Commentary: Don't expect Georgia to learn much in spring practice

Anderson Independent MailMarch 19, 2014 

— I’m guessing that the “big reveal” once Georgia football finishes up spring practice in April is that nothing, really, will be revealed.

What we knew going into Tuesday’s opening day of offseason drills is most likely what we'll know in three weeks – defensive players (including nine presumptive starters) are learning new terminology under new coaches; Hutson Mason is the starting quarterback; and the offense is powered-down until fall.

And if I’m a fan of the Bulldogs, it’s that last item that makes me just a tad uncomfortable.

Tailback Todd Gurley has yet to fully recover from an injured left ankle and fellow ball carrier Keith Marshall is still rehabbing following a knee injury against Tennessee that ended his 2013 season and required surgery.

These are two of the most talented backs in the country. When healthy, they give Mark Richt’s team the best 1-2 rushing punch in all of college football.

Yet neither might have much chance to make any substantial forward progress during camp.

Marshall, of course, is expected to make a full recovery, but there’s always some concern any time a player comes back from a catastrophic injury.

Even if the physical wounds are completely healed the psyche can take a bit longer to catch up.

And what about Gurley?

He suffered a high ankle sprain against LSU last September that kept him out of action the entire month of October. And when he got back in the lineup he never seemed fully charged.

Last week Gurley hinted that his entire leg was an issue and he wasn’t going to try to push the healing process.

“There’s no real rush,” he said. “I’m still trying to get healthy.”

He did practice without restrictions on Tuesday, though, which is certainly welcome news. And Marshall did some “run polish” without pain. Regardless, the two will be treated gingerly over the next few weeks.

“Todd was able to practice today,” Richt said. “He made it through the whole practice pretty good, I thought. We'll see how it goes once we start putting pads on.”

Receiver Malcolm Mitchell (knee) will do some running but avoid contact while split end Justin Scott-Wesley (knee) won’t participate as he continues to recover from knee surgery. Tight end Jay Rome is also dealing with a foot injury.

And redshirt freshman wideout Uriah LeMay was one of four Georgia players (including safety Tray Matthews) arrested on Monday and charged with theft by deception. Obviously, that could mean one less athlete in the receiving corps, although LeMay did practice on Tuesday.

“(Mitchell) didn’t finish the day,” Richt said. “He got a little sore. There’s a chance he could run some routes competitively.”

On the plus side, Richt has a stable of healthy quarterbacks, led by Mason.

“Hutson certainly has got total command of what we’re trying to do offensively,” Richt said.

If the team reconvenes in early August with everyone healthy and ready to go, the missing pieces to the spring practice puzzle will be long forgotten.

Throw in highly touted freshmen running backs Sony Michel and Nick Chubb, and the Bulldog offense should be fully loaded.

But there’s no way of knowing how healthy the offense will be five and half months from now and spring practice in Athens won’t provide any real clues.

The big reveal for football season won’t come until football season is almost at hand.

And that means the only thing fans can do between now and then is wait, hope – and worry just a little bit.

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