suspended safety Josh Harvey-Clemons against Clemson.
Asked about the inexperienced, injury-riddled group’s readiness for the challenge of facing the Tigers and quarterback Tajh Boyd, Swann said: “Well, we’ll have to find out. That’s a big question. I guess that’s everybody’s question: What can the young corners do against Clemson? But come Aug. 31, we’ll find out.”
Said safety Connor Norman: “Obviously you get concerned (about the injuries) the closer the game gets.” Yet, amid the injuries, “I’ve been extremely impressed with our young guys,” said Norman, a senior.
“We just have to get everybody healthy, keep everybody out of trouble, and we’re going to be fine,” Swann said.
It’s Picture Day: Georgia’s annual “Fans’ Picture Day” will be held Saturday afternoon in the Reed Plaza area of Sanford Stadium. Mascot Uga IX will be available for photos from 1-3 p.m., followed by football players and Richt for photos and autographs from 3-5 p.m. Other UGA sports teams also will be available from 1-3 p.m.
Tickets will be required for access to the location where Uga IX and Richt will be stationed. The tickets will be distributed at 8 a.m. to the first 150 fans at the ticket windows on East Campus Road.
No outside items will be allowed into the stadium for autographing, according to the school. Each fan will be given two schedule posters that can be signed.
Etc.: Richt made a point to single out freshman outside linebacker Leonard Floyd for praise after Friday’s practice. “I kind of called him out in front of the team: Leonard Floyd just practices so hard,” Richt said. “He’s relentless. He’s been standing out to me for a while.” … Former NBA coach Jeff Van Gundy watched the practice with UGA basketball coach Mark Fox. Van Gundy’s daughter is a UGA student. … Starting offensive tackle Kenarious Gates missed practice with a neck strain. “We don’t think it’s anything serious,” Richt said. … Wide receiver Rantavious Wooten, who has been out with a hamstring strain, practiced on a limited basis. … Offensive lineman Kolton Houston “is either going to start or play a good bit,” Richt said.