Photo by Melissa Abrahamsen
ATHENS --- The Georgia Bulldogs conducted a two-hour practice in shoulder pads and shorts Friday afternoon in Athens as they close in on the two-week point prior to the season opener against Louisiana-Lafayette on Sept. 4.
Head coach Mark Richt praised his team's effort and intensity on Friday and called it much-improved from the previous day's session.
"Today's practice was a whole lot better than yesterday's," Richt said. "Yesterday's was not very good, especially after watching the film. I thought our effort was very good today, much improved. The weather probably had a little something to do with it. Yesterday was going backwards as far as the effort you need. The effort was not there as a team, as a unit. Everybody seemed to struggle getting in and out of the huddle, and we weren't sharp with our personnel groups or lining up properly. If we were playing someone with a high-tempo kind of offense, we would have been in trouble yesterday."
Richt attributed part of the problem on Thursday was the monotony of preseason practices without competition against an opponent.
"We're over half way through camp, but we still have two weeks before the first game," Richt said. "They might be getting a little tired of it, but you can't get tired of getting better. The coaches are pushing them and our seniors, our leaders, need to keep pushing them."
Richt said he believes the preparation of the Bulldogs' special teams is going well but it's difficult to accurately gauge.
"I think it's going well," Richt said. "That's probably the hardest thing to judge before you play a game. It's hard to get the scout team to emulate what's going to happen in a game so you just don't know. It looks like it's going well. The coaches are doing a good job of teaching everyone what to do."
Georgia will return to practice on Saturday morning before taking part in the Bulldogs' annual Fans' Picture Day today at Sanford Stadium. Interim mascot "Russ" will be available for photos from 1-3 p.m., while the 2010 Bulldogs will be at the stadium from 3-5 p.m. Due to the construction on the north side of Sanford Stadium, Picture Day will be held in the Gate 6 and 7 plazas and the club level located between Gates 6 and 7 all on the south side of the stadium.
Gates will open at 1 p.m. to give fans ample time to get into position to meet players and coaches. The Georgia football players and coaches will be on hand for photographs and autographs from 3-5 p.m. Quarterbacks, running backs and wide receivers will be set up in Gate 6. Offensive linemen and defensive linemen will be set up in the club level between Gates 6 and 7. Defensive backs, linebackers and special teams will be set up in Gate 7.
Fans are reminded that only two items are allowed per person, and event staff will be in place to enforce the limitations prior to entering autograph lines. Starting at 8 a.m., 150 tickets each for "Russ" and head coach Mark Richt will be distributed from the East Campus Ticket Windows. Fans should be aware that there are two different lines for each ticket and should make plan accordingly if they want to have photos made with both.
MOVING DAY AT FSU:
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. - Just like the PGA Tour, Saturday is the moving day for the Florida State football team, which will hold its final preseason scrimmage at noon inside Doak Campbell Stadium.
"Tomorrow decisions are made," Fisher said, after the Seminoles wrapped up Friday's two-hour practice is shells. "Tomorrow is movement day; who are you going to play, who (do) who you think can play, who you think can work. It's a big day for them.
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"Both sides want to do well, but we as coaches have to find out who can play and who can't play and put guys in situations."
FSU senior quarterback Christian Ponder is eager to see how his unit performs after a sub-standard effort in last Friday's scrimmage.
"It's very important for the offensive side, but as a team, as a whole," Ponder said. "The last scrimmage the offense performed pretty poorly and we've made a lot of strides this week to improve. I think tomorrow is going to be the big ending of camp. Guys have got to come out and fight for a job. A lot of guys can make a statement for starting jobs. I think it's very important for us to end camp on a good note and go into the school year and really starting the season with a right note."
Saturday's scrimmage will be followed by two days off the practice field as the Seminoles prepare for Monday's start of classes. Both Fisher and Ponder said the ability to focus on the task at hand is critical to the teams continued development.
"I don't want to see a lot of MA's (missed assignments)," Ponder added. "I want to see a lot of guys have the focus. A lot of guys didn't have the focus last scrimmage."
Attitude, effort and intensity have been more than buzz-words throughout Fisher's first preseason camp. The players who bring those three things to the table in the scrimmage - on both sides of the football - can separate themselves as several position battles continue with the opener two weeks away.
"It's good to see when the offense makes plays, but it's good to see when the defense makes plays as well," Ponder said. "Back and forth; I just want to see us have a good battle and a good scrimmage, (where) everyone make plays."
Fisher moved the scrimmage from late Friday afternoon to high noon Saturday in an effort to simulate the conditions for the opener, which will kick off at 12 noon.
"I want them to get used to the heat that time of day; getting up (early) and having a pre-game meal ... get that routine going," Fisher said. "You want to put them in that situation as much as you can: where it's at, how the heat is going to be, where the sun is. It's supposed to rain tomorrow, but it could do that on game day. We'll have to take the conditions as they come."
Fisher, `Noles draw crowd at annual Kickoff Luncheon
A sold-out crowd in excess of 1,500 packed the Donald L. Tucker Center exhibition hall Friday afternoon for the Florida State Alumni Association's annual Kickoff Luncheon.
With the voice of the Seminoles, Gene Deckerhoff, handling the MC duties, the 2010 FSU football team was introduced one by one. But the star of the show was first-year coach Jimbo Fisher, who was joined on the dais by FSU president Dr. Eric Barron and athletic director Randy Spetman, among others.
Fisher received a standing ovation before delivering his State of the Seminoles address.
"Expectations are high at Florida State for one reason," Fisher said. "There was a man that coached here right before me who set a standard that everything is measured by. He was more than a coach to me. He was a mentor, he was a friend and in my opinion he's the greatest coach in college football history."
Bobby Bowden retired after 34 seasons and paved the way for the start of the Fisher Era, which begins in earnest with the Sept. 4 opener against Samford.
"The first step of getting Florida State back on top is getting back to being ACC champions," said Fisher, mindful that the legend won 12 league titles. "We have to get back to the top of our own conference. No matter what happens in those first three games, conference games start. Every one of those games is vital because your ultimate goal is to win that ACC Championship."
While thanking the crowd for supporting the Seminoles, he also encouraged them to be there on Saturdays for each of FSU's seven homes games. "We have to understand the importance of every game," Fisher said. "That doesn't just go for our players. Every time those young men get to run through the tunnel we need 83,000 people cheering them on no matter who were playing. I'm telling you that is what builds tradition. We have forgotten that a little bit because sometimes we take things for granted with all the success we had."
GOOD DAY FOR AUBURN AFTER SCRIMMAGE:
AUBURN, Ala. - The Auburn football team held its third scrimmage of the season Tuesday evening, running approximately 80 plays inside Jordan-Hare Stadium.
Following the scrimmage, head coach Gene Chizik said that much of the focus of the scrimmage was on increasing the tempo of the offense.
"Offensively, we tried to work our pace a little bit more, just trying to get a rhythm and get a fast pace going right now, which was very effective," said Chizik. "It was good for us to work on that for both sides of the ball, and we were very productive in doing that."
Chizik noted that while both the offense and defense had positives and negatives, getting more experience for the younger players was vital and will help determine which newcomers may see playing time this season.
"There was some good and some bad on both sides of the ball, but we got a lot of work with the young kids," said Chizik. "We will look at the tape and we will see where we have to go from here, and hopefully make some more decisions in the next few days on who is going to help us."
One player that coach Chizik singled out for his performance was senior wide receiver Kodi Burns.
"I have to give Kodi Burns a lot of credit," said Chizik. "He has taken it as a personal thing to help us on special teams, where he has really improved. As a pass-catching receiver, he has done some nice things and I am proud of where he has come. He is just a great Auburn guy and I really appreciate his efforts, and so do his teammates."
The scrimmage was Auburn's third in the last six days, but Chizik noted that although they have been beneficial, they will become less frequent as the season opener approaches.
"I have to give the team a lot of credit," said Chizik. "They are really trying to press through. It has been pretty taxing, but that is by design. We know as we get closer, those are going to get few and far between. Tonight was good work and they needed it."