Although it's too soon to predict what this fall's results will be, at least the comfort level for defensive players like linebacker Cornelius Washington is head and shoulders better from what it was this time a season ago.
"Most definitely and I'm saying it with a big smile on my face," Washington said after Thursday's third day of spring drills. "Everybody knows what to do. We're flying around making plays, interceptions, hitting people, it's glorious, man."
While that may be true now, head coach Mark Richt will withhold any comments on the end result until he sees the defense perform this fall.
But so far, there's no denying players are feeling much better about what they are doing.
"It's a big difference. I hope it makes a lot of difference. You can already see kids are getting better, not just fundamentals, but the technique of their job, of their position," Richt said. "You've always got to learn what to do first and then you've got to learn how to do it well. There was a whole lot of time spent on learning what to do, but now they know what to do, they're learning how to do it better.
"Techniques are improving. That's the biggest thing I see defensively. I know we use the term a lot, but we are playing faster, with a little bit more certainty to what they're doing. They're able to turn it loose a little bit better."
For linebacker Christian Robinson, that's been the key.
"Instead of going out there, just trying to get lined up and getting where we need to be it's more of the technique things, the little things that we're working on," Robinson said. "That's more our focus now. But going out there now, we are moving faster than we ever were last season."
Richt won't argue with that.
When asked at what point his defense played with the needed reckless abandon and freedom, Richt just shook his head.
"I don't know if we ever turned it loose as a group," he said. "Guys were getting it, and I'm sure there were certain moments in time when they looked like they were getting it, but as an entire unit, I don't think we ever played as fast as I think that we will this year. I think we will do better in that regard."
Geathers off to a good start
Whether it's something as simple as experience or this fall's impending arrival of Johnathan Jenkins, Richt said redshirt sophomore Kwame Geathers is off to a fast start.
"There's not a lot to judge at this point, but does he have a better idea of what to do, is he playing with a better pad level, does he use his hands better?," Richt said. "But yeah, I think he has improved."
Richt didn't discount Jenkins' arrival as a reason for Geathers' surge. In fact, Richt guessed that the young nose is not the only player looking to step up their respective game before February's heralded freshman class arrives.
"I would think so, yeah," Richt said. "I think the class that we signed in general is helping motivate the guys we have right now to try to keep them at bay."
Richt said that backup offensive guard Dallas Lee is suffering from a "asthma-like" condition and currently not able to practice with the team.
"I'm not sure if it's asthma, but it's something like that," Richt said.
Fellow lineman Chris Burnette is doing much better.
A variety of ailments hampered the redshirt sophomore for most of last year, but he has been able to participate in all three of Georgia's three practices thus far this spring.
"He's showed some promise," Richt said.
Ealey gets work on punt-block team
Seeing running back Washaun Ealey take part in punt block drills might have surprised some onlookers. But according to Richt, it wasn't so odd at all.
"We like to see how many guys have a knack for doing it and he did a nice job," Richt said. "This is the time of year you'll line up just about everyone of the skill guys."
Richt said Ealey has practiced on the punt block team before.
"He could do it," Richt said.
Murray pulling for Mett
Although they're now playing for different schools, quarterback Aaron Murray said he still stays in touch with former teammate Zach Mettenberger, currently battling for the starting job at LSU.
"I texted him because Artie (Arthur Lynch) and I were messing around, looking at the computer to see how they're doing, and we were talking about how their practices are going compared to our and how he's doing," Murray said. "He said he's doing good. He said they're five practices down and he's felt great in all of them."
The Bulldogs and Tigers won't play each other this fall, but Murray said that the two have joked about the possibility of meeting in the SEC Championship at the Georgia Dome.
"We talked about it a little bit when he was in town two months ago. We joked around a little about meeting there, but we'll see," Murray said. "It would be pretty cool. I'm feeling pretty good about his chances, especially with a new offensive coordinator. It's fair game for everyone at quarterback now for LSU. I know everyone here is pulling for him to get that starting job."
This and that
During pre-practice warm-ups Thursday, Georgia's first-team offensive line consisted of Trinton Sturdivant (left tackle), Kenarious Gates (left guard), Ben Jones (center), Justin Anderson (right guard) and Cordy Glenn (right tackle).
Senior kicker Blair Walsh and senior punter Drew Butler were chosen as First Team honorees to the GoDaddy.com preseason All-American team. Junior tight end Orson Charles and Jones received honorable mention recognition.
A.J. Green attended Thursday's practice.
Georgia's next practice is scheduled for Saturday morning when the Bulldogs will work out in full pads for the first time this spring.
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