News came down on Friday that receivers coach Tony Ball had interviewed for and been offered the same position at the Tennessee, and that the Georgia assistant, who is in his eight year with the program, has turned down the offer from the Volunteers.
In his post-practice press conference on Saturday, Mark Richt made it known that he couldn't be happier that Ball decided to stay in Athens.
"I can tell you that I'm thrilled to death that he is still here," Richt said. "Tony is one of the best coaches I've been around. He is so meticulous in his work. He's not taking anything for granted with these kids. He's trying to teach them the fundamentals of playing that position from the grassroots of it. Every little detail you can think of, he is going to cover it."
Richt went on to talk about how Ball doesn't just have a strong impact on his position group, but is also valuable to the staff in a number of other ways.
"Not only is he a great position coach but he is a great special teams coach," he said. "I also see Tony as a guy who has a great understanding of the big picture. I think Tony understands the running game. I think he understands the passing game. He's also got some great leadership qualities. I think he's a guy that could be a coordinator someday somewhere."
Star pass rusher Jarvis Jones will be playing for an NFL next fall, and one of the main challenges for Todd Grantham and the Georgia defense is to replace his production at the outside linebacker position.
The Bulldogs return Jordan Jenkins, who started opposite of Jones for the second half of the season a year ago, and a number of other candidates who could also help offset the loss of the two time All-American.
Richt spoke about what he expects to see in that regard on Saturday.
"Well, whoever plays Sam and Will, anybody that plays those positions, they are put in position to get sacks," Richt said. "We have some interior linemen that are going to be able to jump in there and make some plays, but usually your edge rushers make most of the sacks."
The Georgia head man mentioned sophomore James DeLoach as one candidate to provide some production in that area in addition to a couple of other names that may not be mentioned as often.
"We may even have to bring some pressures to get some sacks," he said. "Josh Harvey-Clemons is going to play some Sam. Josh has some pass rushing ability. There is no reason why Ray Drew can't get some sacks. He's going to have some situations where he is matched up on a guard one-on-one."
Sophomore Josh Dawson and senior T.J. Stripling are two more outside linebackers that will compete for major time this fall.
Rankin's first day
Freshman Ryne Rankin is one of 13 prospects that UGA signed for the class of 2013 that is already on campus.
Unlike a number of others, Rankin was able to experience a couple of bowl practices with the Bulldogs before the team left for Orlando.
Richt praised Rankin for his effort in his first spring practice as a Bulldog, but also pointed out the fact that he made a classic freshman mistake.
"I thought Ryne Rankin was flying around to the ball," Richt said. "He actually put his hands on one of our quarterbacks, which you are not supposed to do, and we had to correct him on that. He came through on a blitz or maybe it was a naked bootleg or something. He was pursuing the quarterback and was kind of pushing him. He kind of pushed him as he was trying to throw. He wasn't really tackling him. He just kind of tagged off on him, and even then we don't want them touching our quarterbacks. But he was hustling real hard and I saw that."
This and that
Freshman Tray Matthews and Harvey-Clemons received the bulk of the first team reps at safety on Saturday. Matthews worked at free safety and Harvey-Clemons was at strong safety. The first team inside linebackers were Ramik Wilson and Amarlo Herrera with a couple of freshmen, Rankin and Reginald Carter, working with the second team. Redshirt junior Brandon Burrows was working mainly at outside linebacker in the team's first spring practice after spending most of his Georgia career at inside linebacker. When asked about the performances of the 13 early enrollees, Richt pointed out that former JUCO wide receiver Jonathon Rumph had a nice catch and that Brice Ramsey made some good throws but also had some typical freshman inconsistencies. New defensive line coach Chris Wilson also made his mark on day one of spring practice by paying very close attention to detail. At one point the former Mississippi State assistant had John Atkins repeat a drill six times because he wanted it done perfectly.
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