COLLEGE FOOTBALL NOTEBOOK: Georgia’s ‘O’ facing several challenges as G-Day game nears

Georgia offensive coordinator Mike Bobo

Georgia offensive coordinator Mike Bobo

ATHENS — Georgia’s offense, which is led by quarterback Aaron Murray, has been overmatched at times this spring when lining up against a defense that returns nine starters.

Georgia is rebuilding its offensive line, and that has led to some ugly matchups against All-America outside linebacker Jarvis Jones and massive defensive tackles John Jenkins and Kwame Geathers.

The Bulldogs ranked fifth in the nation in total defense last season, and most of the top players from that group will play for the Black team in Saturday’s G-Day spring game. Murray, tailback Isaiah Crowell, receiver Tavarres King will lead the first-team offense on the Red team, according to G-Day rosters released this week.

The challenge for the offense is nothing new.

“It’s definitely a challenge every day,” offensive coordinator Mike Bobo said Tuesday. “There are a lot of veterans over there. Some of them have been playing three years. It makes it harder for us, but I think it’s going to make it better for us in the long run. It makes us fight every day in practice, and it’s going to help us in the fourth quarter in the fall.”

Bobo said Murray, who set a school record with 35 TD passes last season, may play only one quarter. Hutson Mason will play behind Murray.

Christian LeMay is the probable starting quarterback for the Black team. Bobo said some quarterbacks may play on both teams.

“Everyone cares because there are a lot of guys out there playing for jobs,” Mason said.

Georgia plans to hold out Mason as a redshirt this season. LeMay could move up as Murray’s top backup.

Bobo said Mason, a junior, has worked hard to get better.

“From day one he’s been competing his tail off like he wants to be the starter, and that’s the only way he’s going to get better,” said Bobo of Mason. “He has done that from the first day of spring. Day in and day out, he’s trying to say ‘I’m the best guy on this team’ and that’s the only way he’s going to get better.”

Georgia lost center Ben Jones and tackles Cordy Glenn and Justin Anderson from last year’s 10-4 team.

Offensive line coach Will Friend has tried different combinations this spring. He said his current starting five includes tackles Kolton Houston and Kenarious Gates, guards Chris Burnette and Dallas Lee and center David Andrews. Houston opened spring practice as a guard.

Watts Dantzler and Austin Long were other options at right tackle before Houston’s move.

King said the line is “coming together so much, it’s pretty amazing.”

“The first couple of days our big D-line was just blowing them off the ball and just moving them around,” King said. “Now we kind of see our guys learning from that and not making the same mistakes. It looks great.”

Players who have been suspended for the start of the season will be available to play on Saturday.

Cornerback Sanders Commings was suspended by coach Mark Richt for two games following an arrest on a domestic abuse charge. The other starting corner, Branden Smith, is facing at least a one-game suspension for his arrest on possession of marijuana.

All-America free safety Bacarri Rambo also could face a marijuana-related suspension. Alan Ingram, Rambo’s coach at Seminole County High School in Donalsonville, Ga., said last month Rambo inadvertently ate marijuana-laced brownies on a spring break trip to Florida and will be suspended for the first four games.

Georgia has not issued a statement on Rambo’s status.

Strong safety Shawn Williams left a scrimmage last week with a knee injury, but is not expected to need surgery.

Bobo said Tuesday freshman tailback Keith Marshall may miss Saturday’s game with a hamstring injury. Bobo had positive reviews for sophomore tailbacks Crowell and Ken Malcome.

Crowell was the SEC Freshman of the Year after he ran for 850 yards despite missing two games. A failed drug test resulted in a one-game suspension.

“Isaiah has practiced well every day,” Bobo said. “He continued to get better, becoming more consistent and more dependable, somebody that you can depend on. I think that has been his goal. He’s really done a nice job. He knows his assignments a lot better.”

Bobo said Malcome is playing with more confidence.

“He has always been a physical-looking guy who has played kind of timid, not really knowing what to do and unsure of himself,” Bobo said. “But last year I think the confidence he got playing at the end of the season has helped him in the spring. I’m really pleased with his progress and his attitude.”

Malcolm Mitchell, one of the team’s top receivers as a freshman last season, has moved to cornerback this spring and may be held out on Saturday with a hamstring injury.

Ex-Auburn star RB Dyer says his gun was used in alleged armed robbery by former teammates

OPELIKA, Ala. — Former Auburn tailback Mike Dyer testified that his handgun was used in the robbery allegedly committed by Antonio Goodwin and three other teammates.

The Opelika-Auburn News reported that Dyer said Wednesday he and other Auburn players were smoking spice, or synthetic marijuana, and drinking beer at current receiver DeAngelo Benton’s resident the night of the alleged robbery in March 2011.

He and Benton testified that Goodwin, Shaun Kitchens and Dakota Mosley talked about possibly robbing someone while watching a Los Angeles Lakers game, drinking and smoking spice at Benton’s residence with other teammates on March 10, 2011.

“They said they were going to hit a lick,” said Dyer, the Tigers’ MVP from its BCS title game win, during his testimony, using a slang term for robbery.

Mosley, Kitchens and Mike McNeil are tentatively scheduled for trial on June 11. All four players face multiple counts of first-degree robbery, first-degree burglary and third-degree theft of property stemming from an alleged home invasion.

Dyer, the BCS championship game MVP two seasons ago, transferred to Arkansas State after ending last season on suspension.

He testified for the prosecution in Goodwin’s trial and Lee County Circuit Court Judge Christopher Hughes twice admonished him to only answer the questions asked.

Benton and former Auburn defensive back Neiko Thorpe also testified.

“I never heard them say they were going to, I heard them say they needed to” commit a robbery, Benton said.

Dyer said he tried to talk Goodwin out of participating.

“To be honest, Antonio wasn’t the type of guy to do that,” Dyer said of Goodwin, now playing for Arizona Western College.

Dyer said the three approached him about coming with them because he owned a 45-caliber handgun, recovered by police after the robbery.

He said he told them at Benton’s that he wouldn’t participate, and declined again when Goodwin asked him at his home.

Dyer said he believes Goodwin took the gun from the couch where it was kept.

Thorpe said Goodwin, Mosley and Kitchens appeared intoxicated when they got to the apartment he shared with McNeil.

Thorpe said the four left and he did not see them again that night.

Benton and Dyer said the players regularly used spice, which was legal and sold at local stores in early 2011.

“We used it all the time,” Benton said.

Defense attorney Lauryn Lauderdale has argued in court filings that the drug use had impaired Goodwin at the time of the alleged robbery. He has pleaded not guilty.

Auburn star recruit Coleman back at practice after battling, beating cancer

AUBURN, Ala. — Auburn offensive lineman and cancer survivor Shon Coleman practiced with the Tigers for the first time since signing in 2010.

Coleman participated in his first practice Wednesday, nearly two years after being diagnosed with leukemia.

Tigers coach Gene Chizik says the coaches and players were excited to have Coleman on the field. Chizik says he’ll follow the medical staff’s instructions in managing Coleman’s return but says “it was great to see him smile.”

Coleman was a 6-foot-7, 285-pounder and one of the nation’s most highly touted offensive tackles when he signed out of Olive Branch, Miss. He was diagnosed with leukemia a little over a month later.

Auburn kept Coleman’s scholarship available and he enrolled in January 2011.